A magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck off the coast of southern Mexico, which caused a rare occurrence of earthquake lights flashing in the night sky. Mexico was hit with perhaps the most powerful quake in nearly a century.
Last night at 11:49 Central time, the magnitude 8.1 earthquake struck off Mexico's souther coast, near Guatemala. It was followed by at least 20 aftershocks. Over 30 people have died as a result of the quake, and the damage is still being assessed.
With an earthquake of this magnitude out to see, many feared a tsunami would devastate the Latin American coast. Thankfully, experts have given an all clear, saying the waves moved out to sea instead.
One natural phenomenon that was spotted after the quake were rare earthquake lights. In the moments after the quake, the sky over Mexico lit up with mysterious multi-colored flashes of light. The quake and the lights were felt and seen as far away as Mexico City, 650 miles away.
Earthquake lights are rare, but they have been caught on camera before.
Earthquake lights were also observed right after the 2014 quake in Wellington, New Zealand. One scientist thinks he's cracked the mystery behind earthquake lights. Physics professor and senior NASA Researcher Friedemann Freund sums up the effect, explaining simply, "When nature stresses certain rocks, electric charges are activated, as if you switched on a battery in the Earth's crust."
The incredible amount of pressure from a magnitude 8.1 earthquake is basically squeezing electrical energy out of some minerals. That energy travels along other conductive materials, like through a loose wire, and the energy shoots right out of the ground.
It's like the earth striking the sky with lightning!
However, the ideal conditions for earthquake lights exist in less than 0.5 percent of earthquakes worldwide.
Have you heard of earthquake lights before? Ever witnessed lightning shoot out of the ground? let us know in the comments or on Twitter at @WhatsTrending.