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"Blue jet" departing from Earth towards space? Astronomer explains phenomenon

Redaction 26 January 2021

The scientific journal Nature published an article with astronomers from International Space Station (ISS) describing the observation of a "blue jet" departing from Earth towards space. O phenomenon was spotted by the European Monitor for Atmospheric Space Interactions (ASIM) near the island of Naru in the Pacific Ocean.

“A blue jet is a rare type of transient light event, also called a TLE. They occur above storm clouds and their studies were basically limited to speculation about some reports until the end of the 95th century. This phenomenon occurs from an intense electrical discharge that starts from the top of the storm clouds and goes to the limit of the mesosphere, about XNUMX kilometers in altitude ”, explains Marcelo Zurita, president of the Paraibana Association of Astronomy, member of SAB - Sociedade Astronômica Brasileira - and technical director of Bramon - Brazilian Meteor Observation Network.

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The astronomer says that in the past the “blue jet” was considered a ghost or a UFO (unidentified flying object): “At a certain point the TLE can produce a flash of light that takes on different shapes like simple columns of light or even the shape of a carrot or fairy foot. And it is not for nothing that several people who viewed this phenomenon associated them with supernatural phenomena such as the visualization of ghosts or even UFOs ”.

“For this reason the most common types of TLE are called sprites, a name that refers to a mythological being of European folklore also called the spirit of the air. Some of the explanations considered at that time were that the sprite visualization was just an optical illusion, but there are those who doubted the mental health of those who reported seeing it ”, says Zurita.

The astronomer who is a columnist for Olhar Digital says that this study area only started to have some credibility and relevance from 1989, when the first sprites were accidentally recorded on a video camera: “Later, other similar phenomena were recorded. Like the 'gigantic jets', which start out like the blue jets, but which at the end have a reddish branch that reaches the limits of the mesosphere ”.

Scientists describe “blue jet”

According to the scientists, five intense blue flashes were seen, each about 10 milliseconds in length. Four of the flashes were accompanied by a small pulse of ultraviolet light, which appears as a rapidly expanding ring. The fifth flash sent a blue jet, a lightning bolt that can reach up to 50 km in the stratosphere and last less than a second.

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The video above, produced by ESA, is an illustration, or an “artistic impression of lightning in clouds” to demonstrate the climatic phenomenon.

They are formed by the interaction of electrons, radio waves and the atmosphere and are known to scientists as Elves (Elves), which stands for Emissions of Light and Very Low Frequency Perturbations due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources. Very Low Frequency due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources).

Astronomers say their observations using ASIM - known as the “hunter of space storms”- could help reveal how lightning appears in clouds and how they can influence the concentration of greenhouse gases in the Earth's atmosphere.

Astrid Orr, ESA's coordinator of physical sciences for human and robotic space flights, said: “This article is an impressive highlight of the many new phenomena that ASIM is observing above storms and shows that we still have a lot to discover and learn about our universe. ”.

"Congratulations to all the scientists and university teams that made this happen, as well as to the engineers who built the observatory and the ground support teams operating ASIM - a true international collaboration that has led to surprising discoveries."