Two Extremely Rare Lightning Phenomena Caught in One Incredible Image

- Advertisment -

The National Science Foundation’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab) released an incredible image – not of the cosmos, but of clouds around one of its observatories. The photograph shows not one but two rare lightning phenomena: blue jets and red sprites.

The red sprites are massive electrical discharges above thunderstorm clouds. Researchers believe that a particular combination of events has to occur for the formation of these phenomena. First of all, you have to have a thunderstorm – but that alone is not enough. Scientists believe that plasma irregularities in the ionosphere are also needed.

Blue jets are closer in behavior to the regular lightning, but instead of going down into the ground, they go from the upper level of the clouds further up into the atmosphere. Their color is believed to be related to the ionization of nitrogen in the atmosphere which results in ultraviolet emission. They are also briefer than regular lightning, lasting only for a few milliseconds.

As these phenomena happen above clouds, there’s no better viewpoint than the International Space Station. The Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM), a European instrument dedicated to studying storms, has documented several of these rare events.Clearly, given the rarity of these phenomena, the photograph captured is a true gem.


- Advertisment -