What is St. Elmo’s Fire?

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Dear Tom,
What is St. Elmo’s Fire?
—Roger Ferrimantio
Dear Roger,
Sailors in the vicinity of thunderstorms have long marveled at a unique form of atmospheric electrical discharge known as St. Elmo’s Fire. It is a luminous green or blue “glow” around a ship’s mast and it is named for the patron saint of Mediterranean sailors, St. Erasmus (who is often called St. Elmo).
St. Elmo’s Fire is also seen around power lines and on the wings or propellers of aircraft. Any elevated object can be involved. Commercial pilots have observed St. Elmo’s Fire in the form of sparks running harmlessly across the windshield and control panels in the cockpit of aircraft.

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