ESA/NASA–T. Pesquet
Glow Cloud

Space Station Astronauts Spot Strange Glow Over Europe

byTony Tran
Oct 9
ESA/NASA–T. Pesquet

Here’s what caused the "very rare occurrence."

Lightning in the Sky

Astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) discovered a strange blue glow over Europe early last month. 

The glow was a “transient luminous event,” according to French astronaut Thomas Pesquet on Twitter. This is a phenomenon that occurs when there’s lightning in the upper atmosphere in altitudes above where it typically occurs.

“This is a very rare occurrence and we have a facility outside Europe’s Columbus laboratory dedicated to observing these flashes of light,” Pesquet wrote on a Flickr post of the image. “The Space Station is extremely well suited for this observatory as it flies over the equator where there are more thunderstorms.”

ESA/NASA–T. Pesquet

Fantastic Images

One benefit of being on the ISS is the ability to study atmospheric events that we wouldn’t otherwise be able to on Earth. These events — sometimes given fantasy-inspired names such as elves and sprites — might even be impacting our climate. 


“What is fascinating about this lightning is that just a few decades ago they had been observed anecdotally by pilots and scientists were not convinced they actually existed,” Pesquet wrote on Flickr. “Fast forward a few years and we can confirm elves, and sprites are very real and could be influencing our climate too!”

READ MORE: Astronaut spots rare and ethereal ‘transient luminous event’ from ISS [CNET]

More on space images: SpaceX Launch Spits Out Epic, Fiery Jellyfish in Night Sky

Care about supporting clean energy adoption? Find out how much money (and planet!) you could save by switching to solar power at By signing up through this link, may receive a small commission.


Share This Article

Copyright ©, Camden Media Inc All Rights Reserved. See our User Agreement, Privacy Policy and Data Use Policy. The material on this site may not be reproduced, distributed, transmitted, cached or otherwise used, except with prior written permission of Futurism. Fonts by Typekit and Monotype.