A mystery that has baffled scientists for decades and was first uncovered by Carl Sagan has gotten a remarkable explanation.
Scientists have just solved a big mystery that was first noted by famed pop scientist Carl Sagan back in the early 1990s, and the explanation is pretty amazing. It was Sagan who first spotted mysterious flashes seemingly coming from the Earth’s atmosphere as viewed from satellites, and scientists weren’t sure what was causing it, but NASA now says it may be ice crystals that are reflecting the light of the sun.
Scientists used the Naitonal Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Deep space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), a space weather satellite launched in 2015. Scientists have seen the flashes hundreds of times every year. Sagan saw them when the Galileo spacecraft, which was studying Jupiter, was turned toward Earth in the 1990s.
“Large expanses of blue ocean and apparent coastlines are present, and close examination of the images shows a region of [mirror-like] reflection in ocean but not on land,” Sagan and his colleagues described the flashes in a 1993 study which was published in Nature.
“First, the researchers cataloged all of the prospective sunlight glints over land in images from the EPIC camera,” the NASA statement said of their methods. “The flashes show up in three distinct colors because the camera takes the red, green and blue images several minutes apart. In all, the scientists found 866 bursts between DSCOVR’s launch in June 2015 and August 2016.
“The scientists reasoned that if these 866 flashes were caused by reflected sunlight, they would be limited to certain spots on the globe – spots where the angle between the sun and Earth is the same as the angle between the spacecraft and Earth, allowing for the spacecraft to pick up the reflected light. When they plotted the locations of the glints with where those angles would match, given Earth’s tilt and the spacecraft’s location, the two matched.”