On October 8, astronaut Thomas Pesquet posted a photo on his Twitter that depicts part of the European continent topped by a strange blue light. As if an unusually colored bomb had exploded somewhere over our heads.
This astronomical phenomenon is actually called a “transient light event” and is something that looks a lot like a lightning strike that hits the upper atmosphere.
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There are many of these events related to perturbations in the stratosphere and they all have very nice names. There are the SPRITES (Stratospheric / mesospheric Perturbations Resulting from Intense Thunderstorm Electrification), the ELVES (Emission of Light and Very Low Frequency perturbations due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources), the TROLLs (Transient Red Optical Luminous Lineaments) and in order not to miss anything the Pixies and the GHOSTS.
“What’s fascinating about these lightning bolts is that just a few decades ago they were anecdotally observed by pilots and scientists weren’t convinced they really existed,” Pesquet explains in the photo’s caption.
“The Space Station is extremely suitable for this observatory as it flies over the equator where there are more thunderstorms,” adds the astronaut.
“This is a very rare event and we have a facility outside the European Columbus laboratory dedicated to observing these flashes of light.”
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