Motion Detectors at US space station find evidence of “weird blue jet” lightning

Scientists recently got the chance to properly observe the source of a type of lightning that gives off a blue color.

The lightning phenomenon from within thunderclouds found high in the atmosphere, and they can reach heights of about 50 kilometers in less than a second.

Difference between ordinary lighting and a blue jet

The main difference that exists between ordinary lightning observed in ordinary during rainstorms and the blue jet lightning is their color. Ordinary lightning gets its white color by exciting the collection of gases found in the lower atmosphere, while blue jets get their blue color from exciting the Nitrogen found in the stratosphere.  

Researchers have pondered about their origin for years, but recently instruments on the International Space Station were able to record a blue jet form from a very brief, bright explosion of electricity near the top of a thundercloud.

The instruments that detected and recorded the activities are cameras and photometers found on the space station. The phenomenon occurred near an island in Naaru, during a storm over the Pacific Ocean. 

“The blue jet can be likened to a blue bang" says Torsten Neubert, a physicist based at the Technical University of Denmark that studies the atmosphere. 

Understanding blue jets is essential to improving communication technology

Scientists have been trying to understand the phenomenon especially how radio-waves travel through the thunderclouds, as it is key in improving our communication systems

The blue jet-lagged for about 10-microseconds. It was a flash of bright blue light close to the top of the cloud, and it was about 16 kilometers high. The blue jet reached high into the stratosphere, climbing as high as about 52 kilometers over several hundred milliseconds.

Neubert when asked what formed by the blue jet, said the spark " may have been a special kind of short-range electric discharge inside the thundercloud".

Researchers studying blue jets have also seen proof of high-energy, short-range discharges in the form of radio waves formed in thunderstorms and detected by ground-based antennas.