Russian satellite spots mysterious 'light explosions' in Earth's atmosphere

clock • 2 min read

Researchers say these 'explosions' could be a new and unknown phenomenon that can't (yet) be explained by modern physics

Russian satellite Lomonosov, launched to track high-energy cosmic rays, has spotted mysterious 'light explosions' high above the surface of Earth.

Researchers believe these 'explosions' could be a new and unknown phenomenon, which can't be explained using the principles of modern physics.

"We do not yet know their physical nature," said Mikhail Panasyuk, head of Moscow State University's Research Institute of Nuclear Physics.

Over the years, satellites have captured several luminous flashes (electrical discharges) above the Earth's atmosphere. Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) also report viewing blue jets and red sprites above the Earth's atmosphere. Such electrical discharges can be explained by weather events that happen in the atmosphere.

But there were storms, clouds or lightning in sight when the Russian satellite spotted unusual 'light explosions'.

"What caused the explosions is an open question," Panasyuk added.

Panasyuk said that the strange explosions of light didn't occur just once, but several times.

Lomonosov, named after the Russian scientist and polymath Mikhail Lomonosov, is an astronomic satellite developed by the Moscow State University, launched in 2016.

The satellite is equipped with an ultraviolet telescope enabling it to observe transient phenomena in Earth's upper atmosphere. The 625kg satellite can measure the chemical composition and energy spectrum of high-energy cosmic rays from near-Earth orbit.

The Lomonosov satellite is also equipped with a number of scientific instruments, including what's called Electron Loss Fields Investigators for Lomonosov (ELFN-L), which comprises a Flux Gate Magnetometer (FGM), Energetic Proton Detector for Ions (EPDI) and Energetic Particle Detector for Electrons (EPDI). This instrument is capable of tracking energy particles in the Earth's magnetosphere.

The latest claims about mysterious 'light explosions' in the Earth's upper atmosphere come less than a year after scientists discovered several rapid light flashes unlike anything observed in space. While those events resembled a supernova, they were short-lived, visible just for a month.

Some astronomers believe these rapid light flashes could have occurred due to a massive star approaching its death and losing huge amounts of material before its explosion. Scientists, however, need more data to arrive at a conclusion. 

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