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No. 21: May-Jun 1982

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Anomalous Sky Flash

December 28, 1980. In the South At antic.

"At approximately 2245 GMT on a moonless night the entire ship and immediate surrounding area were illuminated by what can be best described as a great camera flash. The flash was bluish-white and a small bolt of lightning appeared to be centered just above the vessel's samson posts. No noise was heard and the flash lasted only a second. The sky was clear at the time and stars of all magnitudes were clearly visible. The only clouds that could be seen were two or three small cumulus clouds; one of these was above the vessel and the others were moving towards us from the south, our course being l42(T) and the wind being S'E, force 3. The cloud above the vessel was at a height of about 600 feet."

(Rutherford, N.W.C.; "Unidentified Phenomena," Marine Observer, 51:186, 1981.)

Comment. This was obviously not ordi nary lightning, but the small cloud and small bolt of lightning indicate some sort of anomalous electrical discharge. The literature contains many other reports of bright sky flashes that cannot be attributed to meteors, heat lightning, or other sources.

Reference. Entry GLA14 in Lightning, Auroras contains additional examples of all-sky flashes. This Catalog volume is described here.

From Science Frontiers #21, MAY-JUN 1982. 1982-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987