Discover the cosmos! Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe is featured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.
2021 September 29
Explanation: Have you ever seen a gigantic jet? They are extremely rare but tremendously powerful. Gigantic jets are a type of lightning discharge documented only this century that occur between some thunderstorms and the Earth's ionosphere high above them. Pictured above is the middle and top of one such jet caught last week by a lightning and meteor camera from Puerto Rico, USA. The jet traversed perhaps 70 kilometers in just under one second. Gigantic jets are much different from regular cloud-to-cloud and cloud-to-ground lightning. The bottoms of gigantic jets appear similar in appearance to another type cloud-to-above strike called blue jets, while the tops appear similar to upper-atmosphere red sprites. Although the mechanism and trigger that causes gigantic jets is a topic of research, it is clear that the jets reduce charge imbalance between different parts of Earth's atmosphere. A good way to look for gigantic jets is to watch a powerful but distant thunderstorm from a clear location.
Authors & editors:
Jerry Bonnell (UMCP)
NASA Official: Phillip Newman Specific rights apply.
A service of: ASD at NASA / GSFC
& Michigan Tech. U.