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Atmospheric Science
TIGER in the sky

Two weeks before the space shuttle Columbia exploded during reentry to Earth’s atmosphere, astronaut Ilan Ramon “saw” an unusual occurrence — a quick red flash in the upper atmosphere. Although it could not be seen with the naked eye, a specially filtered camera lens was able to capture the instantaneous flash, which may help scientists understand lightning activity and the chemistry of the upper atmosphere.

Lightning that strikes upward toward the atmosphere, rather than toward Earth, is known as a transient luminous event. The flash of red light, recorded just south of Madagascar over the Indian Ocean, however, does not seem to resemble any known transient luminous event, and researchers have named it a Transient Ionospheric Glow Emission in Red, or a TIGER.

Read the full story, which was posted online on Jan. 24.

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