Thomas Pesquet immortalizes a strange blue light from space, what is it?

In one of his last publications, Thomas Pesquet revealed to us a magnificent shot. You can admire a blue light shining above the Earth. But what is it all about? We take stock.

The transient luminous phenomenon captured by Thomas Pesquet

Every day, Thomas Pesquet reveals to us the wonders he captured from the ISS like this sandstorm seen from space. Content that allows you to see the Earth from a new angle. Just recently, the famous French astronaut shared a snapshot where a strange blue light emerges above our planet. Teacher, the commander of the International Space Station gave details on this transient luminous phenomenon (Transient Luminous Event or TLE in the language of Shakespeare).

In this case, this photograph comes from a timelapse taken over the Old Continent. “Luckily, she shows lightning and sprites in the upper atmosphere!” These luminous phenomena are rare and very short, which makes them difficult to photograph and study ”, says Thomas Pesquet in the caption, stating that the ISS had an instrument specially designed to observe them.

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Thomas Pesquet captures a transient light phenomenon

It was in 1989 that the first TLE was formally identified by researchers in Minnesota. Concretely, these are flashes of light that occur during thunderstorms. Very fleeting, they are formed by electric shocks and can take different aspects. The elves are thus akin to « expanding rings of light ” occurring at an altitude of 90 km, details the CNRSS. They accompany the big eclairs

In addition, leprechauns (sprites) are electric shocks that usually occur between 40 and 90 km altitude. Reddish, they take the form of a “Vertical columns” and last between 3 and 10 microseconds, says the Météo Contact website. By zooming in on the Pesquet photo, we can also detect red bands overhanging the blue light. Another TLE: the blue jets that appear at a height of 50 km “On the upper part of the storm clouds”.

Thomas Pesquet specifies that the ISS is suitable for observing TLE. And for good reason, the station overlooks the equator several times a day, the area where thunderstorms break out the most. “One fascinating thing about these lightning bolts is that they remained legendary for decades, told by pilots, and scientists weren’t convinced they existed. We now know that sprites, elves and other blue or giant jets actually exist and that they could have an influence on the climate ”, concludes the astronaut.


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