Has a new and mysterious type of ultraviolet light phenomena been observed by the Russian Lomonosov satellite? Normally bursts of these sorts are electric plasma lightning and thunderstorm related but the mystery is the skies and heavens were clear of clouds and thunderstorms.
The MVL-300 spacecraft's mission includes looking for upward lightning discharges and transient luminous events.
More details and explanations will follow but it is so recent and does not involve the English language that not many of the western science news organisations have investigated it further. What electromagnetic plasma processes will be discovered?
An ultraviolet telescope installed on the Russian satellite Lomonosov has registered light explosions in the planet's atmosphere, whose physical nature has not been explained so far, the director of the Research Institute of Nuclear Physics at the Russian State University said in an interview with Sputnik.
With the help of the telescope, we have obtained even more important results than we expected. It looks like we have encountered new physical phenomena... We do not yet know their physical nature...
For example, during Lomonosov's flight at an altitude of several dozen kilometres, we have registered several times a very powerful 'explosion' of light. But everything was clear underneath it, no storms, no clouds, Mikhail Panasyuk said.
Russian Satellite Registers Unknown Physical Phenomena in Earth's Atmosphere | Sputnik news
The Mikhailo Lomonosov satellite is unusual in that its orbit round the planet goes from North pole to South pole and not laterally for example around the equator.
While numerous examples of unusual space weather phenomena have been spotted in the upper atmosphere before, the team operating the Lomonosov satellite say what they’ve found may be something entirely new. Despite the occurrence of several powerful bursts, Russian scientists say there were no signs of storms in the area.
In recent years, unusual electrical discharges have been captured on film by satellites and even astronauts aboard the International Space Station. There are several types of luminous flashes, most notably red sprites and blue jets. These bursts of electricity, however, are always associated with storm clouds, making the latest discovery all the more baffling.
Scientists say satellite detected unexplained 'explosions of light' in cloud-free skies | Daily Mail
Lomonosov upward lightning and transient luminous events mission
Orbiting the Earth from pole to pole, the spacecraft will hunt for ultraviolet light radiating from the atmosphere on the night side of the Earth and for sources of gamma radiation in the sky.
The Earth-bound observations from Lomonosov will focus on what's known as transient luminous events - mysterious light shows discovered in the past few decades and dubbed as upward lightning or cloud-to-stratosphere discharges for their tendency to shoot bright flashes of light from the clouds all the way to the edge of space. Developers of the Lomonosov hope to unlock of the exact mechanism responsible for this rare and poorly understood phenomenon, apparently related to electric activity of the Earth's atmosphere.
At the outset of the Lomonosov project, its authors stressed that along with their contribution to fundamental research, the effort might have practical applications in monitoring electric events between the Earth's cloud cover and the ionosphere. Because previous observations revealed that electrical discharges in the upper atmosphere had been accompanied by massive energy releases in a wide range of electromagnetic spectrum from radio waves to gamma rays, such events can pose serious radiation hazard at altitudes from 10 to 20 kilometers. Therefore, further studies of the newly discovered phenomena would be critical for understanding of radiation threats to flights at those altitudes, Russian scientists said.
Moreover, the brightness and emission characteristics of transient events have much in common with the effects of nuclear explosions, which obviously make them interesting for the nuclear research.
Mikhailo Lomonosov satellite | Russian Space Web
The spacecraft, operated by Moscow State University, is outfitted with seven instruments for a range of measurements including X- and Gamma-Ray detection, charged particle influx, radiation dose, and electromagnetic fields.
The overall goal of the mission is to study extreme physical processes in the high-energy regime, occurring in the atmosphere, near-Earth space and the far reaches of the universe. For that, the spacecraft is outfitted with a range of sensors, capable of detecting high-energy radiation and particles.
The goals of the Lomonosov mission are to study cosmic rays in the high-energy regime near the energetic spectrum cutoff, examine the characteristics of gamma-ray bursts in the universe by simultaneous spectral analysis and imaging in UV/VIS, study Transient Luminous Effects in Earth’s atmosphere triggered by different mechanisms, and study Earth’s magnetosphere and near-Earth radiation environment using different detector systems.
The BDRG instrument (Block for X-ray and gamma-radiation detection) is capable of detecting gamma-ray sources in the sky and record their spectral signatures while also triggering their optical observation with the ShOK instrument.
UFFO, the Ultra Fast Flash Observatory, is a two-part instrument comprised of a UFFO Burst Alert Telescope (UBAT) and a Slewing Mirror Telescope (SMT) to capture X- and Gamma-rays. The UBAT instrument, covering an energy range of 5 to 2000 Kilo-Electronvolt, is responsible for gathering data in the gamma-ray regime and to deliver pointing data to the SMT to be quickly pointed to the source location to capture UV/VIS imagery of the gamma-ray afterglow phenomenon.
Lomonosov Satellite (MVL-300) | Spaceflight101