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Thunderstorms produce some amazing effects known as blue jets, red sprites and elves. Lightnings that shoot up to space, electrical discharges from the top of the clouds to the outer edges of our atmosphere and not from the bottom towards the surface of the Earth. (Feature Image: Artist Impression of a Blue Jet seen from space. Credit: DTU Space, Mount Visual / Daniel Schmelling)

Not much is known about these types of lightning strikes. We have discussed Red Sprites in a previous post, we’ll see Blue Jets in this one.

Blue Jets, Red Sprites and Elves. Credit: Danish National Space Center

Blue Jets were observed for the first time in 1994. They are conical jets of blue light propagating from the top of the electrically active core regions of thunderstorms to the upper atmosphere, up to about 40 km. They are brighter than sprites but occur much less frequently.

Gigantic Jets are even more rare. The first confirmed gigantic jet was reported in 2001, after American researchers saw a blue jet reaching 70 km above the clouds at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. These electrical discharges can take several forms, such as sprites (orange-red flashes) and blue jets which appear as blue cones.

Gigantic Jet – a rare form of lightning!

Clik here to see an amazing image from Phebe Pan. While watching and photographing 2016 Perseid Meteor Shower, something unexpected happened: a gigantic jet erupted from a nearby cloud. The whole thing was over in a flash — it lasted less than a second — but was fortunately captured by an already-recording digital camera. This image, taken near the peak of Shikengkong mountain in China, may be the best image yet of this unusual phenomenon. The nature of gigantic jets and their association with blue jets and red sprites remains an active topic of research.

Gigantic Jet (Γιγάντιος Πίδακας) – μια σπάνια μορφή αστραπής!

Δείτε εδώ την απίθανη φωτογραφία του  Phebe Pan κατά την παρατήρηση της Βροχής Περσείδων του 2016 συνέβη κάτι απροσδόκητο: ένα Gigantic Jet ξεπήδησε από ένα κοντινό σύννεφο. Το όλο θέαμα διήρκεσε λιγότερο από ένα δευτερόλεπτο – αλλά ευτυχώς κατεγράφη από μια ψηφιακή φωτογραφική μηχανή που ήταν εκεί για τα μετέωρα. Η φωτογραφία, που τραβήχτηκε κοντά στην κορυφή του βουνού Shikengkong στην Κίνα, είναι ίσως η καλύτερη απεικόνιση αυτού του ασυνήθιστου φαινομένου. Οι γιγάντιες αυτές ηλεκτρικές εκκενώσεις είναι λίγο κατανοητές και η σχέση τους με τα Blue Jets και τα Red Sprites ενεργό θέμα έρευνας. 


A Gigantic Jet photographed in Hawaii.  Credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA/Frankie Lucena

Astronaut Andreas Mogensen captured Blue Jets (0:03 center right) and Red Sprites (0:20 center left) on this video from the International Space Station.

Blue Jets and Red Sprites can also accompanied by ELVES (short for Emission of Light and Very Low Frequency perturbations due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources). These expanding rings of optical and ultraviolet emission in the ionosphere last less than a thousandth of a second, as illustrated in the animation below.

Artist impression of an Elve, an expanding ring of optical and ultraviolet emission, and a Blue Jet lightning above the clouds, seen from space.

Konstantinos Sakkas