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Rare ‘Blue Jet’ Lightning Photographed from Space by ISS: Exploring the Nature of This Extraordinary Phenomenon




Thunderstorms happen above the clouds, too.

Thunderstorms certainly treat surface-dwellers to light shows, but there’s also plenty of activity we don’t see here on the ground. Exhibit A: This photo of a projection of “blue lightning” out into space from the thunderclouds above the small Pacific island Nauru in February 2019.

The paper describes not just the blue jet itself, but also a few of its friends—four smaller flashes at the top of the clouds that did not project out into the second layer of the atmosphere, known as the stratosphere.

The four smaller flashes that accompanied the star of the show were identified as something called “elves.” Short for Emissions of Light and Very Low Frequency Perturbations due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources, elves are light flashes that appear when radio waves push negatively charged electrons through the ionosphere, a region of the atmosphere that extends from 50 to 600 miles from the Earth’s surface.

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There is still much work to be done to better understand blue jets, elves and other light shows in space such as the northern lights—but ASIM’s tools will be very useful in exploring them more.