A rare gigantic jet has been captured above an intense thunderstorm in tropical storm Karen as it churned near Puerto Rico last week.



A gigantic jet is essentially an upward electric discharge from the thunderstorm, in some ways similar to lightning. While a typical cloud-to-ground lightning flash discharges into the ground, a gigantic jet discharges into the atmosphere above the storm. Gigantic jets are probably the most impressive in a growing zoo of transient luminous events. The best known and most common are red sprites, now quite regularly captured on photos and videos. Unlike red sprites, gigantic jets are direct discharges from the thunderstorm reaching into the ionosphere at 90 km elevation.

Mr Lucena has captured a number of transient luminous events in the past several years. Using his low-light cameras he has captured elusive gigantic jets before.






Gigantic jets have been captured elsewhere in the world. One such example is the Gemini Observatory Cloudcam, which captured a gigantic jet above a storm over the Pacific in July 2017.



Gemini Observatory Cloudcam (Mauna Kea Observatory, Hawaii) also captured a gigantic jet. This event was captured on July 24th, 2017. Video produced and enhanced by Frankie Lucena.

Do not let Mr. Lucena’s portfolio give you the wrong impression – gigantic jets are very rare. It is just that Mr. Lucena is particularly good at catching them. But while thousands of elusive red sprites have been captured both on video and photos, the number of captured gigantic jets is likely still less than a hundred.

Want to try and catch transient luminous events above thunderstorms? They are part of our Summer Challenge:

SWE Photography Contest Summer Challenge 2019 No.1: Lightning