‘Blue jets’ spotted by the International Space Station


Using special equipment installed on the International Space Station (ISS), a group of scientists has achieved a rare record of a “blue jet”, a specific type of lightning generated in storm clouds and going into space. The observation was described in an article published in Nature, last Wednesday (20).

As the study’s authors explain, blue jets are “lightning strikes similar to lightning several hundred milliseconds in duration, which spread out in cones as they spread from the top of the storm clouds to the stratosphere.”

Also according to the scientists, they saw at least five blue rays shooting from the top of the clouds, each lasting between 10 and 20 milliseconds and could reach up to 50 km in height in the stratosphere. The animation below, created by the European Space Agency (ESA), shows how the phenomenon happens. Look:

These blue jets were observed in February 2019, during a storm over the island of Nauru, in the Pacific Ocean. They are originated from an “electrical breakdown” generated by the encounter between two clouds with different charges, while the bluish tint is the effect of stimulating stratospheric nitrogen.

Impossible to see from the Earth’s surface

Due to the distance and also because of the storm clouds that hide them, the blue jets cannot be seen from the Earth’s surface. In this specific case, the record was made with equipment from the European Space Atmospheric Interactions Monitor (ASIM) present on the Space Station.

According to astronomers, the study of this type of phenomenon, also known as Light Emissions and Very Low Frequency Disturbances due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources (Elves), helps to understand how it can affect the propagation of waves of radio, interfering with communications, in addition to indicating how lightning influences the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.


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