During a thunderstorm we’re usually cowering indoors rather than out in the thick of it, but thankfully one photographer braved the elements in order to capture a rare lightning phenomenon.
Photographer Jeff Miles witnessed upward firing lightning firsthand in Western Australia, and was able to capture the electric stream shooting out of the top of a cloud.
Although this might look like the stuff of fiction, these storms do actually causes a violet jet of electricity to be shot into space, rather than towards the earth .
Miles said: “This was a mind blowing experience to see with my eyes, never mind research the photos to find out how rare they are.”
The phenomenon, called ionospheric lightning occurs, at much higher altitudes than normal lightening or storm clouds, which is part of the reason why it is so rarely captured on film.
Not only that, but these red sprites, as they are known, often take place during only the most severe thunderstorms.
They have only been studied since 1989 when scientists were first able to capture them with the available technology, since then satellites have often been able to record these events but their position around the planet makes them far harder to visually capture.
Back in 2015, ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen took some pictures from the International Space Station, capturing a red sprite, as seen in Miles’ pictures.
Doug Rowland, the principal investigator for Firestation and a space physicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, explained that the reason this weather phenomenon occurs is due to gamma radiation.
Gamma radiation is usually associated with exploding stars or nuclear fusion, but scientists have found evidence that terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs) may occur in the atmosphere as often as 500 times a day.
The upwards fork then interacts with pockets of nitrogen in the Earth’s upper atmosphere causing it to create this huge red tentacles.
Rowland, said: “The fact that TGFs exist at all is amazing. The electron and gamma-ray energies in TGFs are usually the domain of nuclear explosions, solar flares, and supernovas.
“What a surprise to find them shooting out of the cold upper atmosphere of our own planet.”
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