Israeli Scientist's Analysis of Space Experiment Reveals...


Israeli Scientist's Analysis of Space Experiment Reveals...

Israeli Scientist's Analysis of Space Experiment Reveals Stunning Images of Transient Luminous Events

ILAN-ES Mission's Success Highlights the Value of Space-based Observations for Atmospheric Phenomena Research


*A red sprite above a white lighting bolt from a range of 682 km east of Australia, image from the ISS. The red light is emitted by excited nitrogen molecules


*The red arc of light is from Elves - giant rings of light at 95 km caused by lightning in the lower atmosphere

*Images credit: Eytan Stibbe, Rakia Mission and Yoav Yair, ILAN-ES Science Team

Jerusalem, Israel – In a groundbreaking space experiment conducted as part of the Axiom company's AX-1 private mission to the International Space Station (ISS), Professor Yoav Yair has unveiled a remarkable analysis of data collected during the ILAN-ES (Imaging of Lightning and Nocturnal Emissions from Space) project. The experiment, which took place in April 2022 and executed by Mr. Eytan Stibbe, Israel's second astronaut, was carried out under the framework of Rakia Mission, an Israeli set of experiments selected for flight by the prestigious Ramon Foundation and the Israeli Space Agency.

The ISS, orbiting the Earth at an average height of 420km, completes a full revolution every 93 minutes. Leveraging this unique vantage point, the mission's primary objective was to capture transient luminous events (TLEs), including mesmerizing sprites, elves, and blue-jets, observed in the upper atmosphere during thunderstorms. Preliminary thunderstorm forecasts were uploaded to the crew 24 to 36 hours in advance, allowing them to prepare for capturing these elusive phenomena from the Cupola window in the ISS. Throughout the 12-day mission, the Timeline Change Officer (TCO) uploaded 82 different targets, of which the astronauts successfully imaged 20, resulting in a remarkable collection of approximately 70 TLEs, encompassing sprites, elves, and blue corona discharges (a recently discovered type of electrical activity on the topmost parts of thunderclouds, that appears as fleeting blue lights) .

The unprecedented quality of the images obtained during the ILAN-ES experiment serves as compelling evidence for the value of space-based observations in studying atmospheric phenomena. These remarkable findings were shared with the international scientific community during conferences held in Vienna and Chicago and submitted for publication in the journal Acta Astronautica, further enhancing the understanding of these captivating events.

Complementing the space-based experiment, ground-based observations were carried out simultaneously with the participation of schools located in Israel, Hong Kong, Rwanda, Zimbabwe, and Ghana. Under the guidance of Professor Yair, hundreds of enthusiastic schoolchildren and their science teachers were introduced to the fascinating realm of lightning physics and TLEs through engaging Zoom lectures. Twelve students from Reichman University's School of Sustainability oversaw this educational initiative, monitoring daily weather forecasts in their respective countries and guiding the teachers on when and where the ISS would pass above their schools. Although no scientific data was obtained from the ground-based observations, this educational component played a significant role in fostering scientific curiosity among the young participants.

The ILAN-ES mission stands as a testament to the remarkable achievements made possible through international collaboration and cutting-edge space technology. With its successful capture of TLEs from space and the invaluable educational outreach efforts, this endeavor has not only contributed to advancing atmospheric research but has also ignited a passion for science among the next generation. As Israel continues to make its mark in space exploration, the ILAN-ES experiment will undoubtedly serve as a cornerstone in unlocking the mysteries of our dynamic atmosphere.

If all goes to plan, the experiment will be conducted by American astronauts on-board the AX-2 mission, scheduled to be launched in May 2023.

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