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Mystery red sprites and blue jets are spotted in space

Mukul : risingbd.com
Publish on: 2017-02-10 10:25:24 AM     ||     Updated: 2017-02-10 10:58:31 PM

Risingbd Desk: 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.

But an astronaut has confirmed the displays do exist, capturing stunning footage of them from the International Space Station.

New findings have been published which suggest that the electrical discharges may unsettle the chemistry of the stratosphere, with possible implications for the Earth's radiation balance.

The stunning footage was captured by Andreas Mogensen, an astronaut from the European Space Agency (ESA), during his mission on the International Space Station in 2015.

Mr Mogensen said: '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.'

Denmark's National Space Institute has now published the results, which include a video recorded by Mr Mogensen as he flew over the Bay of Bengal at 28,800 km/h.

Some of the most notable findings suggest that the discharges appear to play a crucial role in the exchange of gases between the troposphere and the stratosphere.

Until now, researchers thought that sprites were red because of nitrogen interacting with electricity in the upper atmosphere.

But the new study suggests that sprites actually release a comparably large amount of serveral oxides of nitrogen in the upper atmosphere.

In the paper, the authors write: ' They underscore that thunderstorm discharges directly perturb the chemistry of the stratosphere with possible implications for the Earth's radiation balance.'

Mr Mogensen aimed for cloud turrets – pillars of cloud extending into the upper atmosphere – and shot a short video showing 245 blue flashes.Blue discharges and jets are examples of a little-understood part of our atmosphere.

Electrical storms reach into the stratosphere and have implications for how our atmosphere protects us from radiation.

Other images were presented last year at the European Geosciences Union meeting in Vienna.

We wanted to see what happens above a thunderstorm,' said Olivier Chanrion of the Danish National Space Institute in Lyngby.

'What we see is that at the top of the cloud in what we call the 'turrets', there is incredible activity.'

Mogensen saw sprites, called C-sprites, that create red-coloured tendrils more than 50 miles (80 km) above the ground.

They last for just a few milliseconds, making them incredibly hard to capture on camera.

Named after Shakespeare's mischievous sprite Puck, from A Midsummer Night's Dream, sprites are caused by irregularities in the ionosphere - a region of Earth's upper atmosphere.

They show up red at higher altitudes and fade to blue at lower heights.

Mogensen also recorded the first blue jets to ever be captured on film from space.

Blue jets are enormous bursts of electrical discharge spiking upward from storm clouds in the upper atmosphere.

They emerge from the electrically-charged cores of thunderstorms and rise up to 30 miles upwards in the shape of a cone.

But the blue blobs were the biggest surprise.

They only lasted a few seconds, and were a few miles across.

'They were dancing over the top of the cloud, and we called them glimpses,' says Chanrion.

'We sometimes saw around 100 glimpses per minute, and we think they're integrated between the top and bottom layers of the cloud.

'But it's only a first step and we need to find out more.'Mogensen took four videos and 160 images from the ISS.

The footage of the storms was shot over Costa Rica, Mexico, Eastern India and Thailand.

Source: The Mail

risingbd/ Feb 10, 2017/Mukul