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In Celtic mythology Taranis was the god of thunder. The mission TARANIS (Tool for the Analysis of RAdiation from lightNIng and Sprites) is funded and operated by the French space agency CNES. This is a low altitude micro-satellite project dedicated to the study of impulsive transfers of energy between the Earth atmosphere and the space environment.

Artist view of TARANIS satellite
Artist view of TARANIS satellite

Such impulsive transfers, pointed out by the observation at ground and on satellite (FORMOSAT 2) of Transient Luminous Events (TLEs) and the detection on satellites (CGRO, RHESSI) of Terrestrial Gamma ray Flashes (TGFs), are observed above active stormy areas and appear to be correlated to lightning activity.

To answer the numerous remaining questions about the physics of TLEs and TGFs, the TARANIS mission will provide a set of unprecedented and complementary measurements. Specific examples include:

  • Combined images of TLEs and TGFs (through fast micro-cameras and photometers, nadir-viewing and X-ray and Gamma-ray measurements) and the associated measurements of relativistic electrons and wave fields;
  • High resolution measurement of energetic electrons in energy, pitch angle and time allowing to detect runaway electrons as well as Lightning-induced Electron Precipitation (LEP) and to track natural natural and man-made controlled variability of the radiation belts;
  • Onboard wave field measurements in a frequency range running from DC to 30 MHz allowing to record radio signatures of optical and particle transient phenomena and to detect the presence of quasi-electrostatic thundercloud fields.

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