10/02/2017 12:49 GMT

Astonishing Footage Shows Rare Lightning Storm From International Space Station



Way back in 2015, ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen was tasked with with capturing a rare type of thunderstorm from the International Space Station using its most sensitive camera.

The hope was that Mogensen would finally be able to capture an elusive form of lightning that fires upwards into space, not downward.

Well this week Denmark’s National Space Institute published Mogensen’s results and it turns out that not only did he capture the incredible image you can see at the top but also some pretty spectacular video footage too.

Known as red sprites, blue jets, pixies and elves this incredible phenomenon is stunning to witness but has almost never been caught on camera.

What Mogensen captured is known as a blue jet. In this instance it’s a huge blue electrical discharge that took place from around 18km above the Earth stretching up to around 40km in altitude.

Satellites have often been able to record these events but their position around the planet makes them less than ideal when it comes to visually capturing them. 

A red sprite (seen below) is the rarest of these phenomena and takes place at extremely high altitudes.

Reuters Photographer / Reuters
A red and blue flash of light called a Red Sprite, is shown extending upward from an electrical thunderstorm in this NASA photograph.

They often take place during only the most severe thunderstorms, firing upwards out into space.

The upwards fork then interacts with pockets of nitrogen in the Earth’s upper atmosphere causing it to create this huge red tentacles.

Scientists have only been able to study red sprites from around 1989 onwards when they were first captured. Thankfully advances in imaging technology have greatly increased the ability to capture them in more detail.


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