RESIDENTS in Wellington may have witnessed a luminous phenomenon in the sky as a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck New Zealand’s South Island.
Several videos have emerged on social media showing colourful flashes of light that lasted around five seconds.
Instagram user Syrian Kiwi was one of the first residents to share the strange lights.
“Sky during earthquake in Wellington. Hope everyone’s safe,” the user wrote.
YouTube user Zachary Bell also shared a video of the lights, which was captured “during the peak” of the natural disaster.
Commenters were quick to dismiss the bizarre lights as the result of damage to electrical power transformers, however this isn’t the case.
It turns out the flashes of light seen during the natural disaster are a rare phenomena known as earthquake lights.
Senior researcher at NASA’s Ames Research Center Friedemann Freund said earthquake lights are the result of the electrical properties of certain rocks.
‘Earthquake Lights’ caught on video during #eqnz this morning. Spooky stuff.
Apparently caused by stress-induced electrical currents. pic.twitter.com/Pval0szrIR
– Finn Dinneen (@FinnDinneen) November 13, 2016
“When nature stresses certain rocks, electric charges are activated, as if you switched on a battery in the Earth’s crust,” he told National Geographic.
According to the researcher, basalts and gabbros are two types of rocks with tiny defects in their crystals, which cause electrical charges to be released when a seismic wave hits.
“The charges can combine and form a kind of plasma-like state, which can travel at very high velocities and burst out at the surface to make electric discharges in the air,” he said.
Continue the conversation on Twitter @mattydunn11.