On Aug. 22nd, the now hurricane Laura passed by Puerto Rico.
Just as it was bearing down on the island, the intensifying storm fired off elves, halos, sprites and two extremely rare gigantic jets.
Frankie Lucena, a well-known astrophotographer recorded on video the tree-shaped bolts as well as the other transient luminous events off Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico:
What are gigantic jets?
As shown in the picture above, gigantic Jets are related to sprites, only much bigger. They fly out of the tops of some thunderstorms and can reach all the way to the edge of space. That’s why some people call them “space lightning.” They are a sign of intense electrical activity in the storm below.
“This appears to be a rare Type II Gigantic Jet event,” says Lucena. Gigantic Jets come in three types. Type II events start out as Blue Jets, then transform into Gigantic Jets. The metamorphosis is not well understood.
Lucena continues: “Out of the more than 40 Gigantic Jets I’ve captured over the years in the Caribbean, only three of them might be Type IIs“… So such a elusive sky phenomena is very rare indeed.
In addition to gigantic jets, Lucena also captured halos, sprites and ELVEs dancing above the tropical storm.
What are halos?
They are typically triggered by a positive cloud-to-ground lightning strike like sprites and will sometimes appear together with sprites. They initiate at about 80-85 KM and will typically look like a red oval shaped cloud.
What are sprites?
They initiate between 65 and 85 km in altitude and are typically triggered by a positive cloud-to-ground lightning strike. The streamers first grow downward and then upwards before disappearing. They are mainly red in color but as they grow downward they will transition to purple and then to blue.
What are elves?
They are an electromagnetic pulse that originates at the same time as the cloud-to-ground lightning strike. They project a ring of red light as electrons at the base of the ionosphere excite nitrogen molecules. They typically appear at about 90 Km in altitude and are considered the most common type of Transient Luminous Event.
For more transient luminous event definitions please follow this link.
Hurricane Laura is now approaching the southeastern USA. Photographers there may wish to train their cameras above Laura’s cloudtops… Because not all lightning goes down.