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.
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.
Harvey Leifert | EurekAlert!
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