New York City’s electric utility Con Edison this morning sought to shed some light on an eerie flash of blue light that illuminated the night sky on Thursday, revealing that it was due to a phenomenon similar to lightning known as an ‘electrical arc’.
Con Edison said in a previous statement that a common transformer explosion at a substation in Astoria was responsible for illuminating the skies over New York a dazzling shade of blue.
In a follow-up statement released early Friday morning, the utility said that an electrical fault in equipment that carries 138,000 volts of electricity 20 feet up in the air at one section of the the Astoria East and North Queens power plant caused ‘a sustained electrical arc flash.’
An electrical arc is a visible plasma discharge between two electrodes – the one from which the current originates called the cathode and the one toward which electrons flow called the anode - that is caused by electrical current ionizing gasses in the air.
Controlled electrical arcs have many industrial and commercial applications, including in welding, plasma cutting and heating.
Con Edison spokesman Bob McGee compared the electrical arc to a thunder and lightning event in nature and said that it subsided on its own within minutes.
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Thunder and lightning: Con Edison said Friday that an electrical fault at its Queens plant caused what is known as an electrical arc, which turned the night sky a dazzling shade of blue Thursday
The explosion occurred around 9.20pm and no injuries have been reported
Buildings stand as the night sky is illuminated by blue light in New York
The Astoria East and North Queens Con Edison power plant where the electrical arc originated is pictured about 40 minutes after the malfunction
An electrical fault in equipment that carries 138,000 volts of electricity 20 feet up in the air produced the lightning-like phenomenon
The incident lasted all of three minutes but resulted in power being cut to many addresses in Queens, including nearby La Guardia Airport, which was forced to ground all flights for more than an hour during one of the busiest travel weeks of the year.
Officials at the notorious Rikers Island jail were also forced to use backup generators when their electricity shut off for 25 minutes, and there were delays on the No 7 subway line.
Bewildered residents took to the streets and shared images on social media after the haze filled the sky at around 9.20pm.
There were no injuries in the blast, the fire was quickly contained, and many saw the lighter side of the odd display in the sky.
The NYPD jokingly confirmed that aliens had not invaded, while others shared memes comparing it to scenes from science-fiction films.
A Con Edison plant lit up after the electrical malfunction on Thursday night
Con Edison likened what happened on Thursday in Queens to a thunder and lightning event
The NYPD 114th informed on what was happening with the explosion while the 43rd Precinct had a little fun with the news
The incident unfolded when Big Apple residents streamed onto Twitter, Instagram and Facebook with their clips and pictures of the blue cloud hovering over the city.
Many people were initially confused at what was going on, and questioned whether the lights were coming from a concert venue.
Some also reported hearing weird sounds coming from the blast site.
The NYPD then put the conspiracy theories to bed and confirmed that the blast had been caused by a power surge at the substation.
‘Investigating a transformer explosion at Astoria East & North Queens Con Ed power plant,’ the NYPD 114th Precint said on Twitter. ‘Please avoid 20th Ave & 31 st.’
NYPD News posted: ‘ADVISORY: The lights you have seen throughout the city appear to have been from a transformer explosion at a Con Ed facility in Queens. The fire is under control, will update as more info becomes available. Follow @fdny, @NYPD114pct and @conedison.’
Con Edison said on Thursday night that it was working with the NYPD on the matter and would provide updates over time.
Initial figures suggested that only 76 homes may have suffered a blackout as a result of the blast.
‘The NYPD and the FDNY are on scene at a Con Ed facility in Astoria where an apparent transformer explosion just lit up the sky over the city,’ said Mayor Bill de Blasio. ‘As soon as we have more information, we will share it.’
NYC Fire Wire confirmed that a explosion had occurred in the North Queens neighborhood at a Con Edison subplant
People stand at the gate of a Con Edison facility watching as personnel rush to handle the explosion
Views from the Upper West Side of Manhattan show blue light between the buildings
Law enforcement personnel stand in front of Con Edison grounds to monitor passersby
Reports soon came in that La Guardia had lost power and that the airport had closed as a result.
‘Small, blue explosion near LaGuardia has knocked out power at the airport and surrounding area,’ said user Mason Mccoy. ‘Unclear what the cause is.. everything (exiting, boarding, security, etc.) is frozen until they figure it out. #lga’
The user would later update Twitter when the airport had restored its power.
‘Update: Power has been restored but activity still at a stand still,’ he added. ‘Passengers are able to de-plane via stairs. Looks like departing passengers are being held back until security check points are back up and running.’
A man named Nick Riccardo shared a video of the actual explosion as it took place outside his window
The bright blue light is seen on the rooftops over Queens on Thursday evening
Residents walked out onto the streets in Queens to catch a glimpse of the bizarre sky
According to the utility outage map for Con Edison, there were only 76 who were said to have lost power
Both Con Ed and Mayor Bill de Blasio posted that the fire was being worked on by a joint coalition
Spectators were mesmerized by the bright flashes of blue that illuminated the cloudy night sky. Folks all the way out in Jersey City reported seeing the flashy lights.
A man named Nick Riccardo shared a video of the actual explosion as it took place outside his window.
‘The transformer explosion in Astoria was… right outside my window,’ he said. ‘So bright I couldn’t look directly at it.’
One user said: ‘Anyone else see this blue light in the sky just now in Brooklyn or NYC? #trippystuff #Skyline.’
Karol Markowicz said: ‘Wtf if this insane bright blue light over Brooklyn?!?’
Spectators were mesmerized by the bright flashes of blue that illuminated the cloudy night sky. Folks all the way out in Jersey City reported seeing the flashy lights
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