Blue jets studied from ISS

February 9, 2017, European Space Agency
ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen during his mission on the International Space Station in 2015 was asked to take pictures over thunderstorms with the most sensitive camera on the orbiting outpost to look for these brief features. Denmark’s National Space Institute has now published the results, confirming many kilometre-wide blue flashes around 18 km altitude, including a pulsating blue jet reaching 40 km. This image is a still from a video recorded by Andreas as he flew over the Bay of Bengal at 28 800 km/h on the Station shows the electrical phenomena clearly – a first of its kind. Credit: ESA/NASA

For years, their existence has been debated: elusive electrical discharges in the upper atmosphere that sport names such as red sprites, blue jets, pixies and elves. Reported by pilots, they are difficult to study as they occur above thunderstorms.

ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen during his mission on the International Space Station in 2015 was asked to take pictures over thunderstorms with the most sensitive camera on the orbiting outpost to look for these brief features.

Denmark's National Space Institute has now published the results, confirming many kilometre-wide blue flashes around 18 km altitude, including a pulsating blue jet reaching 40 km. A video recorded by Andreas as he flew over the Bay of Bengal at 28 800 km/h on the Station shows the electrical phenomena clearly – a first of its kind.

Satellites had probed these events but their viewing angle is not ideal for gathering data on the scale of the and smaller blue discharges. In contrast, the Station's lower orbit is ideally placed to capture the sprites and jets.

Andreas aimed for cloud turrets – cloud pillars extending into the – and shot a 160 second video showing 245 blue flashes from the top of a turret that drifted from the Bay of Bengal's thunderstorm.

The blue discharges and jets are examples of a little-understood part of our . Electrical storms reach into the stratosphere and have implications for how our atmosphere protects us from radiation.

Permanent observation

This experiment confirms that the Space Station is a suitable base for observing these phenomena. As a follow-up, the Atmosphere–Space Interactions Monitor is being prepared for launch later this year for installation outside Europe's Columbus laboratory to monitor thunderstorms continuously to gather information about such 'transient luminous events'.

Andreas concludes, "It is not every day that you get to capture a new weather phenomenon on film, so I am very pleased with the result – but even more so that researchers will be able to investigate these intriguing thunderstorms in more detail soon."

Red sprites and blue jets. Credit: ESA

The image shows lightning strikes illuminating clouds over Western Australia during a thunderstorm. The Space Station travels at 28 800 km/h so it takes only 90 minutes to complete an orbit of Earth. Astronauts often spot thunderstorms and are impressed by how much lightning they observe. Credit: ESA/NASA
A cumulonimbus cloud over Africa photographed by an astronaut on the International Space Station. Deemed by many meteorologists as one of the most impressive of cloud formations, cumulonimbus (from the Latin for ‘puffy’ and ‘dark’) clouds form owing to vigorous convection of warm and moist unstable air. Air warmed by the ground rises, with water droplets condensing as the rising air encounters cooler air at higher altitudes. The air mass itself also expands and cools as it rises owing to decreasing atmospheric pressure. This type of convection is common in tropical latitudes. As water in the rising air mass condenses and changes from a gaseous to a liquid state, it releases energy, further heating the air and leading to more convection and rising of the clouds to higher altitudes, producing the characteristic vertical towers associated with cumulonimbus clouds. If enough moisture is present to condense and continue heating the cloud mass through several convective cycles, a tower can rise to altitudes up to 20 km. Credit: NASA

Explore further: Image: Spooky lightning from orbit

More information: Olivier Chanrion et al. Profuse activity of blue electrical discharges at the tops of thunderstorms, Geophysical Research Letters (2017). DOI: 10.1002/2016GL071311

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cantdrive85
1.5 / 5 (8) Feb 09, 2017
Just more evidence that the currently accepted guesses about the extent of the Earth's electrical circuitry are terribly flawed. The Earth is part of a much larger circuit driven by the Sun which itself is connected to the much larger galactic circuit as well.
ecommbrewer
4 / 5 (8) Feb 09, 2017
This is described as a 'new' weather phenomenon and in the video it is stated that researchers have never seen it before. I studied Atmospheric Science at the University of Alabama in Huntsville over two decades ago and Otha Vaughn, NASA researcher and former B-52 pilot, had video of this exact phenomenon, both red sprites and blue jets and were the subject of his research in the mid 90's. My father, a naval aviator, had described them to me over 40 years ago and his father, my grandfather, a WWII naval fighter pilot, had seen them while flying over the South Pacific in the early 1940's. It's good to see interest in this phenomenon and it would be cool to understand them but they've been known about for a long time.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (7) Feb 09, 2017
Just more evidence that the currently accepted guesses about the extent of the Earth's electrical circuitry are terribly flawed. The Earth is part of a much larger circuit driven by the Sun which itself is connected to the much larger galactic circuit as well.

That an electrical connection system exists.is not in question. That it is the source of other events/forces - is.
It's a TANDEM variable (by "local" environment) carrier of info that enhances magnetism to manage polarities, mainly...
Magnetism is the balancing "force" that complements it.

evropej
1 / 5 (3) Feb 09, 2017
I wonder if these are cosmic particles interacting with the atmosphere?
Stressed magnetic fields causing charge to move in alternate directions?

I have seen lightning strikes in super slow motion and it showed mini events occurring over and over again to form the path of the larger discharges. Once these ion paths or channels are formed, would it cause secondary events which would cause even larger discharges/events?

The most interesting aspect of this phenomena to me is the color of these events. Why the specific hues or colors? Does it correlate to specific gases being excited and why?

As research progresses, it will be interesting to see how this story unfolds.
manfredparticleboard
3.4 / 5 (5) Feb 10, 2017
"Just more evidence that the currently accepted guesses about the extent of the Earth's electrical circuitry are terribly flawed. The Earth is part of a much larger circuit driven by the Sun which itself is connected to the much larger galactic circuit as well."

Just more evidence some people will believe anything despite logic or facts.

And yes, the colours are related to gas ionisation, red- singlet oxygen, blue- nitrogen.
jonesdave
3.4 / 5 (5) Feb 10, 2017
Just more evidence that the currently accepted guesses about the extent of the Earth's electrical circuitry are terribly flawed. The Earth is part of a much larger circuit driven by the Sun which itself is connected to the much larger galactic circuit as well.


Lol. No it isn't. Evidence please. This is just bleedin' lightning. Made in clouds. On Earth. Do you lot never tire of shooting yourselves in the foot?
jonesdave
3.4 / 5 (5) Feb 10, 2017
I wonder if these are cosmic particles interacting with the atmosphere?
Stressed magnetic fields causing charge to move in alternate directions?

I have seen lightning strikes in super slow motion and it showed mini events occurring over and over again to form the path of the larger discharges. Once these ion paths or channels are formed, would it cause secondary events which would cause even larger discharges/events?

The most interesting aspect of this phenomena to me is the color of these events. Why the specific hues or colors? Does it correlate to specific gases being excited and why?

As research progresses, it will be interesting to see how this story unfolds.


Have a look here:
http://www.blastr...en-space
jonesdave
4.2 / 5 (5) Feb 10, 2017
Actually, there is a free access paper related to this, as mentioned in the article:

Profuse activity of blue electrical discharges at the tops of thunderstorms
Chanrion, O. et al
http://onlinelibr...311/full

Lots of pretty pictures for the EU guys to misinterpret at will.
gculpex
not rated yet Feb 10, 2017
Actually, there is a free access paper related to this, as mentioned in the article:

Profuse activity of blue electrical discharges at the tops of thunderstorms
Chanrion, O. et al
http://onlinelibr...311/full

Lots of pretty pictures for the EU guys to misinterpret at will.

So, did you see the altitude these currents were at? very thin atmosphere...
jonesdave
3.4 / 5 (5) Feb 11, 2017
So, did you see the altitude these currents were at? very thin atmosphere...


And what has that got to do with it?..............sigh. Read the paper. Try to understand it.

The most common, but oversimplified, configuration of thundercloud charge structure is with a negative charge layer at the center and positive charge layers above and below. In this simple view, blue jets are thought to be positive leader discharges in normal polarity storms, generated by the electric field between the top positive charge center and the negative screening layer formed by negative ions attracted from the atmosphere and ionosphere above. Once formed, the streamers continue past the screening layer and shoot up into the stratosphere, ionizing this region


If it's 'ionizing this region', then what was the region prior to being ionized by the lightning?

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