Pilots Capture Rare Footage of St. Elmo’s Fire
Pilots shared footage of the phenomenon known as St. Elmo’s fire, which appeared as lightning-like electrical flashes outside their cockpit window during a recent flight. St. Elmo’s fire is a natural occurrence that can be observed during thunderstorms, named after the Christian saint of sailors.
What is St. Elmo’s Fire?
St. Elmo’s fire is a bright, sudden flash of apparent lightning that can dance across a cloudy sky when thunderstorms are nearby. It is caused by excess electrons and the formation of an electric field within a storm cloud. When the electric field is strong enough, it breaks apart surrounding air molecules, turning them into charged gas or plasma.
How Does St. Elmo’s Fire Appear?
St. Elmo’s fire appears as streaks of bright blue or violet light and tends to concentrate around pointy objects that interact with the electric field. Pointy structures, such as radio or cell towers, the wings or windshields of airplanes, or even ship masts, can attract excess electrons and cause the flashes of light.
Is St. Elmo’s Fire Dangerous?
St. Elmo’s fire on its own is not dangerous. Airplanes are equipped with devices to reduce electrical charge on their exterior surfaces. Sailors even consider seeing St. Elmo’s fire as a sign of good luck. However, the presence of St. Elmo’s fire can indicate that storms are nearby, and storms can bring actual lightning, which can be deadly. Mariners are advised to seek shelter when St. Elmo’s fire is observed on a ship.
The pilots who captured the rare footage of St. Elmo’s fire outside their cockpit window were not in immediate danger. St. Elmo’s fire is a fascinating natural phenomenon that has been observed by sailors for centuries. While it is not inherently dangerous, it serves as a reminder of the presence of thunderstorms and the potential for lightning strikes.