Thursday, May 25, 2017

The Mysterious Flashes of Light Even NASA Can't Explain

Enigmatic Flashes

A spacecraft witnessing Earth had within a span of only one year, spotted hundreds of enigmatic `flashes’ which mirrored off the surface of our planet. The strange spectacle is said to be traced all the way back to the 1990s when Carl Sagan the astronomer had noted identical mysterious glints in images from the spacecraft of Galileo.

Though it was initially presumed that these mysterious flashes of light only seemed over oceans with the possibility of streamlining their source, it has now been discovered by the scientists that they can be viewed over the land also. Researchers have in a new investigation observed that these surges probably tend to be surprisingly small source, tiny, horizontal ice crystals that float high in the sky.

The Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera – EPIC of NASA aboard the NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory –DSCOVR had spotted 866 surges of light over the land between the launch of the observatory in 2015 and August 2016. DSCOVR deputy project scientist Alexander Marshak, had explained that the flashes which have been observed over the ocean could have simply been the reflection of sunlight over a smooth part of an ocean or lake. However the same could not be said regarding the flashes that were observed over the land.

Surge of Light Due to Water in Atmosphere

Marshak had informed that they had discovered some very bright flashes over land also and when they first witnessed it they thought that maybe there was some water there or a lake the sun seemed to be reflecting on.

 However the flint seemed to be quite big and so the same was not considered. EPIC tends to capture red, green and blue images many images apart resulting in the flashes to seem as tri-coloured fragments. The researchers suspected that if these strange occurrences had been caused due to reflected sunlight, they would be concentrated to distinct locations on Earth where the angle between the sun as well as the Earth would be similar as that between the spacecraft and Earth.

On plotting this it was discovered that the two matched. This seemed to be helpful, according to the researchers, to weed out lightning as a probable cause. Marshak had stated that lightning does not care about the sun and the location of EPIC. The researchers, in their study had imagined that the surge of light could be due to water high up in the atmosphere in the form of ice particles.

Presence of High Cirrus Clouds

In order to get an understanding, they plotted the angles of the reflections, tapping them into two channels on EPIC which enabled them to measure the height of clouds. The study showed the presence of high cirrus clouds 3 to 5 miles where these enigmatic flashes had been noticed. Besides these the angles suggested that they are positioned horizontally.

Marshak had informed that the cause of the flashes was definitely not on the ground and is certainly ice and most probably solar reflection off of horizontally focused on particles. This information is being utilised by the researchers to help in determining whether or not they have an impact on the extent of sunlight which tends to pass through the atmosphere.

The scientist state that in addition to the implications for Earth, glints like those spotted by DSCOVR could also be utilised to study exoplanet.

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