Saint Elmo's fire
âtaš-e sepant Elmo
Fr.: feu de Saint-Elme
A blue/violet light better seen at night on a pointed object, such as the mast of a ship or the wing of an airplane, during a → thunderstorm. The mast appears to be on fire but does not burn. It occurs when the ground below the storm is electrically charged, and there is high voltage in the air between the cloud and the ground. The high voltage causes the electrons and protons of the air molecules to be pulled away from each other, transforming the air into a glowing ionized gas. St. Elmo's fire is sometimes mistaken for → ball lightning. It was identified as an electrical phenomenon first by by Benjamin Franklin in 1749. Also called → corposant.
Saint Elmo the Italian rendering of St. Erasmus of Formiae (died 303) the patron saint of Mediterranean sailors; → fire.