Rare ‘gigantic jets’ of upside-down lightning seen blasting out of Atlantic hurricane

On Aug. 20, Puerto Rico-based photographer Frankie Lucena was taking pictures of a passing storm system that would soon evolve into the ongoing Hurricane Franklin, when a rare phenomenon of nature flashed before his eyes: Several enormous bolts of lightning, blasting straight upward out of a storm cloud and stopping just below the edge of space.

Upward-moving lightning bolts like these are known as gigantic jets. They are the rarest and most powerful type of lightning, occurring as few as 1,000 times a year and packing more than 50 times the power of a typical lightning bolt. The upside-down bolts can climb more than 50 miles (80 kilometers) above Earth’s surface, touching the bottom of the ionosphere, the vast layer of electrically charged particles where the top of Earth’s atmosphere meets the bottom of outer space. (Space technically begins at 62 miles, or 100 km, above sea level, while the ionosphere stretches from roughly 50 to 400 miles, or 80 to 640 km, above sea level.)

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