Reported by pilots for years, ‘colorful jets’ which are electrical discharges, occur in our upper atmosphere above thunderstorms. These “transient luminous event” have been difficult to confirm and/or study. The European Space Agency is at the forefront of monitoring these aerial events not seen by the naked eye. Often referred to as ‘red sprites’, ‘blue jets’, and ‘elves’ satellites have probed them and to-date they have only been observed from mountaintops observatories. Nothing conclusive. The International Space Station orbits around the equator often and is ready to assist in the capture of these phenomena. The Atmosphere-Space Interaction Monitor or ASIM will be among the packed SpaceX dragon payload, 5,800 pounds in all, going to the ISS aboard April 2nd’s SpaceX Falcon-9 CRS-14, Commercial Resupply Services mission.

From NASA’s Press Release:

‘The Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) monitors such phenomena from the external payload platform of ESA’s Columbus Laboratory of the International Space Station. ASIM provides the most comprehensive global survey of transient luminous events and terrestrial gamma-ray flashes in the region of the atmosphere within and above severe thunderstorms, to help determine their physics, and how they relate to lightning. ASIM also quantifies the effects of gravity waves on the mesosphere, studies high-altitude cloud formation, and determines the characteristic of thunderstorms that make them effective in the perturbation of the high-altitude atmosphere. Any improvements in the knowledge of processes occurring in Earth’s atmosphere can help to improve atmospheric models, and hence predictions related to climatology and meteorology.’AI

Launching from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 40 at 4:30 pm EDT from Florida. After the Dragon capsule is attached to the ISS, the unloading process will begin almost immediately. ASIM will be mounted on the Columbus laboratory on the ISS. It will confirm what many have speculated or known. Many mile-wide flashes approximately 11 miles above the Earth have been recorded by ESA Astronaut Andreas Mogensen, some reaching as high as 25 miles. The first clear recording was made by Astro Andreas over the Bay of Bengal at 17,895 MPH. 

Photo: ASIM

“The system (above) resembles a pinhole camera of old but repeated hundreds of times. A computer then reassembles the data into a useful image” says ESA’s Astrid Orr, Scientist from the Hague, Netherlands. 

The Organization: The Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor is a climate observatory for the International Space Station – ISS. It is developed by the ASIM consortium for ESA. The ASIM consortium is formed by Terma A/S, Technical University of Denmark, University of Bergen, University of Valencia, Polish Academy of Science Space Research Center, and OHB Italia. The Technical University of Denmark is leading the scientific advisory board to ESA and Terma A/S is the prime contractor under ESA for the payload development. Development started in 2010 and current launch is planned for April 2nd, 2018, with Falcon-9/Dragon by SpaceX.

Watch the News Briefing ‘What’s On Board’ live streaming on Sunday, April 1st, at 2:30 pm EDT from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. You can watch the launch at Principal Investigator, or PI, Torsten Neubert, will brief the press and world on the science and technology for this project.

The objective is to study these events above severe thunderstorms and their role in the Earth’s atmosphere and climate.

Loaded into the Dragon’s Capsule ‘Trunk’ pictured in the lower center of the image is the ASIM Monitor. 

Image: European Space Agency ESA


Stayed tuned for updates.


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