Blue jets: Space Station records rare phenomenon

Blue jets were seen from the space station and was recorded as a rare phenomenon in the atmosphere. The phenomenon is rare and lasts milliseconds; researchers created a video to illustrate how it appears in space.

A group of scientists from different countries managed to register a clear vision of a spark that fires another type of lightning, called a “blue jet”.

Blue jets are a rare phenomenon and last for milliseconds. They are electrical discharges that shoot from the top of a storm’s clouds up to 50 kilometres in the stratosphere. Unlike regular lightning, they stimulate stratospheric nitrogen and create this mesmerizing blue hue with the mixture.

The jets cannot be seen from the Earth’s surface because of the distance and storm clouds that hide them, but the International Space Station (ISS) can detect them with its weather observation equipment. In an article written in the journal Nature, the researchers reported that a blue jet emerged “from an extremely brief and bright explosion” near the top of a storm cloud.

For Torsten Neubert, an atmospheric physicist who participated in the study, the spark that generated the blue jet may have been a particular type of electrical discharge within the cloud. “The turbulent mixture at the top of a cloud can bring regions with opposite charges about 1 kilometre from each other, creating very short, but powerful, explosions of electric current,” he said.

The space station observed the blue jet in February 2019, in a storm over the Pacific Ocean, near the island of Nauru. It was detected by photometers, which are cameras and light detection instruments.

According to space physicist Victor Pasko, who was not involved in the study, observing these phenomena is essential because they can affect how radio waves propagate through the air, potentially impacting communication technologies.