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This is how the mysterious blue rays that rise through the stratosphere are born

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A team of astrophysicists from Spain, Denmark and Norway explained how a totally unusual natural phenomenon arises: the blue rays that spread above the clouds in the stratosphere during storms.

A video, created from data collected by the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) of the International Space Station, shows the formation of a vertical blue jet accompanied by a kind of shock waves of optical and ultraviolet radiation shaped like a circle known as elves.

The blue jets are formed within the storm due to a separation of electrical charges that generates an ionizing movement of the components. 

“They move both between clouds and from cloud to ground or vice versa,” the study authors explained. However, in some cases, they rise from the cloud towards the highest parts of the atmosphere.

On February 26, 2019, five very violent eruptions of up to 10 microseconds were detected near the island of Nauru, in the Pacific Ocean. One of them lasted 20 microseconds and reached the so-called stratopause or the border between the mesosphere and the stratosphere. 

The researchers analyzed the position, duration, evolution and speed of the powerful beam – which had a signal 100 times stronger than usual in the blue photometer – from the first microsecond of its genesis that can only be observed from space.

This is the first time that they have managed to “correlate a parent ray with the predominant emission in blue, propagating towards the highest parts of the atmosphere”, explained astrophysicist Víctor Reglero, from the University of Valencia. The researcher pointed out that it is the plasma eruptions that form “16 kilometers high from the cloud.”

Now, astrophysicists plan to conduct further studies to evaluate the frequency of the blue jets and their “contribution to the total charge moving in the global atmospheric electrical circuit.”

The results of the study have been published in the specialized journal Nature.

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