Trivia

Hard

Which Of These Weather Phenomena Are Known As “St. Elmo’s Fire”?

Coronal Discharges
Ball Lightning
Sun Dogs
Morning Glory Clouds

Answer: Coronal Discharges

While there are plenty of boring, everyday atmospheric phenomena like run-of-the-mill rain storms and ordinary lightning, there are a handful of phenomena that are truly awe-inspiring and, in many cases, believed to be divine in origin by various peoples in the past.

Among such awe-inspiring events and witnesses is the phenomenon of “St. Elmo’s Fire” and sailors. The phenomenon itself occurs when a pointed object is placed into a strong electrical field in the atmosphere such as the top of a ship’s masts and yard arms during a thunderstorm. A coronal discharge of energy forms around the elevated points and the energy collects and discharges in the form of a luminous plasma that has a bright blue or violet glow.

When sailors saw the glow at the top of the masts and yard arms of their ships (and they survived the storms to tell the tale), they attributed the glow to the presence of St. Elmo, the patron saint of sailors, and his divine presence protecting them on their voyages. The coronal discharge and the plasma became known as “St. Elmo’s Fire” as a result and the phenomenon (even when not found at sea) is referred to by that name to this day.

While the name is steeped in the tradition of the Catholic and Eastern Orthodox Churches and the European sailors familiar with them, we could just as easily have an alternative name for the phenomenon. Sailors from cultures around the world have encountered the glow and all, universally, treated it like a divine omen. Chinese sailors said the glow was a divine omen of Tianfei, the goddess of sailors and seafarers. The Greeks called a single appearance of the glow Helene and a pair of them Kastor and Polydeuces (Helen’s mythological twin brothers). Portuguese sailors called the glow the “holy body”. So had another superstition or tradition taken hold instead, we could be calling the glow “Helen’s Touch”, “Tianfei’s Blessing”, or another phrase instead of “St. Elmo’s Fire”.

Trivia

Easy

Hollywood Clapper Boards Serve What Primary Purpose?

Trivia

Hard

Nintendo Created Mario When They Failed To Get The Licensing Rights To?

Trivia

Easy

Which Of These Banana Cultivars Constitutes The Bulk Of Global Banana Consumption?

Trivia

Hard

Some Surgeons Have Eschewed Steel Blades In Favor Of Sharper Scalpel Blades Made Of?

Trivia

Hard

Which Incredibly Shelf-Stable Food Was Once Quite Perishable?

Trivia

Hard

McDonald’s Paid Who $5 A Pop To Reference Their Iconic Big Mac Burger?

Trivia

Easy

What Caused 7 Million Americans To Disappear In The 1980s?

Trivia

Hard

The Top Grossing Holiday Film Of All Time Is?

Trivia

Hard

The First State to Adopt an Official State Dinosaur Was?

Trivia

Easy

Astronauts Use What Inside Their Helmets To Scratch Their Noses?