Friday, May 4, 2012

Lightning as an Astronomical Tool

Hey Space Placers!

Had an incredible lightning storm last night as I was between two lines of severe thunderstorms. At the peak of the storm there was a lightning bolt every few seconds somewhere in the sky. I saw the clouds form, the first flashes and then a continuous lightning storm for about 2 hours. The National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning for our area here in the Charlottesville, VA area and it was something to see and hear. The lightning that hit our house last Sunday did not originate from such an intense outbreak.

All of this lightning helps to contribute to the study of the origin of the solar system according to new research. The good folks at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center just published a paper that  discusses how lightning on Earth can be used for astronomical studies:

"Every second lightning flashes some 50 times on Earth. Together these discharges coalesce and get stronger, creating electromagnetic waves circling around Earth, to create a beating pulse between the ground and the lower ionosphere, about 60 miles up in the atmosphere. This electromagnetic signature, known as Schumann Resonance, had only been observed from Earth's surface until, in 2011, scientists discovered they could also detect it using NASA's Vector Electric Field Instrument (VEFI) aboard the U.S. Air Force's Communications/Navigation Outage Forecast System (C/NOFS) satellite."

"In a paper published on May 1 in The Astrophysical Journal, researchers describe how this new technique could be used to study other planets in the solar system as well, and even shed light on how the solar system formed."

"The frequency of Schumann Resonance depends not only on the size of the planet but on what kinds of atoms and molecules exist in the atmosphere because they change the electrical conductivity," says Fernando Simoes, the first author on this paper and a space scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, MD. "So we could use this technique remotely, say from about 600 miles above a planet's surface, to look at how much water, methane and ammonia is there."

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

No comments:

Post a Comment