Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Columbia Crew Catches A Mysterious TIGER In The Indian Ocean

Date:
January 25, 2005
Source:
American Geophysical Union
Summary:
An unprecedented flash observed by the space shuttle Columbia crew in 2003 over the Indian Ocean may be a new type of transient luminous event, like lightning sprites, but one that is not necessarily caused by a thunderstorm. The discharge was observed less than two weeks before the shuttle was lost during its Earth reentry.

Still image from a video of a Transient Ionospheric Glow Emission in Red (TIGER), taken by the Columbia space shuttle crew in 2003, with the object circled.
Credit: Image : MEIDEX Science team/ISA/NASA

WASHINGTON -- An unprecedented flash observed by the space shuttle Columbia crew in 2003 over the Indian Ocean may be a new type of transient luminous event, like lightning sprites, but one that is not necessarily caused by a thunderstorm. The discharge was observed less than two weeks before the shuttle was lost during its Earth reentry.

Related Articles


The authors describe the discharge as a Transient Ionospheric Glow Emission in Red, or TIGER, event. It was recorded by a video camera in the near-infrared spectrum in the nighttime sky just south of Madagascar on 20 January 2003. The authors analyzed the video several months later and found what visually looks like a bright flash. They report that the emission did not resemble any known class of luminous events, which typically appear in conjunction with thunderstorm activity.

The space shuttle experiment that observed the unusual discharge was conducted by Israeli astronaut Ilan Ramon as part of the MEIDEX (Mediterranean Israeli Dust Experiment), and is reported by Yoav Yair of the Open University of Israel and an international group of colleagues. The article will be published on 18 January in Geophysical Research Letters, a journal of the American Geophysical Union.

The researchers also analyzed ground and satellite measurements of lightning in the region and note that the particular flash was not detected by equipment monitoring the skies for electromagnetic radiation in the very low and extremely low frequency domains usually associated with strong lightning discharges. In fact, no cloud-to-ground lightning was seen in the area for nearly two seconds around the emission's detection time. They note, however, that meteor trails were observed by the same equipment on another orbit two days later and posit that an extraterrestrial source of the event cannot be discounted.

They note that the TIGER event was delayed from a distant lightning flash far longer than previously observed sprite or ELVES discharges and did not retain the jellyfish like (sprites) or doughnut (ELVES) shape often seen in those emissions. Most sprites, for example, appear within 10 milliseconds or less after strong positive cloud-to-ground flashes, while the observed event was delayed for nearly a quarter of a second and was approximately 1,000 kilometers [600 miles] removed from the closest visible lightning flash. For those reasons and the fact that 17 other luminous emissions detected at other times by the Columbia equipment were easily classified, the authors believe that the unusual event was likely a new type of emission, rather than a delayed sprite.

"The major point of this research, in my mind, is to show that there are some upper atmosphere processes that we do not know enough about," Yair said about the study. "The best way we can monitor or research this properly is from space."

The research team found no errors in its equipment and note that the sky was clear in the direct vicinity of their observations, leading them to discount suppositions that the emission may have been a reflection from another type of flash. They also suggest that meteors--still another possibility--would likely have produced a continuous trail of emissions that would have been seen during the short period when the astronauts observed and recorded the flash.

A third proposed explanation is that electron beams emitted from lightning in thunderstorms believed to be present near Cyprus at around the same time may have been carried by the Earth's geomagnetic field into the upper atmosphere and created a purple glow near Madagascar, similar to a sprite that would have had nearly equal red and blue intensities. The authors discount that possibility, however, noting that the thunderstorm did not produce strong enough lightning to spark the TIGER event. The researchers indicate that further space-based observations may be able to detect similar instances of such emissions and help to solve the mystery of its cause.

The research was supported by the Israeli National Academy for Sciences and the Humanities.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Geophysical Union. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

American Geophysical Union. "Columbia Crew Catches A Mysterious TIGER In The Indian Ocean." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 25 January 2005. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050124013055.htm>.
American Geophysical Union. (2005, January 25). Columbia Crew Catches A Mysterious TIGER In The Indian Ocean. ScienceDaily. Retrieved November 28, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050124013055.htm
American Geophysical Union. "Columbia Crew Catches A Mysterious TIGER In The Indian Ocean." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2005/01/050124013055.htm (accessed November 28, 2014).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, November 28, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Raw: Japan's Mt. Aso Volcano Spews Rocks

Raw: Japan's Mt. Aso Volcano Spews Rocks

AP (Nov. 28, 2014) — A volcano in southern Japan is spewing volcanic magma rocks. A regional weather observatory says this could be Mt. Aso's first magma eruption in 22 years. (Nov. 28) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Scientists Find Invisible Space Shield Protecting Earth

Newsy (Nov. 27, 2014) — An invisible barrier is keeping dangerous super fast electrons from interfering with our atmosphere, but scientists aren't entirely sure how. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Bolivian Recycling Initiative Turns Plastic Waste Into School Furniture

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Nov. 26, 2014) — Innovative recycling project in La Paz separates city waste and converts plastic garbage into school furniture made from 'plastiwood'. Tara Cleary reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Blu-Ray Discs Getting Second Run As Solar Panels

Newsy (Nov. 26, 2014) — Researchers at Northwestern University are repurposing Blu-ray movies for better solar panel technology thanks to the discs' internal structures. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins