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Digital Video Captures Images of 'Blue Jet'

Photonics Spectra
May 2002
 Meteorologists have long speculated about the existence of electrical discharges between the tops of thunderclouds and the upper atmosphere. Now a team from Pennsylvania State University in University Park, New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology in Socorro and Stanford University in Stanford, Calif., has documented such a discharge by digitally recording the propagation of a luminous atmospheric phenomenon called a "blue jet" from the top of a cloud to a distance 70 km into the ionosphere.

The researchers, who published their results in the March 14 issue of Nature, captured the images with a Sony DCR-TRV730 CCD video camera equipped with an ITT Industries Night Vision Night Quest 6010 intensifier. The event, which occurred above a relatively small storm cell 200 km northwest of Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico, appeared in 24 of the 33-ms-long video frames and displayed speeds of more than 105 m/s, characteristic of lightning leaders.

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