Looking down into the throat of a lightning storm

By Phil Plait | June 15, 2012 7:03 am

Traveling over west Africa at 8 kilometers per second in the International Space Station, astronaut André Kuipers took this eerie and lovely picture of a storm cloud just as it was illuminated by a lightning stroke:

[Click to enlighten yourself.]

Wow. This is easily as cool as another amazing shot of a lightning-illuminated cloud over Brazil taken from space in 2011, too.

And hmmmm. Scientists have detected gamma rays — extremely high-energy light — presumably generated by lightning storms and shooting straight up into space. I hope nothing makes André stressed any time soon. The ISS is no place for him to Hulk out!

[P.S. Before anyone asks — and as much as I hate to explain a joke, I guess I really should in this case — the gamma rays emitted by lightning storms are extremely weak, and not a danger to the astronauts.]

Credit: ESA/NASA


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CATEGORIZED UNDER: Cool stuff, NASA, Pretty pictures

Comments (6)

  1. Chris P

    Anyone else see the bat-signal?

  2. Bryce Alexander

    Paragraph one says Africa, Paragraph two says Brazil. I always thought Brazil was in South America.

  3. Scott P.

    So that’s where Thor was last week…

  4. Bryce (2); read it again. I’m talking about two different storms! :)

  5. Joseph

    Chris: I do now and now I can’t not. :P

  6. Lee

    Wow, I wonder if this is one of those elusive “blue jets” that streak above thunderstorms well in to the stratosphere?

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