Trivia

Hard

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

Coronal Discharges
Morning Glory Clouds
Ball Lightning
Sun Dogs

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

Hard

Which Punctuation Mark Didn’t Have A Dedicated Key Until The 1970s?

Trivia

Hard

The Only Region On Earth Where Scientists Have Found No Evidence Of Active Microbial Life Is?

Trivia

Hard

The First Ice Volcano In Our Solar System Was Discovered On?

Trivia

Hard

In 2004 The FDA Approved What Ancient Medical Technique?

Trivia

Easy

Military Tanks Were Originally Known As?

Trivia

Hard

The Original “Snake Oil” Was Effective At Treating?

Trivia

Hard

8-bit Music Compositions, Popularized By Video Games, Are Called What?

Trivia

Hard

Which Of These Actors Has Appeared In Star Trek, Star Wars, And Doctor Who?

Trivia

Hard

Who Coined The Term “Mullet” To Describe The Short-In-Front/Long-In-Back Hairstyle?

Trivia

Hard

Which Of These Common Summertime Foods Radically Increases Sensitivity To Ultraviolet Light?