Weather: ISS detects electric blue ‘jets’ shooting upwards from thunder clouds


The International Space Station detects blue ‘jets’ of lightning sky overhead from thundering clouds that can affect greenhouse gas concentrations in the Earth’s atmosphere.

  • The European Space Agency’s ASIM device detected the incident
  • It is a collection of cameras, photometers and an X-ray / gamma ray detector
  • The blue jet was seen coming from a cloud above the Pacific island of Nauru.
  • It reached the stratosphere and was accompanied by a ring-like ‘fantasy’.
  • By understanding these phenomena, we can shed light on how lightning flashes

A study has reported that blue ‘jets’ of lightning shooting have been detected upstream from Thunderclouds.

Measured by the European Space Agency’s Atmosphere-Space Interaction Monitor (ASIM), the incident originated in a cloud top on the Pacific island of Nauru.

It reached the stratosphere – experts believe that blue jets can travel up to 31 miles (50 km) – and lasted less than a second.

Because blue jets form above the cloud layer, they are very difficult to see – and study from below – on the surface of the Earth.

With the clouds orbiting about 249 miles (400 kilometers), the International Space Station is seen as a non-obstructed view.

Understanding the formation of blue jets – other energetic events in the stratosphere and above – can show clues about when lightning is triggered.

Experts also believe that the blue jet may play a role affecting the concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere – something to be studied for further investigation.

A study has reported that blue ‘jets’ of lightning shooting have been detected upstream from Thunderclouds. Picture, a thunderbolt photo taken from astronaut Andreas Mogensen from ISS in 2015

ASIM – a collection of optical cameras and photometers, as well as X-ray and gamma-ray detectors – was installed on the International Space Station in 2018.

A monitor designed to detect electrical discharges that arise in stormy weather conditions and above the thunder in the upper atmosphere.

The researchers reported that the blue jet recently discovered by ASIM was set off by an intense series of five 10-microsecond flashes.

In addition there were the so-called ‘fictitious dwarfs’ generated by flash – rings of expansion of optical and ultraviolet emission that appear below the ion system about 50 miles (80 km) above the Earth’s surface.

They are formed by electrons and radio waves interacting with the atmosphere.

The researchers wrote in their paper, ‘Blue jets are atmospheric electric discharges of several hundred milliseconds, which propagate as fans in the cone.

They are thought to initiate in an electric breakdown between a positively charged upper zone of a cloud and a layer of negative charge in the air at the cloud boundary and above, ‘he continued.

‘The breakdown creates a leader who converts into streamers while promoting upward. However, the qualities of the leader, and the height at which it extends above the clouds, are not characteristic. ‘

Understanding the formation of blue jets - and other energetic events in the stratosphere as pictured - can show clues about when an electrical trigger occurs.

Understanding the formation of blue jets – and other energetic events in the stratosphere as pictured – can show clues about when lightning is triggered.

Measured by the European Space Agency's Atmosphere-Space Interaction Monitor (pictured), the incident originated in a cloud top on the Pacific island of Nauru.

Measured by the European Space Agency’s Atmosphere-Space Interaction Monitor (pictured), the incident originated in a cloud top on the Pacific island of Nauru.

ESA Physics Coordinator Astrid Orr said, “This paper is an impressive highlight of many new phenomena that are worth watching with thunder.” ”

‘[It] Shows that we still have a lot to learn and know about our universe. ‘

“Congratulations to all the scientists and university teams that make up the engineers who do this, as well as support teams at the observatory and ground operating ASIM,” she continued.

The effort, he concluded, was ‘a true international collaboration that led to amazing discoveries’.

The full findings of the study were published in the journal Nature.

What are AT RED SPRITES ‘?

Red sprites are electric bursts of light accompanied by highly active thunderstorms.

They can be seen in the D region of the ionosphere – the region just above the dense lower atmosphere, about 37 to 56 miles above the Earth.

They appear red at high altitudes and fade to blue at lower elevations.

Atmospheric sprites have been known for nearly a century, but their origins were a mystery.

They last only a few milliseconds and are relatively dim compared to other electricity.

The late experimental physicist John Winkler accidentally discovered the spirit in 1989, helping test a new low-light video camera.

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