For many years now, hundreds of footages have shown mysterious flashes of light reflecting from Earth. These have amazed and baffled many scientists, as they couldn’t determine their exact source. Now, a team of researchers claims to have solved the mystery.
Mysterious Flashes of Light Originate from Ice Crystals
These flashes of light are very large and can even be seen from the outer space. Initially, they were believed to have been caused by the sunlight’s reflection off the ocean surface. But this theory fell apart as NASA started spotting these flashes on land as well. A closer look at the area further debunked the idea as the respective pieces of land held no lakes or water sources.
These mysterious flashes also captured the attention of Carl Sagan. Back in 1993, he noticed that they kept appearing in the images of Earth taken by the Galileo spacecraft. 24 years later, a NASA team detected many more such bursts, all of them coming from land. In between June 2015 to August 2016, the scientists counted 866 flashes.
These were captured by the Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera or NASA’s EPIC. This is onboard the NOAA’s DSCOVR or Deep Space Climate Observatory.
Alexander Marshak from the Goddard Space Flight Centre and his team then started comparing the Galileo and EPIC images and mapped out their location. Then, the researchers hypnotized that reflected sunlight may have caused the bursts. Which helped them establish a pattern and drop lightning as a possible cause.
The team followed the same thought process and targeted water as the main culprit. But instead of searching on land, they looked for it in the atmosphere. Using the EPIC data, the team then mapped out the exact source of the glints and narrowed this down to some 3 to 5 miles above the surface. This is the resting place of cirrus clouds, which can be full of ice crystals.
“The source of the flashes is definitely not on the ground. It’s definitely ice, and most likely solar reflection off of horizontally oriented particles,” said Marshak.
More research on the matter will still be needed and the paper with the results to be peer-previewed. The team will now look to determine the frequency of these horizontal ice crystals and their potential impact on the way sunlight reflect through Earth’s atmosphere.
Image Source: Pixabay