Science, Tech, Math › Science Lightning and Plasma Photo Gallery The Fourth State of Matter Share Flipboard Email Print Laser beams can ionize air and form plasma. Cylonphoto / Getty Images Science Chemistry Basics Chemical Laws Molecules Periodic Table Projects & Experiments Scientific Method Biochemistry Physical Chemistry Medical Chemistry Chemistry In Everyday Life Famous Chemists Activities for Kids Abbreviations & Acronyms Biology Physics Geology Astronomy Weather & Climate By Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Chemistry Expert Ph.D., Biomedical Sciences, University of Tennessee at Knoxville B.A., Physics and Mathematics, Hastings College Dr. Helmenstine holds a Ph.D. in biomedical sciences and is a science writer, educator, and consultant. She has taught science courses at the high school, college, and graduate levels. our editorial process Facebook Facebook Twitter Twitter Anne Marie Helmenstine, Ph.D. Updated November 05, 2019 This is a photo gallery of lightning and plasma pictures. One way to think of plasma is as an ionized gas or as the fourth state of matter. The electrons in plasma are not bound to protons, so charged particles in plasma are highly responsive to electromagnetic fields. Lightning Photograph The electrical discharge of lightning exists in the form of plasma. Charles Allison, Oklahoma Lightning Examples of plasma include stellar gas clouds and stars, lightning, the ionosphere (which includes auroras), the interiors of fluorescent and neon lamps and some flames. Lasers often ionize gases and form plasma, too. Plasma Lamp A plasma lamp is a familiar example of plasma. Luc Viatour X-Ray Sun This is a view of the sun from the Soft X-Ray Telescope (SXT) on the Yohkoh satellite. The looping structures consist of hot plasma bound by magnetic field lines. Sunspots would be found at the base of these loops. NASA Goddard Laboratory Electric Discharge This is an electric discharge around a glass plate. Matthias Zepper Tycho's Supernova Remnant This is a false-color x-ray image of Tycho's Supernova Remnant. The red and green bands are an expanding cloud of superhot plasma. The blue band is a shell of extremely high energy electrons. NASA Lightning from a Thunderstorm This is lightning associated with a thunderstorm near Oradea, Romania (August 17, 2005). Mircea Madau Plasma Arc The Wimshurst Machine, invented in the early 1880s, is popular for demonstrating plasma. Matthew Dingemans Hall Effect Thruster This is a photo of a Hall Effect thruster (ion drive) in operation. The electric field of the plasma double layer accelerates the ions. Dstaack, Wikipedia Commons Neon Sign This neon filled discharge tube displays the element's characteristic reddish-orange emission. The ionized gas inside the tube is plasma. pslawinski, wikipedia.org Earth's Magnetosphere This is an image of the magnetic tail of Earth's plasmasphere, which is a region of the magnetosphere that is distorted by pressure from the solar wind. The photo was taken by the Extreme Ultraviolet imager instrument onboard the IMAGE satellite. NASA Lightning Animation This is an example of cloud-cloud lightning over Tolouse, France. Sebastien D'Arco Aurora Borealis Aurora Borealis, or Northern Lights, above Bear Lake, Eielson Air Force Base, Alaska. The colors of the aurora derive from the emission spectra of ionized gases in the atmosphere. United States Air Force photo by Senior Airman Joshua Strang Solar Plasma Image of the sun's chromosphere taken by Hinode's Solar Optical Telescope on Jan. 12, 2007, revealing the filamentary nature of solar plasma following magnetic field lines. Hinode JAXA/NASA Solar Filaments The SOHO spacecraft took this image of solar filaments, which are massive bubbles of magnetic plasma that are ejected into space. NASA Volcano with Lightning 1982 eruption of Galunggung, Indonesia, accompanied by lightning strikes. USGS Volcano with Lightning This is a photograph of the 1995 volcanic eruption of Mount Rinjani in Indonesia. Volcanic eruptions are frequently accompanied by lightning. Oliver Spalt Aurora Australis This is a photo of the aurora australis in Antarctica. Samuel Blanc Both the aurora borealis and aurora australis are examples of plasma. Interestingly, at any given time, the aurorae in the northern and southern hemispheres mirror each other. Plasma Filaments Plasma filaments from the electrical discharge of a Tesla coil. This photo was taken at the UK Teslathon in Derby, UK, on 27 May 2005. Ian Tresman Plasma filaments are easily observed in the novelty toy called the plasma ball, but they occur elsewhere, too. Catseye Nebula X-ray/optical composite image of NGC6543, the Cat's Eye Nebula. The red is hydrogen-alpha; blue, neutral oxygen; green, ionized nitrogen. NASA/ESA Omega Nebula Hubble photograph of M17, also known as the Omega Nebula. NASA/ESA Aurora on Jupiter Jupiter aurora viewed in ultraviolet by the Hubble Space Telescope. The bright steaks are magnetic flux tubes that connect Jupiter to its moons. The dots are the largest moons. John T. Clarke (U. Michigan), ESA, NASA Aurora Australis Aurora Australis over Wellington, New Zealand approximately 3am on 24 November 2001. Paul Moss Lightning over a Cemetary Lightning over Miramare di Rimini, Italy. The colors of lightning, usually violet and blue, reflect the emission spectra of the ionized gases in the atmosphere. Magica, Wikipedia Commons Lightning over Boston This black and white photo is of a lightning storm over Boston, circa 1967. Boston Globe/NOAA Lightning Strikes Eiffel Tower Lightning striking the Eiffel Tower, June 3, 1902, at 9:20 pm. This is one of the earliest photos of lightning in an urban setting. Historic NWS Collection, NOAA Boomerang Nebula Image of the Boomerang Nebula taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA Crab Nebula The Crab Nebula is an expanding remnant of a supernova explosion that was observed in 1054. This image was taken by the Hubble Space Telescope. NASA Horsehead Nebula This is a Hubble Space Telescope image of the Horsehead Nebula. NASA, NOAO, ESA and The Hubble Heritage Team Red Rectangle Nebula The Red Rectangle Nebula is an example of a protoplanetary nebula and a bipolar nebula. NASA JPL Pleiades Cluster This photo of the Pleiades (M45, the Seven Sisters, Matariki, or Subaru) clearly shows its reflection nebulae. NASA Pillars of Creation The Pillars of Creation are regions of star formation within the Eagle Nebula. NASA/ESA/Hubble Mercury UV Lamp The glow from this mercury germicidal UV lamp comes from ionized low pressure mercury vapor, an example of plasma. Deglr6328, Wikipedia Commons Tesla Coil Lightning Simulator This is a Tesla coil lightning simulator at Questacon in Canberra, Australia. The electrical discharge is an example of plasma. Fir0002, Wikipedia Commons Eye of God Helix Nebula This is a color composite image of the Helix Nebula from data obtained at the La Silla observatory in Chile. The blue-green glow comes from oxygen exposed to intense ultraviolet radiation. The red is from hydrogen and nitrogen. ESO Hubble Helix Nebula "Eye of God" or Helix Nebula composite photograph taken from Hubble Space Telescope. ESA/NASA Crab Nebula Composite photograph from NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory and ESA/NASA Hubble Space Telescope of the Crab Pulsar at the center of the Crab Nebula. NASA/CXC/ASU/J. Hester et al., HST/ASU/J. Hester et al.