How to start a zipper

How to start a zipper

For the red goblins, elves and blue jets will now be observed from the ISS. But even earth scientists much to be seen from oncoming leaders to stalkers. In the science of lightning is the season of discoveries.

The ISS delivered a set of devices ASIM, whose task is to unravel the mysteries of the transient luminous phenomena reported by news agencies. For boring wording — scientific detective: in the late 1980s, scientists discovered in the upper atmosphere during thunderstorms something strange. As it turned out, there are special light phenomena, or TLE (from the English. Transient Luminous Events). They were observed before, in particular aircraft pilots but the basic science is involved in this riddle a couple of decades. These phenomena have dubbed the unusual — sprites (they are red ghosts or goblins — short flashes, which are observed mainly at night), elves (the high-rise and donut) and blue jets. Problem faced by science, “Spark” found in the Laboratory of physics of lightning, of the Institute of applied physics RAS.

All lightning discharges are divided into three types: cloud — to-ground (these are the lightning that we see), vnutrioblastnaya discharges and discharges the cloud — ionosphere. So TLE is the discharge over the storm clouds. In order to form such a discharge, must be powerful clouds in our latitudes rare, so they are more commonly observed in Europe and America. However, our Lab recently launched the experimental setup, with which we simulate such discharges.Maria Stalinstadt laboratory of lightning physics Institute of applied physics RAS

What is the scientific significance of the project for the study of TLE from space? Experts interviewed by “Light”, agree with them, like lightning in General, remains a mystery. And in the Laboratory of lightning physics make no mistake: it is known that TLE can happen when a powerful storm events creates a potential difference between a thundercloud and the ionosphere and the charge can go up. But is there still some conditions for their occurrence? The question is open. As opened and the other: how do these light phenomena in the upper atmosphere? It is known that during a thunder-storm below the clouds, emit ozone. But what’s happening upstairs, because in the electric field, chemical reactions proceed differently? Here and useful complex ASIM.

— We can say that the new phenomenon that ASIM will study, is a window into the internal processes occurring in zipper — emphasizes in an interview, lead researcher of the project, a physicist from Denmark Thorsten Neubert.

The project has just begun, but the prospects he has the most optimistic, because in recent years science is progressing by leaps and bounds in the study of lightning. Judge for yourself. As noted by Maria Shatalina from the Laboratory of physics of lightning, only recently opened so-called compact vnutrioblastnaya level is a very powerful and rare, they have to learn from satellites. And here’s another discovery thanks to high-sensitivity high-speed infrared cameras Russian scientists of high voltage research centre VEI discovered a new type of charge — the so-called stalkers.

— They go in front of the leader discharge and show how it will develop, says Shatalina.— One of the important directions in the science of lightning is an attempt to predict, to determine the conditions of occurrence, probability, power and direction of the category… So, the study of stalkers helps to clarify these issues.

However, the person dreaming is not just to predict lightning, but also to manage them.

American scientists from Florida are experimenting with so-called triggered lightning (fire in the storm cloud of the rocket with ground wire, trying to trigger a category).

It’s not just scientific curiosity: maybe someday with the help of such technologies we will learn to “defuse” the coming storm… And, for example, the experts investigate the conditions under which charge can get on a plane, flying through a thunderstorm: the experiments are carried out on models, and the model cloud and the plane.

The science of lightning not only opens new horizons, but also reviewing the existing views. Another discovery, literally turning our view of the lightning, connected with the phenomenon, which is called the “meeting leader”. Speech about it: previously it was thought that lightning strikes from the top down, from the cloud to the ground. However, thanks to modern high-speed filming revealed: when the top of the clouds, kicks off the leader (the so-called first stage of the formation of lightning discharge), to meet him, from the earth, there is a counter discharge, and they are connected at a height of several tens of meters above the earth’s surface. That is, when lightning hits the tree (or, God forbid, in person), she has not from above but from below! This is a very fast process, invisible to the eye, — a few hundred milliseconds, but its discovery is, in fact, a small revolution.

However, the mysteries associated with lightning and thunder, in our century will suffice: it is still not very clear how ball lightning occurs and why. As there are no effective tools, for example the forecasting of thunderstorms.

— Thunderstorms occur in the atmosphere, and it is multi-phase, highly dispersed system: there is ice, water, gases, ions, it all works together and to consider all factors is not yet possible, — explains Maria Shatalina.— The likelihood of thunderstorms, of course, is partially correlated with long-term experience of observations, but we want to know whether the storm, how long it will last and why it occurs in this region. Or another question: under what conditions are positive, and which negative? It is known, for example, positively-charged, very powerful outbreaks occur where the atmosphere is the product of volcanic activity and natural fires. But how exactly is this happening? All this still requires research.

Scientists, emphasizes Shatalina, first of all I want to understand how this whole global atmospheric electric circuit influences on climate and life on Earth, human. Although the question is easy to reformulate: how can a man affect her?

The atmosphere of the mysteries

Dmitry Zykov, Director of the Foundation “Science, culture and life”, associate Professor, MGIMO

When I was in school, it seemed that about the zipper already known. We are confidently told that the earth and the clouds have opposite charges when they come together in the critical distance, there is a discharge — it can be seen and heard from the ground. However, with the development of instrumentation and the accumulation of scientific data, it was found that only part of the truth. Well, for example, found that the zipper can be not only between the earth and the cloud, but also between oppositely charged clouds. Or what happens lightning, accompanied by rain, and that rain is not accompanied by. Or that lightning often accompany a tornado, but their nature is completely different (so-called induced charges formed due to the fact exactly how a tornado is pure electrostatics). As a result, today we know a lot about lightning, but the more science learns, the more questions are opened all new parts that need to be clarified. Here, for example, at the theoretical Department of the physics Institute of the Academy of Sciences there is an area in Altai was there watching the lightning. 10 years ago on this site a day was fixed for 15-20 digits, and now it is monthly figure. Why did he fall? Question. Perhaps something happened to the electric field of the atmosphere (in the atmosphere electrically charged, everything from rain to dust.— “On”). But what is the reason? With the climate? Then how exactly does that connection go?

In climatology today, even more questions than answers. Where are earthquakes that trigger a tsunami? Depends on what volcanic activity?

Heck, we don’t even know why, for example, part of the volcanoes is liquid magma, and other volcanoes emit only stones and smoke. Or back to the lightning: it is known that the electromagnetic field of the Earth and lightning activity are closely linked.

So today we are frightened by change of magnetic poles of the Earth. Could it happen? And if so, in what direction will change? How will this affect the same thunderstorm activity? Observations of the glow in the upper atmosphere can give an answer to at least some of these issues. In addition, these studies to some extent economically justify the existence of expensive toys like the ISS: allow you to collect statistics, to try out the newest instrument systems and, quite possibly, to use acquired data for more accurate weather prediction. And this is a very specific money, and a lot…

As is often the case with basic science, we are not able to predict the practical benefits that will eventually receive from the current research. But there is no doubt that it will. Let me remind you: a study of quantum transitions resulted in the advent of LEDs and lasers, which began as a pure science, are now used in production. Similar perspectives can open and study TLE. For example, if it will tell us how to remove the interference to data transmission by satellites during thunderstorms, so that’s good.

Alexander Raevsky, Moscow Institute of physics and technology

Many of the secrets of lightning is still not solved. Cloud can’t electrify yourself to between him and the ground there was a discharge. The electric field in a thundercloud does not exceed 400 kilovolts per meter (kV/m) and electric breakdown in air occurs at an intensity of more than 2,500 sq/m. Hence, for the occurrence of lightning must be something else. According to scientists from the group of Alexander Gurevich, the process of “launching” cosmic rays — high energy particles that falls to Earth from space.

Nikolai Kalinin, head of the Department of meteorology and atmosphere protection, faculty of geography, Perm state University

There are several types of lightning. The most common is linear. Still have bead lightning usually appears between two clouds, forming a discontinuous line of glowing spots. Another view — flat — electric discharge on the surface of the clouds, do not have a linear character and consisting, apparently, of glowing bits. And ball — looks like glowing and floating in the air education. Physicist Kapitsa believed that ball lightning has a wave nature, so it passes through the wires through the walls and chimneys.

Alexander Kostinsky, a member of international collaboration “Lightning and its manifestations”

— Where did such fabulous names as elves, spirits, sprites?

Elves is the abbreviation for Emissions of Lightand Very Low Frequency Perturbations from Electromagnetic Pulse Sources (Elves), in sound it resembles the name of a mythical elves. The sprites are dancing the air is a fabulous creation. When opened new forms classes of discharges, there was carrots, carrots, and gnomes, and jellyfish, etc. These names are not just jokes geophysicists, but also a way to involve the study of new phenomena that attention, and with it the funding.

Kirill Zhurenkov