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
- I eat beef, can somebody stop me?: Kiren Rijiju hits back at Naqvi
- Delhi: Visually impaired boy scores 91.4% in CBSE 12th Board exams
- MP: 14-year-old boy works as bonded labour since 2009
- UP: Man chops off wife's nose, hair for dowry
- Zee Media Exclusive: The plight of yoga expert Tejaswi Sharma
- Heat ave continues in India, death toll climbs to over 1,400
- Megastar Amitabh Bachchan slapped with Rs 1 crore notice
- Woman denied flat in Mumbai for being a Muslim
- 4 Indians in Forbes' 100 most powerful women list
- Kenyan lawyer offers to marry Barack Obama's daughter Malia
- Gujjar stir: HC asks Rajasthan govt to clear rail track, roads
- Maggi likely to face ban in India!
- Gujjar stir: HC asks Rajasthan govt to clear rail track, roads- Part II
- AIB: The 'Third Gender's right to dignity'
- Salman Khan accident files burnt in Mantralaya fire
- CBSE Class 10 Board Result 2015 to be announced today
- Check mahresult.nic.in for MSBSHSE Maharashtra Class 12 HSC Result 2015
- CBSE Class 10 Board Result 2015 (cbse.nic.in, cbseresults.nic.in) postponed?
- Maharashtra MSBSHSE HSC Result 2015 on mahresult.nic.in
- Check cbse.nic.in, cbseresults.nic.in for CBSE Class 10 Result 2015
- First look: Salman Khan steals thunder in `Bajrangi Bhaijaan`
- I was misquoted, says Kiren Rijiju on 'beef' remark
- CBSE Class 10 (Class X Board) Result 2015 on cbse.nic.in, cbseresults.nic.in at 2 pm
- mahresult.nic.in updated with MSBSHSE Maharashtra HSC Class XII Result 2015
- Manmohan Singh defends himself on 2G charge, slams Modi govt for 'carbon copy' schemes
- Sonia Gandhi 'unconstitutional authority' during UPA: PM Narendra Modi
- Hours after attacking NDA govt, Manmohan Singh meets PM Narendra Modi
- Reservation stir: Five percent job quota to Gujjars unlikely, hints Rajasthan govt
- PMO website revamped, now send e-mail to PM Modi directly
- Check cbseresults.nic.in, cbse.in for CBSE Class 10 X Board Result at 2 pm