December 1, 2021

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Ghosts, fairies.  Light phenomena above Earth.  What are they?

Ghosts, fairies. Light phenomena above Earth. What are they?

Astronaut Thomas Pesquet aboard the International Space Station (ISS) observed an unusual phenomenon around the world. It is rare and difficult to notice, which is why he decided to show it in the photo.

An image shown by an ESA astronaut on October 7 shows part of the globe at night. In the upper part, above Europe, you can see a bright blue light, and above it – red. As Thomas Pesquet noted, these phenomena “only a few decades ago were noticed by pilots through anecdotal evidence, and scientists were not sure if they actually existed.”

It is very difficult to catch the light, because it appears so rare, and it is almost impossible to see it from Earth. Only a few can see it – astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and those flying over storms.

The phenomenon observed by the astronaut was a transient light event (TLE), which can be translated as a transient light event. The “blue jet” that Pesquet observed was caused by a lightning bolt. If the lightning travels through the upper layer of negatively charged storm clouds and previously passed through the layer of positively charged clouds, the lightning may strike upward. This creates a blue glow as the nitrogen molecules ignite.

The red light visible above the blue light is called the sprite. It is an atmospheric electrical discharge that occurs during a thunderstorm. It is similar to lightning, but there is a fundamental difference. Visible lightning from Earth occurs at or below clouds, and storms appear high above the clouds in the ionosphere.

Phenomenon observed by an astronaut from the International Space StationThomas Bisquet / NASA / European Space Agency

“The space station is a great place to observe these kinds of phenomena because it passes over the equator where there are more storms,” ​​Pesquet emphasized.

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Main image source: Thomas Bisquet / NASA / European Space Agency