Big Island Observatory Captures ‘Gigantic Jets’ of High-Altitude Lightning

July 27, 2017, 11:04 AM HST
* Updated July 27, 1:42 PM
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Unedited time-lapse video from which the image was taken. Video credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF

On the night of Sunday, July 23, 2017, Gemini North cloud cameras atop Maunakea on the Big Island captured footage of gigantic jets, upper atmospheric lightning that occurs well above the altitudes of normal lightning and storm clouds.

The event was from the remnants of former Hurricane Fernanda as it passed north of the islands earlier this week, a spokesperson from Gemini said.
These events are often called sprites and occur when lightning ionizes the upper atmosphere.
Upper-atmospheric lightning or ionospheric lightning are also terms that refer to a family of short-lived electrical-breakdown phenomena that occur well above the altitudes of normal lightning and storm clouds.
Upper-atmospheric lightning is believed to be electrically induced forms of luminous plasma.
The preferred term is transient luminous event (TLE), because the various types of electrical-discharge phenomena in the upper atmosphere lack several characteristics of the more familiar tropospheric lightning.

Gigantic lightning jet near the Hawaiian Islands. Photo credit: Gemini Observatory/AURA/NSF. Image processing: Steve Cullen

Google Map. Gemini Observatory.

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