The ionosphere is a layer of charged particles in Earth’s atmosphere that extends from about 50 to 360 miles above the surface of Earth. Processes in the ionosphere also create bright swaths of color in the sky, known as airglow.
Lightning occurs when electric charges build up in clouds, which results in a voltage difference between the cloud and the ground. For lightning to strike, there must be an electrically conducting pathway between the cloud and the ground, and the lightning suddenly discharges all the stored energy at once.
Credit: NOAA Photo Library; NOAA Central Library; OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL)
Electrical energy caused by the solar wind striking the magnetosphere produces a voltage difference between different regions of the ionosphere and the magnetosphere. Electric currents flowing along Earth’s magnetic field can form a conducting pathway between these regions.
NASA’s Ionospheric Connection Explorer, or ICON, and NASA’s Global-scale Observations of the Limb and Disk, or GOLD, mission will take complementary observations of Earth’s ionosphere and upper atmosphere.
More details about this visualization can be found here.
GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation:
Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version 184.108.40.206.0