European Space Agency (ESA) astronaut Andreas Mogensen has captured for the first time a clear recording of blue jets while aboard the International Space Station.
What Are Blue Jets?
Blue jets are lightning phenomena that shoot up into space rather than to the ground. Scientists still do not know a lot about them, what they’re effects are to Earth’s atmosphere, or what conditions make them possible.
The colored video of the blue jets and sprites were captured while ISS was cruising at around 17,896 miles per hour (28,800 km/hr) 250 miles over the Bay of Bengal. The fascinating electrical discharges were observed to be about 0.62-mile (1-km) wide and around 11 miles (18 km) in altitude. Mogensen also spotted a pulsating blue jet that reached about 25 miles (40 km). The altitude of the ISS provided a good vantage point to achieve such feat.
You can watch the video of the blue jets captured from the ISS below:
Didn’t see it? We have created a GIF for you
Pilots have reported seeing them but these gigantic electrical discharges occurring in the upper atmosphere are very difficult to study. Capturing a good photograph or video of these events is very difficult. Recording them from the ground is next to impossible while satellites do not have the best viewing angle to snap a recording. The very first scientific report of a red sprite was only recorded in 1990.
“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,” said Mogensen.
The Danish astronaut was tasked to spend 10 days on the ISS back in September 2015 to test a new thunder cloud imaging system as part of the Thor Experiment, a project by the Technical University of Denmark named after the god of thunder in Nordic mythology.
For the curious, Mogensen used a Nikon D4 camera 6,400 ISO recorded the lightning phenomenon at 24 frames per second at 1,920 x 1,080 pixels.
The researchers have published the results of the study in Geophysical Research Letters where you can find details of the camera setup and observations of the experts.
Upon analysis, the Danish astronaut was able to record 245 blue flashes or about 90 per minute.
Below is a video of Mogensen explaining red sprites and blue jets phenomena: