Victor Lorenzo, a Planet Analog blogger, alerted me to an interesting European-based project known as SAINT (Science And INnovation with Thunderstorms). There are several universities and institutions involved in this effort. The project is coordinated by Dr. Torsten Neubert, from the DTU SPACE, Technical University of Denmark.
Lightning affects Greenhouse gases concentrations as well as its capability of damaging electrical/electronic systems, especially those in elevated structures like wind turbines or aircraft. Scientists at SAINT want to fully understand this atmospheric electrical phenomenon.
Recently, scientists have observed a new discharge process above the thunderstorm cloud layer called Transient Luminous Events (TLEs) in the stratosphere and Mesosphere. There have also been observations of Terrestrial Gamma Ray Flashes (TGFs) which can emit anti-matter particle beams. Such fields as plasma and high-voltage technology have never properly investigated these types of discharges.
(Image courtesy of SAINT)
The SAINT project is making efforts to understand these events via the use of satellites in three upcoming missions and also ground observation and the use of modelling and laboratory experiments in a geophysical aspect to understand the fundamental mechanisms of these atmospheric discharges.
Two of these missions are already on the International Space Station (ISS). They are the “Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM)”, an effort by the European Space Agency (ESA) this year and NASA’s ISS “Lightning Imaging Sensor (LIS) in 2016.
ASIM studies climate and giant lightning discharges from the International Space Station (ISS) (Image courtesy of SAINT)