Mt. Aragats, Armenia — The Yerevan Physics Institute’s Cosmic Ray Division (CRD) research station, near the south peak of Mt. Aragats at 10,500 ft. elevation, observed intense radiation from thunderclouds in the beginning of May. Each burst lasted from milliseconds to a few minutes with new bursts occurring for many hours. Gamma rays reached energies of up to 50 million electron-Volts. This radiation was generated in charged layers within thunderclouds.
The CRD has been studying the phenomena of Thunderstorm Ground Enhancements (TGEs), a process in which radiation is generated in thunderstorm atmospheres. Though Mt. Aragats experiences frequent and severe thunderstorms, the energy and duration of these radiation bursts surprised even CRD’s physicists who have been conducting research in this field for 10 years. Each radiation burst terminated when lightning flashes occurred, then new bursts of radiation would begin. CRD scientist, Dr. Bagrat Mailyan, published a seminal paper describing the energy spectrum of these radiation bursts in 2012.
Extensive data on the radiation, meteorological parameters, electric and magnetic field measurements, etc. has been logged. The capability to log this data was due to the dedicated effort of the scientists, engineers, and support personnel who kept the equipment atop Mt. Aragats running throughout severe mountain storms during the winter months. Winter snow often reaches the 2nd floor windows of the buildings at CRD’s Aragats research station.
CRD’s head, Prof. Ashot Chilingarian, indicated that a number of research reports will be forthcoming based on the recent observations, allowing scientists to gain a new understanding of this enigmatic phenomenon. This research could require new aircraft safety procedures. Since this radiation can generate carbon-14 isotopes in the atmosphere, it could provide new calibration procedures for carbon dating of archaeological samples, which relies on a presumed known level of carbon-14 in the earth’s atmosphere.
Photo Caption: Aragats Research Station is perched near the south summit of Mt. Aragats, about 3200 meters above sea level. Some 100 kilometers south, over the border with Turkey, lies Mount Ararat, the reputed resting place of the biblical Noah’s Ark.
Photo by Ashot Chilingarian.