Simulation of a TGF event generated by researchers at the ASIM Science Data Centre (ASDC) at DTU Space - Denmark's National Space Institute (Illustration: DTU Space).

ASIM data becomes available for lightning researchers

Wednesday 11 Dec 19

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Carol Anne Oxborrow
Special Consultant
DTU Space
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From the International Space Station (ISS) the ASIM instruments have been scanning the Earth’s atmosphere from 400km altitude since April 2018, capturing optical images, ultraviolet light, x-rays and even gamma-rays, from the world’s most energetic thunderstorms.

 

Amongst the treasure trove of new measurements are data on Red Sprites Giant as well as Blue Jets, ELVES  and Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes.

 

Click here to go to our web based database now freely accessable for researchers globally. The ASIM Science Data Centre (ASDC) based at DTU Space is the hub of ASIM data activity. Researchers interested in using the ASIM data in their projects can just log onto the ASDC website.

 

For data security reasons, anyone wishing to see the newest data has to register as a scientific user, but curious members of the general public can keep an eye on ASIM’s progress too.

 

You can do that by clicking here - and see a map of the latest events showing where the ASIM-instruments have triggered on possible lightning discharges during the last 24 hours of measurements.

Data on lightning phenomena in Space near Earth captured by the Danish Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM), on board the International Space Station (ISS), have now been made available to researchers across the globe.

From the International Space Station (ISS) the ASIM instruments have been scanning the Earth’s atmosphere from 400km altitude since April 2018, capturing optical images, ultraviolet light, x-rays and even gamma-rays, from the world’s most energetic thunderstorms.

And a number of scientific results from the ASIM-mission - where DTU Space has the scientific leadership - have now been published in connection with the American Geophysical Unions Earth and Space Science Fall Meeting in San Francisco 8-13 December 2019.

Now the many data from the mission are freely available for lightning researchers globally via a web based database. The ASIM Science Data Centre (ASDC) is the hub of ASIM data activity. It is based at DTU Space, where the ASIM instruments were designed and calibrated. Researchers interested in using the ASIM data in their projects can log onto the ASDC website.

Amongst the treasure trove of new measurements are data on Red Sprites as well as Giant Blue Jets, ELVES and Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes.

Intricate mechanisms triggers surprisingly energetic discharges

The mission hopes to shed light on the intricate mechanisms, within and above highly charged clouds, that cause surprisingly energetic discharges.

Some of these can even produce matter and anti-matter that annihilate each other high in the atmosphere, in the region where Earth becomes Space. These events are called Terrestrial Gamma Flashes (TGFs), and were first discovered in 1994. Despite their rarity, such events may have a strong impact on the chemistry of our atmosphere and its reflectivity – with consequences for the Earth’s heat balance and climate.

For the last 20 months the scientists and engineers of the ASIM Science Data Centre have been processing and studying the data sent down from the ISS. This is a complicated task, since working on the ISS requires close collaboration between ESA, NASA, the Columbus Control Centre outside Munich, and the Belgian User Operations Science Centre in Brussels.

With a year of mission data successfully processed, and improved on-board and on-ground software running smoothly, it was decided to open up access to the ASIM data to the global lightning research community.

The world’s most energetic thunderstorms are in the tropics, and as the ASIM map shows (see below), the most active areas are centred on Columbia, Venezuela, the Amazon basin, the Congo basin and southern Asia.

464 Terrestrial Gamma Flashes have been confirmed

Since ASIM’s launch and installation on the ISS some 464 confirmed TGFs have been recorded by the instruments – at least 54 of them emitting enough x-rays to produce images of these mysterious events. To give an idea of how rare TGFs are, over the entire world there are several million regular lightning flashes every day.

Researchers using ground-based equipment are also interested in using ASIM data to understand the familiar cloud-to-ground lightning we’ve all experienced.

Even these common events still hold some mysteries that can be unlocked with the help of ASIM’s space-based instruments since it is extremely hard to study phenomena that last for only a few milliseconds.

However, with ASDC making ASIM data available to scientists all over the world, we will soon have a far better understanding of this blink-and-you’ve-missed-it science.

The world’s most energetic thunderstorms are in the tropics, and as the ASIM map with events that trigger the instruments shows, the most active areas are centred on Columbia, Venezuela, the Amazon basin, the Congo basin and southern Asia (Map: DTU Space/Google).

The world’s most energetic thunderstorms are in the tropics, and as the ASIM map with events that trigger the instruments shows , the most active areas are centred on Columbia, Venezuela, the Amazon basin, the Congo basin and southern Asia (Map: DTU Space).

By clicking here you can see a map showing where the ASIM-instruments have triggered on possible lightning discharge events during the last 24 hours of measurements.