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Ionosphere Lighting


Investigation of Lighting Discharges Directed to the Ionosphere

Tech Area / Field

  • PHY-PLS/Plasma Physics/Physics

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
NIIIT (Pulse Techniques), Russia, Moscow

Supporting institutes

  • AO Tupolev Company, Russia, Moscow\nVNIIEF, Russia, N. Novgorod reg., Sarov\nCentral Aerological Observatory, Russia, Moscow reg., Dolgoprudny

Project summary

The primary objective of the Project is the experimental and theoretical investigation of lightning discharges directed to the ionosphere at intermediate latitudes of the European part of Russia. In spite of several observations of upward lightnings in equatorial regions there are no such data for higher latitudes above 40° and the mechanism of this discharges is not well understood. The experimental study of such an unusual natural phenomenon, which occurs above the thunderstorm regions, with specially designed radio, x-ray and optical instruments will provide with new information on the plasma-electrodynamical processes responsible for coupling of the atmosphere regions with inner magnetosphere through the ionosphere. The development of theoretical models of propagation and interaction of the radiation generated by upward lightnings and their comparison with experimental data will allow to revial the mechanisms of the lightning production. This research will be also beneficial for the improvement of space monitoring system for the verification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), in particular, for development of confidence-building measures, because the characteristics of electromagnetic emission produced by upward lightning discharges are similar to that from the atmospheric nuclear explosions.

The experimental part of the Project consists in the recording of electromagnetic. optical and bremsstrahlung x-ray radiation as well as the measurements of background atmospheric parameters for normal and thunderstorm conditions. The test site is chosen at 200-300 km South from Moscow, the corresponding atmosphere parameters at the altitude of 20 km will be probed over there before the lightning measurements will commence. The first part of the Project is dedicated to the ground recording of the electromagntic signatures of upward lightnings in the frequency range from parts of Hz up to 200 MHz. This will make it possible to find out a link of such strange phenomenon as the lightning directed to the ionosphere to the thunderstorm activity processes in the atmosphere. Meanwhile the optical and x-ray instruments will be designed and installed on board of the plane-laboratory TU-144LL. The second part of the Project consists in 10 flights of TU-144LL above the thunderstorm clouds for the synchronous (in-flight and ground) monitoring of the effects from the upward lightnings as well as background atmospheric conditions. We expect the on-board instruments at heights about 20 km will provide first x-ray signatures of upward discharges. Methodical and hardware support for possible recording of the research effects simultaneously on the ground, aviation and space observation posts will be prepared. The combination of simultaneous ground, aviation and, possibly, space registrations of the electromagnetic effects in a broad spectral domain will constitute the first comprehensive observation of upward lightning discharges, it will also provide the methods for simultaneous measurements of radiation discharge characteristics from different observation points with temporal biasing of signals.

The collected experimental data will be used for comparison with theoretical models of upward lightnings and will be applied for improvement of the space monitoring technique for CTBT. In virtue of space and ground monitoring we plan to derive practical recommendations on the identification of natural plasma discharges of different types as well as the recommendations on the active experiments from the Earth surface and on the board of the aircraft-laboratory for the investigations of external effects on the ozone layer and other atmospheric phenomena. The equipment bought for the Project carrying out will hereafter be used in similar elaborations of participating organizations.

The results of the Project will benefit the fundamental science and will have technological and commercial applications. The Project will involve many scientists and technicians from Russian defense'institutes and industry with experience in nuclear weapon technology, testing, and means for the weapon transportation that meets the ISTC ultimate goals.

Potential role of the foreign collaborators

Foreign collaborators will participated in drawing out of the ISTC Agreement under the Project accepted to funding by ISTC and to receive whole scientific information prepared during its carrying out. Besides they will have an opportunity to take part on working out the experimental database with classification of lightning discharges which planned under the Project.

The Project participants discussed the different aspects of proposal with experts of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration of USA, the Los-Alamos National Laboratory of USA. the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory of USA, the Phillips Laboratory of Air Force of USA, the University of Florida (USA), the University of Durham (UK), and the University of Wuppertal (Germany).


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