In a remarkable display of nature’s power, a Puerto Rico-based photographer recently captured breathtaking images of elusive ‘gigantic jets’ of lightning. These awe-inspiring phenomena are not only astonishingly rare but also hold 50 times more energy than the average lightning bolt.
Photographer’s Encounter with the Extraordinary
Photographer Frankie Lucena had a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to document these gigantic jets during the development of a tropical storm on August 20th. The jets, which are closely related to another rare phenomenon called ‘red sprites,’ get their striking crimson colour from their interaction with Earth’s ionosphere, located 50 to 400 miles above sea level, according to a MailOnline report.
Secrets of Gigantic Jets
These surging bolts of upward lightning are an extraordinary sight, occurring worldwide only around 1,000 times each year. Gigantic jets seem to favour thunderstorms over the open ocean, with less than one percent of lightning behaving in this “upwards” direction.
While the first documented sighting of a gigantic jet dates back to July 2002, recent research has shed new light on their origins. A study published in Science Advances last summer detailed the structural intricacies of gigantic jets and their formation in high definition. Levi Boggs, a researcher at the Georgia Tech Research Institute, initiated this research after spotting civilian photographs of a gigantic jet event similar to Lucena’s recent images.
During the tropical storm in August, Lucena managed to capture not just one but three of these colossal plasma events. The bolts illuminated the night sky over the Caribbean, southeast of Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico, between 2:56 AM and 3:04 AM Eastern Time. Lucena’s passion for tracking rare weather phenomena was evident in a previous discovery when he spotted gigantic jets in footage from the Mauna Kea Observatory in Hawaii in July 2017.
Describing these awe-inspiring events, Lucena explained to Spaceweather.com, “They are related to sprites, but more powerful and easier to see with the naked eye.” He also revealed rare sky ripples, known as gravity waves, which often appear high above storm clouds.
The capture of these gigantic jets and the study of their unique characteristics continue to amaze scientists and enthusiasts alike. Their fleeting nature and rarity have sparked debates over the years, making Lucena’s remarkable photographs and research invaluable in unravelling the secrets of these astonishing natural phenomena.