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Blue jets, red sprites and other flashes

In recent years, the International Space Station has given astronauts the chance to photograph transient luminous events – or TLEs – natural light shows produced at the tops of thunderstorms.

Two weeks ago, we published a photo by Paul Smith of an awesome red sprite over Oklahoma. Red sprites are a type of transient luminous event (TLE), different from the more familiar lightning that takes place in the troposphere, or lowest part of Earth’s atmosphere. A related phenomena are the blue jets, which pulse from the tops of intense thunderstorms and reach up toward the edge of space. In 2015, European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Andreas Mogensen photograped blue jets from the International Space Station. A subsequent analysis of the video footage by researchers at Denmark’s National Space Institute – published in early 2017 – revealed some amazing results!

Olivier Chanrion, lead author of the publication reported:

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.

Watch the video above to see Mogensen’s footage, and learn more about blue jets, red sprites and other flashes high above thunderstorms.

Or, read a transcript of the video from NASA

Red sprite over Oklahoma, caught by Paul Smith on October 6, 2017. Read more about this image.

Bottom line: New NASA ScienceCast on blue jets, red sprites and other flashes above thunderstorms, seen from space.

Eleanor Imster

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