A few days ago, astronaut Thomas Pesquet took a picture of our planet from the International Space Station (ISS).
At that time, the Frenchman shared the image on his Twitter account, so many users of the social network were struck by a mysterious blue light that was seen over Europe.
According to the astronaut, the light would correspond to a transitory luminous event, a kind of lightning bolt from the upper atmosphere.
This type of lightning looks different from the flashes that are registered under storm clouds and is of greater dimension.
🌩A single frame from a timelapse over #Europe, showing a transient luminous event in the upper atmosphere! We have a 🇩🇰-led facility monitoring these events thanks in part to @Astro_Andreas who took the first picture of them from space! ⚡ https://t.co/tfFS3KqYmm #MissionAlpha pic.twitter.com/XqBdJ64pBq
& mdash; Thomas Pesquet (@Thom_astro) October 7, 2021
Astronomers identify sprites, which are vertical flashes of red or green light; the jets, which are almost always blue; and the elves, which correspond to high-altitude electromagnetic pulses.
Its colors depend on the atmosphere. Thus, on Earth, nitrogen makes sprites look red, but on a planet like Jupiter, where its atmosphere is rich in hydrogen, they appear blue.
According to Pesquet, the ISS was in a good position to photograph these phenomena, as it was flying over the equator, where more of these thunderstorms are recorded.
“The fascinating thing about this lightning bolt is that just a few decades ago pilots had observed them anecdotally and scientists were not convinced that they really existed,” explained the astronaut.
“Fast forward a few years and we can confirm that the elves and sprites are very real and could be influencing our weather as well!”
The astronaut also indicated that the place where the blue flash was recorded was somewhere in southeastern Italy.