Project THOR-Study of Thunderstorms From Space With Assistance From International Space Station
All of us are aware of the fact that storms occur due to the instability in earth’s atmosphere. Lightning, wind, and sound are the characteristics of a thunderstorm. Torrential rains and high winds accompany the storm. Ever thought about what kind of light do we observe during illumination? What might be the composition of that light? This article gives you answers to all the questions regarding this issue.
Idea generation to capture the images of Thunderstorm
Scientists have developed many instruments to capture the pictures of storms. NSSL (National Severe Storms Laboratory), a research laboratory located in Norman, Oklahoma has developed devices like POD (Portable observing machine), PASIV(Particle size image and velocity probe) which are designed to capture high-definition images and measure variables like electrical strength, temperature, pressure, etc. But, what kind of lightning strikes? It is an area to focus. Hence, in this regard, a renowned physicist Torsten Neubert came up with a new idea of sending astronauts to higher elevations to capture the images.
Implementation of the Idea
The ISS (International Space Station) is a space environment for conducting experiments in various fields like astronomy, meteorology, etc. Danish scientists teamed up to send an astronaut named Andreas Mogensen from ISS. This space mission was named THOR, and it was the first-ever spaceflight by a Danish national. The film thunderstorms to be captured were 250 miles above the Earth. Scientists assigned a 10-day mission to the astronaut in September 2015. Researchers used software to predict where and when the storms would appear and indicated the same to the astronaut. Researchers could identify four storms, and the astronaut succeeded in capturing those images.
What kind of Light?
The images captured consisted more amount of lightning splashes that are composed of blue jets and red sprites. Sprites are the flashes of intense red light that usually occur above storm systems. These lie about 60-80km above the earth’s surface. Blue jets, at an altitude of about 50km above the earth’s surface, are narrow cone beams of light. These are more intense than the sprites.
According to the observations made, there was no clear reason as to why more amount of blue discharges developed during the storm. Scientists are now planning to focus on this aspect. Another project begins now, which is a two-year project aimed to study the X-Ray and gamma-ray emissions of the thunderstorm and ISS will be the platform for carrying out this project.
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