What is St. Elmo’s fire?
There are many phenomena that exist in this world and St. Elmo is believed to have been one of the earliest phenomena to have been observed by mankind. In relation to the provided article, St. Elmo’s fire is described as a weather phenomenon that is witnessed during thunderstorms. The article says it is simply a sparking that involves an electrical charge that makes a blue glow in the street lamps and other pointed structures. This phenomena was witnessed by early sailors who used to witness this blue glow during thunderstorms and instead of abandoning ship thinking it had caught fire, they understood that it was just a glow on the ships’ masts. Instead, they attributed this glow to St. Erasmus, who was regarded as patron saint of all Mediterranean sailors; hence “St. Elmo’s fire”.
According to the article provided, St. Elmo’s fire is all about sparkling of electrons during thunderstorms and it is not a form of lightning. When the air is ionized, it emits a blue glow due to imbalance of electrons in electric charge, making air molecules to tear apart resulting into this blue glow, which is sometimes accompanied by a hissing sound. The article also says that St. Elmo’s fire occurs on pointed objects such as street lamps and ships masts because a tipped surface creates a condensed surface charge while a tapered surface tends to discharge at a lower level. The article says that this is the same phenomenon that happens in neon tubes as they glow as a result of a continuous sparking. It also wishes to distinguish “ball lightning” from St. Elmo’s fire arguing that while the later stays put, ball lighting tends to float around in the air. The blue glow is accredited to the presence of oxygen and nitrogen gases in the earth’s atmosphere, and they tend to burn in a blue glow when combined together.
In my opinion this article correctly defines St. Elmo’s fire from a scientific perspective. However, I feel that it could have been more informative had the author provided formulas on the reactions that he describes to take place for the blue glow to occur. The author should have provided chemical equations to show how electrons, and the molecules react to the ionization aspect that leads to the glow, and also how both nitrogen and oxygen gases are burnt in the atmosphere during a thunderstorm.