The huge 8.2 magnitude earthquake that shook Mexico last week was accompanied by eerie bright lights appearing to emanate from the sky, and scientists are now reporting where they came from. After Mexico’s earthquake, dozens of media clips began to circulate on various social media feeds which showed bright bursts of light in the night sky, something that confused many people as the lights clearly weren’t caused by lightning, nor were they being emitted from the clouds or even passing airplanes.
Scientists have now determined that the cause of the strange lights witnessed in Mexico was actually the earthquake itself. If this sounds weird, it isn’t really. The source of the light came from rocks. As National Geographic report, in 2014 there was a study published which proved that these lights can take on “many different shapes, forms, and colors,” according to Friedemann Freund, the co-author of the study.
The lights can come in sharp, short bursts which make it appear similar to lightning, and they also show up as orbs or flames of blueish color, as ScienceAlert note. The orbs of light that appear during earthquakes such as the recent one in Mexico are called ball lightning and last between seconds and minutes. The light that is often confused for lightning begins at the ground rather than the sky and can reach 650 feet in length.
Leila Ertolahti is a geology professor at Farleigh Dickinson University and has explained precisely what causes these rocks to produce light when earthquakes occur, such as the 8.2 magnitude one in Mexico.
“In certain types of rocks this accumulation of stress can break up pairs of negatively charged oxygen atoms in the ground, allowing them to flow up to the surface as an electrical current through cracks in the rock. If enough atoms are present they can ionise pockets of air and form a plasma, or charged gas, that emits light.”
— RT (@RT_com) September 8, 2017
It is actually much more common than people may think for strange lights to be on display during earthquakes and for many centuries these lights have been reported. In 2009 during an earthquake in L’Aquila, Italy, residents were shocked when they saw flames that were ten centimeters long shimmering in the air above a street constructed of stone.
These lights can even appear days before the start of an earthquake as shown in Quebec in 1988, when onlookers spotted a large globe of pink-purple light hovering near the St. Lawrence River 11 days before a strong earthquake occurred.
The recent 8.2 magnitude earthquake in Mexico is reportedly the strongest one the country has had in 100 years, which might explain why residents noticed such strong lights at the time which are now known to be caused by rocks.
[Featured Image by Sandy Huffaker/Getty Images]