Wonder bolts

Published: Monday 15 January 1996

THERE is apparently more to lightning than mere white flashes of light. Excited scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's Marshall Space Centre in Huntsville, Alaska and the University of Alaska in Fairbanks unknowingly stumbled upon bizarre bolts which materialise high above and strangely, instead of shooting downwards, they zoom upwards across great distances in space.

These flashes, in multi-coloured hues of pink, red and blue, have been photographed above electrical storms. Scientists speculate that the lightning flashes could have an effect on the ozone layers and could also pose a threat to the spy planes flying at very high altitudes.

Remarkably, these flashes can be seen by the naked eye if one knows where to look. Says Steven J Goodman, an atmospheric physicist at the Marshall Space Flight Centre, "It is a new discovery. What's raised the level of excitement is it is much more frequent than anyone suspected and appears to be distributed around the globe."

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