Physically, St. Elmo’s fire is a bright blue or violet glow, appearing like fire in some circumstances, from tall, sharply pointed structures such as lightning rods, masts, spires and chimneys, and on aircraft wings. [32], On the American television series Rawhide, in a 1959 episode titled "Incident of the Blue Fire", cattle drovers on a stormy night see St. Elmo's Fire glowing on the horns of their steers, which the men regard as a deadly omen. "And what harm can it bode?" The TV series also referred to St. Elmo's Fire as being a bad omen during the cartoon. The phenomenon later got its modern name from St. Erasmus, or St. Elmo for short, who lived in the third century. St. Elmo's fire photographed on the flight deck of an airliner, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=St._Elmo%27s_fire&oldid=998886692, Articles containing Ancient Greek (to 1453)-language text, Articles lacking in-text citations from June 2013, All articles that may have off-topic sections, Wikipedia articles that may have off-topic sections from May 2020, Wikipedia articles needing clarification from May 2020, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License, In ancient Greece, the appearance of a single one was called, After the medieval period, it was sometimes associated with the. [29] It is also referenced in Homeric Hymn 33 to the Dioscuri who were from Homeric times associated with it. (1996) "The optical spectrum of aircraft St. Elmo's fire", Geophys. Saint Elmo's Fire is the lightning-like glow that gathers around a ship's mast, usually towards the end of storm. 5; the term was also used of a special wicker basket used at the cult of Artemis at Brauron in Attica (Poll. The colorful lights of the aurora get their glow from relaxing particles as well, although the electrons that excite these particles ultimately get their energy from the solar wind, rather than electrically charged clouds. Now that you know how lightning works, explaining the St. Elmo’s fire phenomenon is quite easy. A minute thereafter, by Heald's estimation, he first noticed a dim "blue flame" flickering along the backbone girder about one-quarter the length abaft the bow to the tail. It started on the First Officers window. Corona discharge also plays a role in creating the charged surfaces needed inside a photocopier. Vonnegut's The Sirens of Titan also notes the phenomenon affecting Winston Niles Rumfoord's dog, Kazak, the Hound of Space, in conjunction with solar disturbances of the chrono-synclastic infundibulum. While St. Elmo's fire tends to take place in stormy conditions, it's a distinct phenomenon from lightning. To minimize that effect, many long-distance power lines feature hoop-like "corona rings" around pointy areas such as the tips of towers and poles. ", "Account of a Thunder Storm in the Neighbourhood of Leadhills, Lanarkshire", "Eyewitness Account of Atomic Bomb Over Nagasaki". It's a corona discharge, and it occurs when there is a significant imbalance in electrical charge, causing molecules to tear … For nitrogen and oxygen, which dominate in Earth's atmosphere, that burst of light burns blue and violet, respectively. St. Elmo's fire is seen during thunderstorms when the ground below the storm is … Thunder was heard occasionally from 15th to 23rd, during which time the weather was very unsteady: frequent showers of hail, snow, rain, &c. I can find no person in this quarter who remembers to have ever seen the luminous appearance mentioned above, before this season,—or such a quantity of lightning darting across the heavens,—nor who have heard so much thunder at that season of the year. I noticed a strange eerie light coming through the window high above in the Navigator's cabin and as I peered through the dark all around us I saw a startling phenomenon. Elmo's fire requires very high electric fields and this can be dangerous. Brian Eno's third studio album Another Green World (1975) contains a song titled "St. Elmo's Fire" in which guesting King Crimson guitarist Robert Fripp (credited with playing "Wimshurst guitar" in the liner notes) improvises a lightning-fast solo that would imitate an electrical charge between two poles on a Wimshurst high voltage generator. St. Elmo's fire was reported by New York Times reporter William L. Laurence on August 9, 1945 as he was aboard Bockscar on the way to Nagasaki. A comparison can be made of being in a thunderstorm (although yes, St. Elmos is not the same as lightning strikes). The phenomenon is often seen prior to a lightning strike. Continue to dump energy into the vapor (by heating it past 21,000 degrees Fahrenheit, or 12,000 degrees Celsius, for instance), and the atoms in the water molecules get roughed up, losing their electrons and becoming charged ions. Documented sightings go back to ancient Greece. A lightning bolt’s glow contains blue and purple for the same reason, but it also shines white — a mixture of many colors — as it heats the air around it. A local electric fieldof approximately 100 kV/m is required to begin a discharge in moist air. In this flight you'll see a phenomena called St. Elmo's Fire. Stay up to date on the coronavirus outbreak by signing up to our newsletter today. Future US, Inc. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, Unlike lightning, coronal discharge is much less spectacular and less transient in nature. The first song in Susumu Hirasawa's album Aurora, "Stone Garden" (石の庭 Ishi no Niwa), contains a line which translates to, That day when I melted away into the sky I could see still tongues of light-blue flame on every point of steel framework which protruded from the ruins. Burning like St. Elmo's sacred fire[36]. To cool down, the excited particles emit a photon of light with a particular energy and color. New York: Morrow, 2003. While it is not a hazard as such, it is usually accompanied by rough weather and can be followed by lightning. Japanese wins solo yacht race across Pacific. Unfortunately, as an omen, it came down, and showed itself on the topgallant yardarm. Orange balls of the size of a soccer ball were flying by the wind on the background of black clouds.". Accounts of Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe refer to St. Elmo's fire being seen around the fleet's ships multiple times off the coast of South America. Additional reference may be made from Yale University's collection. Please deactivate your ad blocker in order to see our subscription offer, 'Magic mushrooms' grow in man's blood after injection with shroom tea. Many also confuse St. Elmo's fire with ball lightning, another incandescent phenomenon known for millennia. NY 10036. One of the earliest references to the phenomenon appears in Alcaeus's Fragment 34a about the Dioscuri, or Castor and Pollux. The phenomenon sometimes appeared on ships at sea during thunderstorms and was regarded by sailors with religious awe for its glowing ball of light, accounting for the name. If you see it, get indoors! "They get all excited, and then they have to relax." 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