ESA astronaut, Andreas Mogensen, recorded the first-of-its-kind video of the so-called “blue jets,” which are electrical discharges that go from the cloud tops to space.
In 2015, Morgensen accepted the “Thor Experiment,” named after Thor, the Norse God of Lightning. Because of that, he was sent to the ISS with a state-of-the-art video camera to record thunderstorms. He finally managed to capture the blue jets with clarity, something that not even satellites had managed to do before.
“The observations are the most spectacular of their kind. They reveal new aspects of discharge processes at cloud tops, including a pulsating blue jet,” said the researchers of a survey on the topic that was published last month.
Blue jets are like reverse lightings headed towards space
After Mogensen accepted the “Thor Experiment” in 2015, he was sent precisely 250 miles above the Earth to capture the blue jets, which were practically a mystery for astronauts and scientists. They knew about the existence of these blue bolts of electricity, but they had not been able to capture them before. Some pilots who fly over active thunderstorms could see them, but they never been recorded with clarity.
The video was captured over the Bay of Bengal, India, and It shows how the blue electrical discharges leave cloud tops and are headed toward space. Because of this, they are also called reverse lightings, because they are not directed to the Earth surface as regular lightning are.
Right after the lightning from below the storm illuminates the clouds, there’s a blue cone, and the jet is shoot out to space. After climbing 10 kilometers, these elusive blue jets disappear into space with an approximated speed of 360,000 kph, according to the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.
Blue jets have an important role in shaping earth’s atmosphere
Scientists are not sure about the nature of blue jets, even though they have been studying the phenomenon since the 1990s. However, they say that these blue lightning have an important role in shaping the atmosphere of the Earth. As well, they say that they are likely to occur only during unusually active thunderstorms.
Astronaut Morgensen admitted that blue jets are something scientists know very little about, in spite of the recent discovery. His sole job in the ISS was to record this phenomenon. It is very hard to photograph blue jets just as the red sprites, which is another event that takes place in a higher latitude. Both, blue jets and red sprites could play a role in shaping the air people breath, by breaking apart different types of atmospheric molecules.
A survey on the matter was published on January in the Geophysical Research Letters. As well, the research is likely to continue. The follow-up mission, the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor, is planned to be launched very soon to study blue jets and meteors.