2013 Winner: Searches of RHESSI Data for Weak Signals Associated with Terrestrial Gamma-Ray Flashes

Project Information
Searches of RHESSI Data for Weak Signals Associated with Terrestrial Gamma-Ray Flashes
Physical and Biological Sciences
Applied Physics senior thesis
Terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) are short intense bursts of gamma-rays associated with lightning. The NASA Reuven Ramaty High Energy Solar Spectroscopic Imager (RHESSI) satellite has detected hundreds of TGFs. Here we present three separate analyses of RHESSI data. First, we look for reflected echoes of electron beams in regions of weaker magnetic field strength. By stacking the gamma-ray time profiles of the eleven candidates at the estimated return time, we observe a peak of probability 4.53 * 10^(-6). We conclude that five of the candidates are returned electron beams. Secondly, we present the current progress on building a third catalog of RHESSI TGFs by expanding on the work of the previous two. Finally, we present the results of summing gamma-ray time profiles associated with nearby lightning strikes from the World Wide Lightning Location Network (WWLLN), and establish a strict upper limit on the average gamma-ray flux RHESSI receives from lightning, 4.67 * 10^(-5), as a fraction of an average RHESSI TGF.
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Students
  • Paul Buzbee (Eight)
  • Justine Matten (Crown)
Mentors