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Mesmerizing video shows 50-mile-long lightning bolt shooting into space

Published Aug 12th, 2022 9:07AM EDT
Image: Libor/Adobe

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Researchers recently conducted a detailed study of a gigantic jet of lightning that rose 50 miles into space back in 2018. On top of being massive, the jet also carried 100 times more electrical charge than a normal lightning bolt in a typical thunderstorm.

Scientists believe the discharge may have been the most powerful gigantic jet we have ever observed.

Video of a gigantic jet of lightning over Oklahoma continues to mesmerize

The gigantic jet of lightning appeared over Oklahoma back in 2018. At the time, the bolt extended above thunderstorm clouds over 50 miles into space. As noted above, it was the most powerful gigantic jet we’ve had a chance to study.

On top of being more powerful than a standard lightning bolt, scientists say the gigantic jet of lightning released an estimated 300 coulombs of electrical charge into the ionosphere. That’s the lower edge of space. It would have also released plasma strings measuring around 400 degrees Fahrenheit. It also included structures called leaders, which measured over 8000 degrees.

Mapping the bolt

gigantic jet of lightning event
Lightning phenomena in the clouds near Hawaii’s Mauna Kea. Image source: International Gemini Observatory/NOIRLab/NSF/AURA/A. Smith

One of the parts of the study, which the researchers published in the journal Science Advances this month, included a detailed model of the gigantic jet of lightning. The researchers were able to recreate the bolt and map it in three-dimensional space, giving them a fantastic look at it. This also allowed them to look at the high frequency (VHF) sources above the clouds.

Digging further allowed the team to discover exactly where the very hot leaders connected above the cloud top. Something we’ve previously been unable to accomplish with these kinds of events.

And, the research allowed scientists to prove the hypothesis we’ve followed for years now, that the VHF radio from lightning is emitted through the streamers at the tip of developing lightning. From there, it expands upward, creating the gigantic jet of lightning that left so many stunned.

The research on this gigantic jet of lightning will help us better understand this natural phenomenon. And, if nothing else, the videos that have come about following the bolt’s appearance over Oklahoma in 2018 are mesmerizing.

Josh Hawkins has been writing for over a decade, covering science, gaming, and tech culture. He also is a top-rated product reviewer with experience in extensively researched product comparisons, headphones, and gaming devices.

Whenever he isn’t busy writing about tech or gadgets, he can usually be found enjoying a new world in a video game, or tinkering with something on his computer.