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The New Scientific Satellites Aimed at Elves
July 9, 2014 11:05


"RELEK" scientific research satellite began to study the work of "natural accelerators" in the upper atmosphere.

The tool set of the "RELEK" (Relativistic ELEKtrons) was created by experts of the Institute of Nuclear Physics of Moscow State University in conjunction with P. N. Lebedev Physical Institute of the Academy of Sciences, Space Research Institute and DOSAAF Scientific Research Laboratory of Aerospace Engineering. Its main task will be to study the acceleration and electron precipitation with high energies (more than hundred keV) from the radiation belts, which contain charged particles trapped by Earth's magnetic field.

Precipitation means exit of electrons from the radiation belts for various reasons. Their trapping in the upper atmosphere leads to various physical phenomena. Studying the effect of high energy particles in the upper atmosphere and ionosphere is project's another goal. On the other hand, it is important to find out why these precipitations do occur.

There are different points of view, but no final answer so far. Apart from the purely worldly affairs, the interest is that these phenomena can be a model of the processes occurring in the Universe. The acceleration of electrons in electromagnetic fields can be examined in this natural space laboratory.

Perhaps it will let to find out why natural boosters work accelerating the cosmic-ray particles at energies up to 1020 eV, which is several orders bigger than achieved in the Large Hadron Collider. The second main task will be studying quite a new phenomenon – high-altitude electrical discharges detected in 1989. Unlike regular lightning, these discharges hit between these high-lying clouds or out of such clouds up into the ionosphere. They can cause short-term glow in the upper atmosphere, the so-called transient luminous event. In appearance the glows divide into sprites, blue jets and elves.

The power of upper electrical discharges is often comparable to tens of megatons hydrogen bomb. Just for reminder that the bomb dropped on Hiroshima by the Americans was only 25 kilotons. Discharges can create local geophysical effects and influence the chemical composition of the atmosphere. High-altitude atmospheric discharges development theory continuously improved, but to fully understand the different types of discharges, there should be new combined experimental data both about glow discharges and the electric fields, about their spatial and temporal structure.

The uniqueness of the "RELEK" project is that for the first time high-altitude discharges and precipitating electrons will be examined in one experiment simultaneously. This will determine if there is connection between them. According to experts, the precipitation of electrons can create conditions for the emergence of high-altitude electrical discharges, introducing additional electrical charge into the upper atmosphere.


Author: Anna Dorozhkina

Tags: Russian science     

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