A transformer explosion at a ConEdison facility in Astoria, Queens, which took place two days after Christmas, set the New York city skyline ablaze with a dazzling blue glow. The blast caused power outages across the borough, including at LaGuardia airport, and sent social media users into a frenzy about the possibility of an alien invasion.
The explosion, caused by high-voltage equipment failure at ConEdison's Astoria East substation, took place on Thursday, Dec. 27 at around 9:20 p.m., illuminating the night sky with an eerie, incandescent blue glow that lasted less than five minutes.
In a Dec. 28 statement, ConEdison attributed the flash to “an electrical fault on a section of 138,000-volt equipment,” which resulted in “a sustained electrical arc flash, creating the blue light people witnessed.”
An electric arc is caused by the flow of electrons between two points that are separated by a gas, resulting in the breakdown of the gas and formation of plasma, which in turn produces visible light.
The surge caused a power outage at LaGuardia airport, causing some flights to be briefly grounded during one of the year's busiest travel periods.
Rikers Island jail also suffered an outage, and part of the subway's 7 Line was shut down for about 30 minutes while track equipment was reset.
Meanwhile, on social media, the strange blue glow sparked viral speculation about an alien invasion, prompting the New York Police Department to debunk rumors using its own Twitter account.
“Confirming incident in #Astoria was result of transformer explosion,” the NYPD tweeted. “No injuries, no fire, no evidence of extraterrestrial activity.”