There have long been reports of strange blue jets spewing up from thunderstorm clouds on Earth. They are often spotted by who spend a lot of their time above the ground, whether they’re airplane pilots or International Space Station astronauts.
Image Credit: Andreas Morgensen/ESA/YouTube
For the longest time, this phenomenon went unchecked and numerous scientists have discredited the possibilities of this happening, but since ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen officially recorded the activity from the International Space Station in 2015, it really hasn’t been up for debate since. There’s now cold, hard evidence that it really happens.
A study published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters, which Morgensen played a huge role in thanks to his clear video footage, scientists take a closer look at this phenomenon and try to understand where it occurs and why.
At this point in time, no one really seems to have a solid explanation for why this occurs.
Morgensen’s presence on the International Space Station was an instrumental component in getting this important footage. The International Space Station just happens to be a low-enough orbiting satellite to Earth to capture this phenomenon in vivid detail. Other man-made satellites orbit too far away to get good pictures or footage, so they wouldn’t be as helpful to the cause of determining exactly what's going on here.
In Morgensen's footage, which was uploaded to YouTube back in 2015, blue jets and several luminous bouts of activity are observed launching from the tops of thunderstorm clouds over the Bay of Bengal just following large lightning strikes:
Some of the jets are larger than others, most on a scale of kilometers, but it would seem that some are capable of reaching as high as the Earth’s stratosphere at a 40km altitude.
Unfortunately, these jets occur so high up in our own skies that experimentation is hard to reproduce. The most we can do is try to catch it in the act and observe it to see if there is anything that can be learned about it.
On the other hand, a mission will soon be launched later this year that will attach the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) to the International Space Station’s Columbus module. It’s hoped that this hunk of tech will be able to capture better details of these luminous events.
Until then, Morgensen is very proud of the footage he was able to capture, noting: “It is not every day that you get to capture a new weather phenomenon on film, so I am very pleased with the result – but even more so that researchers will be able to investigate these intriguing thunderstorms in more detail soon.”
It should be interesting to see what kind of data ASIM can uncover about these strange luminous blue jets, such as why they occur and why they’ve went unnoticed for so long.