What The Heck Was This Blue 'Luminous Event' Photographed From The Space Station?


(ESA/NASA–T. Pesquet)

On October 8, French astronaut Thomas Pesquet took a picture from the International Space Station that was incredibly rare (ISS).

The photo, which is a single frame from a larger timelapse, appears to show a cobalt bomb bursting over Europe, but the frightening blue glow inflicted no damage. In fact, most people would have been completely unaware of what was going on.

Instead, the image depicts a 'transient luminous event,' which is a lightning-like occurrence that strikes upwards in the upper atmosphere.

Transient luminous occurrences, often known as upper-atmospheric lightning, are a group of related phenomena that occur during thunderstorms but far above the level of typical lightning. While they are connected to lightning, they operate in a slightly different manner.

There are 'blue jets,' which are caused by lightning and occur lower in the stratosphere. If lightning strikes the negatively charged (top) area of the thunderstorm clouds before impacting the positively charged (bottom) region, the lightning strikes upwards, kindling a blue glow from molecular nitrogen.

Then there are red SPRITES (Stratospheric/mesospheric Perturbations Resulting from Intense Thunderstorm Electrification) in the ionosphere – electrical discharges that often glow red and occur high above a thunderstorm cell, triggered by disturbances from the lightning below – and slightly dimmer red ELVES (Emission of Light and Very Low Frequency Perturbations due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources).

Following the theme, there are also TROLLs (Transient Red Optical Luminous Lineaments), Pixies, and GHOSTS that appear after intense SPRITES. The scientists must have had a great time naming all of these phenomena.

What's remarkable about this lightning is that it was first noticed anecdotally by pilots a few decades ago, and scientists were sceptical that it existed, as Pesquet says in a photo caption.

After a few years, we can affirm that elves and sprites exist, and that they may be influencing our climate as well!

Although Pesquet doesn't say which type of luminous event we're witnessing, this image could be a 'blue beginning,' which is a blue jet that doesn't quite make it to the jet part, instead producing a shorter and brighter glow.

These events are especially difficult to photograph from the ground because they occur at such a high altitude and are sometimes covered by storm clouds. Furthermore, the occurrences normally only endure a few milliseconds or seconds each time.

With all of this in mind, the ISS is an especially good spot to look for these transient phenomena, especially if you use a timelapse camera. So far, we've seen a few of these events captured by astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS), as well as a few from the ground.

Researchers discovered that 'blue sprites' were also occuring on Jupiter last year, indicating that Earth isn't the only place where the light shows occur.

According to Pesquet, the Space Station is ideal for this observatory since it sails above the equator, where there are more thunderstorms.

This is an extremely rare occurrence, and we have a facility dedicated to detecting these light flashes outside Europe's Columbus laboratory.

We hope that our research will yield a plethora of further images of this amazing phenomenon in the future!

Originally Published Here.

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