The sensitive storm chase device on the International Space Station caught a bright light show on video as it watched a thunderstorm’s electrical activity from above.
The recording, which was captured by the European Space Agency’s Atmosphere-Space Interaction Monitor (ASIM), helps explain how electricity is generated and even how storms distribute greenhouse gases through the atmosphere. Can, according to research published on Wednesday in the journal Nature.
But just as important, the orbital view makes electrical storms look really, really good – from a perspective you’ve never seen before.
The video, which can be found in a European space agency press release, depicts an unusual phenomenon called blue jets – blue lightning explosions that shoot upward from the storm clouds up into the highest regions of the Stratosphere.
Then, after a few quick flashes of light, the video shows what scientists call “elves” or rings of electrical activity that move out of the path of the storm in the ionosphere. Blue jets and elves are difficult to see from space because they pass so quickly, and opening them from Earth is almost impossible due to cloud cover.
Take the myth
The difficulty inherent in displaying these light shows, as their mythological names suggest, makes them extremely difficult to study and understand. But now, with these ASIM recordings, scientists are beginning to realize what is really going on in the upper atmosphere.
“This paper is an impressive highlight of the many new developments that have been seen with thunder,” Astrid Orr, Coordinator for the European Space Agency Physical Sciences, said in a press release. “
Read more: Origin of blue light in stratosphere found by ISS [European Space Agency]
More on hurricanes: NASA detected flashes of light on Jupiter