Lightning signature may reveal solar system’s origins
Washington: Lightning flashes nearly 50 times on Earth every second.
Together these discharges coalesce and get stronger, creating electromagnetic waves circling around Earth, to create a beating pulse between the ground and the lower ionosphere, about 60 miles up in the atmosphere.
This electromagnetic signature, known as Schumann Resonance, had only been observed from Earth’s surface until, in 2011, scientists discovered they could also detect it using NASA’s Vector Electric Field Instrument (VEFI) aboard the U.S. Air Force’s Communications/Navigation Outage Forecast System (C/NOFS) satellite.
In a recently published paper, researchers have described how this new technique could be used to study other planets in the solar system as well, and even shed light on how the solar system formed.
“The frequency of Schumann Resonance depends not only on the size of the planet but on what kinds of atoms and molecules exist in the atmosphere because they change the electrical conductivity,” said Fernando Simoes, the first author on this paper and a space scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md.
“So we could use this technique remotely, say from about 600 miles above a planet’s surface, to look at how much water, methane and ammonia is there.”
Water, methane and ammonia are collectively referred to as “volatiles” and the fact that there are different amounts on different planets is a tantalizing clue to the way the planets formed.
Determining the composition of a planet’s atmosphere can be done with a handful of other techniques – techniques that are quite accurate, but can only measure specific regions.
By looking at the Schumann Resonance, however, one can get information about the global density of, say, water around the entire planet. Simoes and his colleagues believe that combining this technique with other instruments on a spacecraft’s visit to a planet could provide a more accurate inventory of the planet’s atmosphere.
“And if we can get a better sense of the abundance of these kinds of atoms in the outer planets,” said Simoes, “We would know more about the abundance in the original nebula from which the solar system evolved.”
Accurate descriptions of planetary atmospheres might also help shed light on how the evolution of the solar system left the outer planets with a high percentage of volatiles, but not the inner planets.
Detecting Schumann Resonance from above still requires the instruments to be fairly close to the planet, so this technique couldn’t be used to investigate from afar the atmospheres of planets outside our solar system. Instead, scientists imagine something much more dramatic.
After a spacecraft is finished observing a planet, it could continue to detect Schumann resonance as it begins its death dive into the atmosphere.
During the process of self-destruction, the spacecraft would still provide valuable scientific data until the very last minute of its existence.
The study has been published in The Astrophysical Journal.
More from India
More from World
More from Sports
More from Entertaiment
- Heat ave continues in India, death toll climbs to over 1,400
- Megastar Amitabh Bachchan slapped with Rs 1 crore notice
- Kenyan lawyer offers to marry Barack Obama's daughter Malia
- 4 Indians in Forbes' 100 most powerful women list
- Gujjar stir: HC asks Rajasthan govt to clear rail track, roads
- Maggi likely to face ban in India!
- Salman Khan accident files burnt in Mantralaya fire
- AIB: The 'Third Gender's right to dignity'
- Gujjar stir: HC asks Rajasthan govt to clear rail track, roads- Part II
- TERI panel finds RK Pachauri guilty in sexual harassment case
- Rajasthan: High Court raps Chief Secy, DGP for failing to end Gujjar agitation
- Erstwhile Mysuru kingdom gets new king
- Priyanka, Ranveer talk about their film 'Dil Dhadakne Do'
- Former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi meets PM Modi
- Meet 92-year-old Phyllis Sues who dances toTango
- CBSE Class 10 (Class X Board) Result 2015 on cbse.nic.in, cbseresults.nic.in at 2 pm
- Sonia Gandhi 'unconstitutional authority' during UPA: PM Narendra Modi
- Hours after attacking NDA govt, Manmohan Singh meets PM Narendra Modi
- Check cbseresults.nic.in, cbse.in for CBSE Class 10 X Board Result at 2 pm
- GUJCET Results 2015 declared on gseb.org
- Centre moves SC against Delhi HC order on LG's powers; hearing on Friday
- Pakistan break Team India's long-standing ODI record at home soil
- Gujjar agitation: Centre sending additional forces to vacate rail tracks, say sources
- Rahul Gandhi takes another dig at NDA govt, says Manmohan gave lessons on economy to PM Modi
- Log on to cbseresults.nic.in, cbse.nic.in at 2 pm for Class 10th Result 2015
- Former Bihar CM Jitan Ram Manjhi meets PM Modi, triggers tie-up speculation
- WBCHSE (wbchse.nic.in & wbresults.nic.in): West Bengal Class 12th Result to be declared on May 29
- Gujarat Board Results 2015: Gujarat Board HSC class 12th science results to be declared today at 9 AM on gseb.org
- CBSE (cbseresults.nic.in, cbse.nic.in) Class 10th (X Board) Result 2015 declared
- Watch: Dance guru Prabhudheva's mind-blowing act in 'Happy Hour' from 'ABCD2'!