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From: Roger Nelson
To: All
Date: 2017-10-19 16:34:12
Subject: A Display of Lights Above the Storm

A Display of Lights Above the Storm
 
In 2015, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Andreas Mogensen was onboard the
 International Space Station (ISS), photographing the tops of thunderstorms
from Earth orbit.  And he saw something very interesting indeed.
 
Blue jets.
 
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sQH6Oo4hn94
 
Blue jets are a type of Transient Luminous Event (TLE), flashes and glows that
appear above storms that are results of activity occurring in and below those
storms. Blue Jets pulse from the tops of intense thunderstorms and reach up
toward the edge of space.
 
In January 2017 researchers at Denmark's National Space Institute published
their analysis of his observations in Geophysical Research Letters. Mogensen
was able to capture clear video as the station flew over the Bay of Bengal, and
 they were amazed by what that video showed.
 
Olivier Chanrion, lead author of the publication reported that "During
160?seconds of video footage, 245 pulsating blue discharges were observed,
corresponding to a rate of about 90 per minute." One of the blue jets observed
reached 25 miles (40 km) above sea level.
 
Visual evidence of TLEs wasn't available until 1989. Early evidence included
red sprites photographed by cameras onboard the space shuttle, and photographs
taken during a NASA and University of Alaska airborne campaign. Red sprites are
 glows in the upper atmosphere, tied to the presence of large lightning flashes
 but not attached to the clouds themselves. In recent years the ISS has
afforded astronauts the opportunity to photograph a number of natural light
shows produced at the tops of thunderstorms.
 
A 2013 study by researchers from the French Alternative Energies and Atomic
Energy Commission analyzed pictures from the NASA Crew Earth Observations
Facility aboard the station. The pictures revealed 15 sprites and their parent
lightning flashes. In August 2015 the Expedition 44 crew onboard the station
photographed red sprites over two different storms within 3 minutes of one
another, first over the American mid-west and then near the coast of El
Salvador. These sprites reached as high as 62 miles (100 km) above the surface
of the Earth.
 
All of these studies are contributing to researchers' understanding of
lightning and thunderstorms, how they form and develop over time, and why
storms produce different TLEs in different circumstances. However according to
Tim Lang, atmospheric scientist at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center, "TLE
studies have been, to an extent, fortunate observation. We've gotten better at
finding them, but it's mostly case-based analysis."
 
NASA and partner agencies are advancing in their efforts to make continuous
storm observations. NASA's Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) was installed on the
International Space Station in February 2017 as part of the DoD Space Test
Program. LIS on the station is the latest in a line of instruments used to
locate and detect lightning over a large region of the Earth's surface. The
Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) will be installed outside Europe's
 Columbus laboratory on the ISS later this year. Torsten Neubert, ASIM
Principal Investigator says, "The instruments will monitor thunderstorms and
their effects on Earth's atmosphere, gathering information about Blue Jets and
other TLEs, as well as flashes of X- and Gamma-rays." LIS and ASIM will be
providing data that gives researchers the opportunity to analyze storms from
both below and above. All of these studies are adding to our knowledge of how
storms evolve and change, helping improve storm models that could lead to
better predictions and forecasts.
 
For more science from above the clouds visit www.nasa.gov/station
 
 
Regards,
 
Roger

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