On October 8, astronaut Thomas Pesquet snapped a photograph on the International Space Station that captured a mysterious light phenomenon. The photo below clearly shows a bright blue and white flash.
From the photograph it may seem that this is some kind of explosion, but there was no explosion on Earth. Presumably, this “short-term light event” was caused by lightning that struck upward in the planet’s upper atmosphere.
During a severe thunderstorm at an altitude of 30 to 90 kilometers, so-called sprites – unusual lightning of different shapes and colors – may appear in the atmosphere. They reach 100 km in diameter and live less than 100 ms. For this visual effect to occur, lightning must travel through the negatively charged region of thunderclouds before reaching the positive region below. If this happens, lightning strikes upward, causing a blue glow from molecular nitrogen.
Interestingly, relatively recently, scientists were not sure of the existence of such a phenomenon. For the first time, this phenomenon was recorded in 1989. It is also worth noting that this type of phenomenon is very difficult to capture in photographs from Earth.