About the Imaging Camera
NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) is taking hourly pictures of the planet. These pictures are taken from the spot between earth and the sun. The NASA’s camera is capturing the flashes of light on the surface of the earth from one million miles away. The instrument is installed on the NOAA’s Deep Space Climate Observatory which is also known as DSCOVR. It was launched in 2015 and after that, the camera has captured hundreds of the flashes on the surface of the earth. The scientists questioned the source of the flashes.
Noticing the Flashes
These flashes were first noticed by the Alexander Marshak who is a deputy project scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. They were quite visible on the daily pictures of the planet taken by EPIC. When the investigations proceeded, the scientists have found similar flashes from the pale blue dots. These were founded by an astronomer Carl Sagan in 1993. He was the one who was using Galileo’s methods of collecting data about the planet. As referred by Sagan, the flashes of the lights are reflected off the ocean. A simple explanation was the sunlight hits a part of the lake or an ocean, and it reflects back to the sensors causing these lights.
Is it only found in water?
However, after deep investigations, it was found that Sagan and his fellow scientists have missed something important i.e. the bright lights are also seen on the land. These land flashes were also visible in the pictures of EPIC. Again, the source was assumed to be water for these reflections, the presence of ice particles in the atmosphere. For this purpose, a series of experimentations were conducted. The results were then published in the Geophysical Research Letter.
The lights are shown in three different colors i.e. red, blue and green. Within one year, there were 866 of the bursts that are recorded. The scientists have figured out that these bursts are due to the reflection of sunlight. However, after the plotting of the bursts were done, the locations and the angles where those match with each other were the same. These findings have helped the scientists in confirming that it isn’t the lightning that is causing those flashes. The EPIC has another feature of data collecting due to which it was discovered that the flashes are resulting from high altitudes. It was more likely to be the solar reactions of the particles that are horizontally oriented.
Flash detection methods
The detection methods that were used in the detection of these light flashes can be further used for other exploratory researchers. The investigation is now carried out on how these ice particles are working and how common they are. Moreover, the measurable impact of these ice particles on the sunlight is also measured. After the completion of the process, this is something that can be incorporated in the computer models in determining the amount of heat that is entering and leaving the earth.
Resource: https://science.gsfc.nasa.gov/sed/bio/alexander.marshak-1, http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0755981/, https://www.nasa.gov/audience/formedia/factsheet/Galileo_communication_factsheet.html, http://agupubs.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/hub/journal/10.1002/(ISSN)1944-8007/
Image Resource: Featured Image https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/noaas-dscovr-to-provide-epic-views-of-earth/, https://www.nasa.gov/content/goddard/dscovr-missions-epic-instrument-earth-polychromatic-imaging-camera/