Lightning

Lightning as seen from orbit
Lightning as seen from orbit. The arc of the planet's edge allows establishment of scale.

Click here to see a short movie clip with audio commentary from astronaut Charlie Bolden, who saw lightning through the windows of the Space Shuttle (408kB, Divx Codec required). If you're a Winblows user, click here for a low-resolution streaming Windows Media Player version (112 kB). The full text of his comments is: "Probably my favourite spectacular view is night time, watching lightning all over the Earth, as it goes from cloud top to cloud top, over hundreds of miles, almost as if somebody is conducting an orchestra, you know, and the lights flashing in response to the music and everything. You kind of float up in the window and look for long periods of time in amazement at what's going on down there."

Gratuitous trivia: Charlie Bolden flew in space three times, on the Space Shuttles Columbia, Discovery, and Atlantis. On his third mission, they used a low powered beam of electrons to create a man-made auroral discharge.

Gratuitous trivia: the first recorded incident of an astronaut seeing atmospheric lightning with the naked eye was nearly two decades before Mr. Bolden became an astronaut. It was the Mercury Atlas 8 mission in October of 1962, with pilot Walter M. Schirra witnessing the event. This mission also contained the first live broadcast from an American spacecraft to radio listeners below.


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