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French spacecraft Taranis to study lightning in Earth’s upper layer

An artistic illustration of Taranis. A CNES photo

PARIS (BNS): France will launch its Taranis spacecraft in 2014 to study flashes of lightening that occur in Earth’s upper atmosphere.

The satellite will be studying gigantic lightning flashes that propagate from the tops of clouds into the upper atmosphere. They occur above very large thunderstorms, especially in the intertropical belt.

Transient luminous events (TLEs) – variously called elves, sprites or blue jets – are very short-lived phenomena that emit intense radiation, chiefly X- and gamma rays, into space.

Orbiting at an altitude of 700 km, the Taranis will be ideally placed to observe these phenomena and how they affect the upper layers of the atmosphere, as well as the weather, French space agency CNES said.

The mission life for Taranis is two years.

This will be the first-ever mission dedicated to study these phenomena, CNES said.

The satellite is scheduled to be launched from European spaceport in Kourou, French Guiana, most likely atop a Soyuz launcher.


CNES  Taranis  Spacecraft  

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