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Lightning From Space!

Photo of Earthly lightning seen from orbit by ESA astronaut André Kuipers

Here’s an amazing shot of a flash of lightning within storm clouds over west Africa, captured from orbit by ESA astronaut André Kuipers aboard the ISS.

Lightning is a common sight from Space Station, creating a constant light show for the astronaut and cosmonaut crew members. On average, lightning strikes the ground somewhere on Earth 100 times each second, and there are 5 to 10 times as many cloud-to-cloud flashes as there are ground strikes. That adds up to about 40 to 80 million flashes of lightning every day around the world! Considering that the ISS orbits Earth 16 times a day — and from quite a high viewpoint — it stands to reason that lightning is spotted quite often.

So although it may not be rare, lightning still makes for dramatic photos — especially to those of us here on the ground!

For more information on André and his ongoing long-duration PromISSe mission, visit the ESA site here.

Image credit: ESA/NASA

About 

A graphic designer in Rhode Island, Jason writes about space exploration on his blog Lights In The Dark, Discovery News, and, of course, here on Universe Today. Ad astra!

Comments on this entry are closed.

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  • zkank June 11, 2012, 8:09 PM

    Sprites, elves, blue jets, the frequency…just as amazing as all these images from space is the fact that we haven’t really unsolved very much about lightning!

  • AnnGMorrone June 11, 2012, 8:56 PM
  • Aqua4U June 11, 2012, 11:15 PM

    “…about 40 to 80 million flashes of lightning every day around the world…” That’s 40-80 million flashes at temperatures of roughly 30000 kelvins (53540 degrees Fahrenheit)! Which by the way, is actually hotter than the surface of the sun! and maybe the source of anti matter particles recently discovered in Earth’s magnetosphere?

    Lightning bolts vary in intensity and duration so most of them are probably not energetic enough to create this effect… except perhaps those occurring above certain geomagnetic features/phenomena, like the mid Atlantic anomaly, or parts of Patagonia during magnetic reversals or antipodal reconnection events in the solar wind?

    • Chetan Chauhan June 12, 2012, 6:38 AM

      And lightning is itself suspected to be initiated in part from cosmic rays ..

      So , is anti-matter from lightning the cause or the side effect ?

    • Chetan Chauhan June 12, 2012, 6:38 AM

      And lightning is itself suspected to be initiated in part from cosmic rays ..

      So , is anti-matter from lightning the cause or the side effect ?

    • Chetan Chauhan June 12, 2012, 6:38 AM

      And lightning is itself suspected to be initiated in part from cosmic rays ..

      So , is anti-matter from lightning the cause or the side effect ?

      • Aqua4U June 12, 2012, 9:56 PM

        A WikiUp: “..High-energy cosmic rays impacting Earth’s atmosphere (or any other matter in the Solar System) produce minute quantities of antiparticles in the resulting particle jets..”

        Next question: How efficient is the Earth’s magnetic field in trapping those anti particles? What happens to them? When they collide with matter there is a direct conversion into energy. Does the ‘heat’ in this energetic exchange enable equally minute but accumulative fusion byproducts?

  • António Miguel Trindade June 12, 2012, 9:47 AM

    I’ve already seen spectacular African lightning storms from 30,000ft at night and it was a sight to behold and remember…

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  • Joe Cazana June 12, 2012, 11:10 AM

    looks like a distress call for Batman to me

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  • mickey_schmidt June 12, 2012, 11:17 PM

    It would be a valuable photo if the astronauts could coordinate with those researchers on the ground that are studying “red sprites” and the other high energy bolts that reach up into the lower reaches of space. They (the flashes) are of short duration but seeing one from above might be scientifically rewarding.

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