Gigantic Jet Lightning in China: Awesome Sight, Massive Baffling Mystery to Scientists [PHOTOS]
By Arlene Paredes | February 27, 2013 4:10 PM EST
What is a gigantic jet lightning? Scientists always explain a lot of awesome things. But when they collectively fail to come up with an explanation for something so spectacular, they probably feel frustrated if not challenged or inspired. Case in point, a gigantic jet lighting seen in 2010 in China remains a mystery. But experts continue to find answers because that is what they do, and because people like us wait for answers.
What is a gigantic jet lightning?
A "gigantic jet" is a dramatic, massive burst of lightning that extends a thunderstorm into the upper atmosphere. This kind of lightning makes a spectacular view in the sky, but is rarely seen.
"These electrical discharges can take several forms, such as sprites (orange-red flashes) and blue jets, which appear as blue cones," reports OurAmazingPlanet.
The 2010 gigantic jet lightning in China was the first one reported from the country, and results of studies were published at the Chinese Science Bulletin only recently. (See this image of a massive lightning in Carolina in 2009 from Space.com.) The said jet peaked at a length of 55 miles above the ground, OurAmazingPlanet reported. Scientists also noted the lighting was at 35 degrees latitude. It was the farthest from the equator ever observed, which makes the sighting even more interesting. Previous jets were typically seen in tropical or subtropical regions.
Scientists have yet to slice and dice the complexities of gigantic jets. But they believe these massive bursts happen so that there will be some sort of balance in the ionosphere (segment of the atmosphere with charged particles). The gigantic jets seem to occur when the ionosphere is discharged to achieve this said balance.
"Gigantic jets are a really new and exciting finding," Victor P. Pasko at Penn State University's Communications and Space Sciences Laboratory in University Park, told National Geographic. "Globally these jets could also be playing an important role in atmospheric chemistry," he added.
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