The image above is a very rare one indeed. While we are all familiar with lightning that strikes the ground from the clouds, the image above shows a release of electricity which is rising from the clouds up through the ionosphere and into outer space! Amazing! (Click on above image to enlarge.)
Scientists were very lucky in capturing this image as the phenomenon is very elusive. Most of the time the views of the storm cloud's tops are obscured by the clouds themselves. In the image above, what looks like a dark horizon is actually a band of tree tops. The storm that released this Gigantic Jet, as the discharges are called, is actually some 200 miles away from the photographer!
Images of gigantic jets have only been recorded on five occasions since 2001. The Duke University team caught a one-second view and magnetic field measurements that are now giving scientists a much clearer understanding of these rare events.
"They are essentially upward lightning from thunderclouds that deliver charge just like conventional cloud-to-ground lightning. What struck us was the size of this event."
Whereas a conventional lightning bolt follows a six-inch channel and travels about 4.5 miles down to earth, the gigantic jet recorded by the scientists contained multiple channels and traveled about 40 miles upward. - ( Science Daily )
Lightning, in all it's forms, is one of the most beautiful events in the natural world. Sometimes lightning appears as "sprites," or discharges of light with what appear to be tendril-like extensions. Click here for an image of these "sprites."
Sometimes when the conditions are just right, ball lightning is formed. Here is an example of ball lightning. This is also very rare, and slow-moving, which is a bit weird for lightning!