This lightning storm is an eerie, glowing spider in a web of clouds when seen from above. Video footage of this unusual perspective was captured from the International Space Station using a specialized camera to minimize motion blur.
Lightning strike as seen from 400 kilometers above the Earth. Image credit: ESA/NASA
While this looks a lot like the destructive reentry of a JAXA cargo carrier, this is actually the starburst of a lightning strike seen from the International Space Station. The storm is old news, seen by astronauts passing 400 kilometers overhead in 2012, but the footage was just released by the European Space Agency. The images use their specialized Nightpod camera aid, a tool to compensate for motion blur by keeping the target centered in-frame despite the station's 28,000 kilometer per hour dash around the planet. Night photography is particularly difficult, where the low-light situation requires longer exposures and flash is utterly futile. So, while this isn't the first lightning storm we've captured from orbit, this 49-frame video makes up the clearest, sharpest storm footage we've seen.
Lightning storm seen from the International Space Station through the ESA Nightpod camera aid. Image credit: ESA
I'm fairly certain it is impossible to capture an ugly photograph of a lightning storm at night, but this video really does stand out as something beautiful. Aside from the visual appeal, monitoring lightning from the space station is part of an experiment detecting terrestrial gamma ray sources.