Apocalypse now? Blue light flashes in sky convinces Mexican Twitter the end is nigh
MEXICO CITY: On Wednesday, September 8, 2021, videos uploaded by Mexicans showed bursts of blue lights streaking across the skies. This is at a time when a strong earthquake had started rocking the country's Pacific coast city of Acapulco.
The 7.0 magnitude quake struck 11 miles northeast of the resort city in the southwestern state of Guerrero. As per the latest reports, at least one person was killed, a lot of damage was done to property and rockslides littered a major highway. While it did not cause widespread damage, many on Twitter were convinced that it was the Apocalypse, with a capital A. Some users started using the hashtag Apocalipsis, which is Spanish for the biblical term denoting the end of the world.
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President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said the earthquake had not caused major damage in Guerrero, the neighbouring region of Oaxaca, Mexico City and other areas. In the videos posted on social media, residents fled into the streets as buildings swayed. When people gathered on the streets with their children and pets, they were greeted by yet another shocking sight — many blue lights burst brilliantly illuminating the dark skies.
Many Twitter users posted videos of these blue flashes. The lights that changed colors from bright purple to green to blue are known as 'Earthquake Lights'.
"Un pequeño ensayo del apocalipsis," one user wrote.
Un pequeño ensayo del apocalipsis. 🤭 pic.twitter.com/ljTcD0DNN5— Dios (@Dios_Padre) September 8, 2021
The lights can take "many different shapes, forms, and colors," Friedemann Freund, an adjunct professor of physics at San Jose State University and a senior researcher at NASA’s Ames Research Center, said in a 2014 National Geographic interview. Explaining the rare phenomenon the report added that "the lights are caused by electric charges activated in certain types of rocks during seismic activity, ‘as if you switched on a battery in the Earth’s crust’."
Rutgers University physicist Troy Shinbrot clarified the lights aren't deadly. "If it did, the apocalypse would have happened a thousand years ago when this was first discovered," said Shinbrot in an interview with NPR. You can watch the video here:
Así se vieron las luces en el cielo de la #CDMX durante el #sismo de esta noche pic.twitter.com/QnQdZWutWP— Foro_TV (@Foro_TV) September 8, 2021
"Footage from tonite's quake in Mexico City #CDMX. You can see those eerie lights in the distance that have become a typical sight when city gets hit by a big one ," another user shared.
Footage from tonite's quake in Mexico City #CDMX. You can see those eerie lights in the distance that have become a typical sight when city gets hit by a big one 😭 pic.twitter.com/PtySy2eD8R— Cyntia Barrera Diaz (@CBarreraDiaz) September 8, 2021
Another wrote, "#Mexico City's skyline, showing the Earthquake Lights phenomenon from a 7.1 quake with an epicenter in Acapulco that was felt in many parts of the country. Curious sidenote: people were making memes wondering if this September would bring any earthquakes. It did. #Sismo #Temblor"
#Mexico City's skyline, showing the Earthquake Lights phenomenon from a 7.1 quake with an epicenter in Acapulco that was felt in many parts of the country. Curious sidenote: people were making memes wondering if this September would bring any earthquakes. It did.#Sismo #Temblor pic.twitter.com/2py9610bUF— Antonio Video (@AntonioVideoTJ) September 8, 2021
Amidst the jokes, memes and surprise, one user wrote, "That's the aliens arriving in Mexico. But on the real prayers for everyone out there. Hope no one was seriously hurt."
That's the aliens arriving in Mexico. But on the real prayers for everyone out there. Hope no one was seriously hurt.— 💙🇬🇹🇺🇸❤ (@Achewchena) September 8, 2021
At the same time, these might not be earthquake lights. As per a report in NPR, USGS earthquake geologist Austin Elliott advises not to rely on videos supposedly illustrating the EQL phenomenon, adding that what was seen on Mexico's skies were power flashes from swinging wires in the electricity grid hitting other lines, trees and buildings. "If there were visible natural electrical phenomenon going on, that would have been difficult to discern alongside the bright power flashes from the electrical grid," says Elliott.