From Spaceweather.com: You know what comes out of the bottom of a thunder storm–lightning. But do you know what comes out of the top? On Sept. 28th at 7:01 am EDT, Joel Gonzalez photographed a gigantic jet shooting up from a storm near NASA’s Kennedy Space Center. Click on the image to watch the action–and turn up the volume for a crackling soundtrack:
Gigantic jets are lightning-like discharges that spring from the top of thunderstorms, reaching all the way from the thunderhead to the ionosphere 50+ miles overhead. They’re enormous, powerful, and also fairly rare. The first one was discovered in 2001 by Dr. Victor Pasko in Puerto Rico. Since then only a few dozen have been recorded, almost always over open ocean.
“This storm was just north of the Kennedy Space Center over the Atlantic,” notes Gonzalez. “It was daylight already when the jet decided to fire off! Because of this, a lot of detail was lost, but if you watch the movie closely you can see hints of streamers reaching up to the ionosphere.”
Because they connect thunderstorms directly to the ionosphere, gigantic jets play some role in the global flow of electricity around our planet, but how big is that role? No one knows. Investigations of gigantic jets are considered cutting-edge.
Amateur astronomers, you can contribute to this research. Check your local weather radar map for storms just over the horizon, point your meteor cameras in that direction, and click. Gigantic jets may not be as rare as we think.
more images: from Tom King of Watauga, Texas;
If you want to be alerted for thunderstorms in your area reaching a certain intensity, see this cool program.