French astronaut Thomas Pesquet captured a unique sight of a flash of bright blue light in the upper layers of Earth’s atmosphere, above Europe.

The image, taken from an altitude of 400 km above Earth, shows the flash like a cobalt bomb exploding over Europe, but this frightening-looking blue light did no harm. In fact, most people never noticed it happening.

The phenomenon is known as a “transient luminous event”, a phenomenon similar to lightning striking upwards in the upper atmosphere.

“The transient luminous event looks like a euphemism for a ghost, but it is actually a beautiful phenomenon that can sometimes be seen from the International Space Station,” said the French astronaut at the European Space Agency and currently residing on the International Space Station. According to Russia Today.

Transient luminous events are caused by ionized lightning in the upper atmosphere. The phenomenon occurred in early September, but Pesquet revealed it on October 8, describing it as an “extremely rare event”.

Below in the stratosphere, ‘blue jets’ occur and are released by lightning. If the illumination propagates through the upper negatively charged region of the thunderstorm clouds, before passing through the positive region below, the lightning ends up striking upward, igniting a blue glow from molecular nitrogen.

These events are particularly difficult to photograph from the ground as they are very high in the sky and also regularly obscured by storm clouds. In addition, this phenomenon usually only lasts for fractions of a second or for a few seconds at a time.

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