International Space Station spots rare jet of blue lightning

The paper describes not just the blue jet itself, but also a few of its friends—four smaller flashes at the top of the clouds that did not project out into the second layer of the atmosphere, known as the stratosphere. Instead, these flashes stayed in the clouds of the first layer, the troposphere. While we don’t know much about blue jets and other varieties of space lightning, the authors of the paper propose that blue jets appear as a result of an “electric breakdown” between the positively charged and negatively charged sections of storm cloud cover. When the opposing charges switch places, static electricity is released and gives birth to the flash of blue seen above the clouds. It’s somewhat akin to when we touch an object and feel the occasional static shock—electrostatic energy builds up, and when it sees a place to go, it makes the jump.

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