An astronaut aboard the space station recently captured an image of a rare yet spectacular phenomenon.
Appearing as an enigmatic blue glow high above the Earth, this peculiar anomaly was spotted from the International Space Station by French astronaut Thomas Pesquet on October 8th.
While it might be tempting to assign blame to some paranormal occurrence, the flash is in fact a type of established phenomenon known as a transient luminous event.
Such events typically occur during thunderstorms and are triggered by lightning strikes.
One of the more spectacular examples – known as a ‘blue jet’ – happens when lightning propagates through the upper, negatively charged region of the thunderstorm clouds before reaching the positively charged region beneath it – producing an upwards lightning strike that appears as a brilliant blue glow.
The phenomenon in the photograph is thought to be a specific type of blue jet known as a ‘blue starter’ which produces a shorter, yet brighter glow.
“What is fascinating about this lightning is that just a few decades ago they had been observed anecdotally by pilots, and scientists were not convinced they actually existed,” Pesquet wrote.
“Fast forward a few years and we can confirm elves, and sprites are very real and could be influencing our climate too!”