Scientists have finally come up with an explanation for the sparks that cause “blue jets”. Blue jets are strange thunderstorms that rise from storm clouds to the stratosphere and reach a height of 50 kilometers above the ground in less than a second.
Just as ordinary lightning strikes the gases of the lower atmosphere and turns white, so do the blue jets of nitrogen in the stratosphere to create their blue traces. They were first recorded in October 1989 in a black-and-white video of a storm in Australia on a space shuttle mission.
Blue jets, due to the need for special environmental conditions, did not occur as much as normal lightning, so by 2007, less than a hundred images of them had been recorded.
At first it was thought that these jets were not directly related to lightning and that the presence of hail was the cause of their formation; But in 1373, 59 blue jets were accidentally photographed on a mission designed to capture “ghosts”.
Spirits, like water jets, are created by electrical discharges above clouds and are one of the effects of electrical discharges between the earth and clouds (lightning).
They are in fact cold plasma phenomena that are deprived of the heat of the lower layers of the atmosphere. The spirits form red arcs that continue downward with branches and usually form clusters in the troposphere at a height of fifty to ninety kilometers above the earth’s surface. The first report of their observation dates back to about 320 years ago.
Blue jets have been observed from the ground and from airplanes for years, but we cannot tell how they form until we see them from above the clouds. And now researchers say that instruments inside the International Space Station have recorded a blue jet created by a small, bright explosion above stormy clouds.
The importance of gaining knowledge about water jets and other phenomena that occur in the upper layers of the atmosphere is that such phenomena are effective in transmitting radio waves and thus affect communication technologies.
In February 2016, cameras and light-sensitive devices – photometers – inside the International Space Station, observed five “blue explosions” in a storm over the Pacific Ocean.
The blue explosions were ten-millisecond blue sparks that formed in a storm cell, scientists said. One of the five explosions, which formed at an altitude of 16 km, led to the formation of a blue jet, and from there continued upwards in a few tenths of a second, to an altitude of 52 km.
The five sparks observed were accompanied by phenomena called Elves. The lights are expanding dim red glows that were first discovered on a space shuttle mission in 1990.
These dimmable rings form at an altitude of 100 km in the ionosphere and their radius increases to 400 km within one millisecond.
Scientists say the spark that created the blue jet may have been a special type of short-range electrical discharge. Normal thunderstorms are caused by electrical discharges between two clouds with opposite charges or between the earth and the cloud, which are miles apart.
But a very chaotic combination of opposite charges in the upper layers of the clouds, which are about a kilometer apart, produces very small but powerful electric sparks. This phenomenon occurs when the upper region of a cloud is positively charged and covers a layer of negatively charged cloud around it.
This electrical discharge creates a high-energy point that propagates ascending to higher altitudes of the atmosphere. These dots are formed in the red spectrum and are dim and localized, while sparks and jets are ionized waves of nitrogen that form in the blue and ultraviolet spectrum and propagate upwards.
However, the characteristics of the point and altitude at which the jets continue are not yet clear. Researchers also used ground-based antennas to find evidence of such short-lived, high-power electrical discharges in the clouds that support this hypothesis.