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By request, these are the two previous questions in this "series":

Low Voltage Lightning and Alien Nitrogen

How To Make Lightning

I recently asked a question about lightning storms on planets. One of the answers mentioned the idea of lightning between planets, and whilst I don't think that itself is feasible, I am going for a "Pirates of the Caribbean IN SPACE!" kind of feel to it and there's nothing better in a pirate story than stormy weather but I do want to stick to REAL science as much as possible.

Some of the more detailed answers to my planetary lightning question suggested that dust, sandstorms, and ash could be used to generate lightning.

Would a nebula, possibly artificial in nature, could be dense enough to create sparks in a vacuum? Is there an easier way to create "space storms" by natural or artificial means?

If you come up with a decent estimate for density I'd also, ideally, like some sort of idea of what this would look like. Would you be able to see through it like a thick fog? Or would it be so dense that you couldn't see your own hand?

The idea of a space battle surrounded by lightning and compounded by the inability to see, is very appealing to me but as I've said, I want this to be as real as possible. Maths is appreciated but not required. Thanks for reading.

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    $\begingroup$ Do you want a one-time thing (say for a short while when your epic battle is going on) or a continuous process? $\endgroup$ – cutculus Aug 29 '17 at 23:11
  • $\begingroup$ molecular cloud or try nebula as long as you have friction to built up static electricity/charges $\endgroup$ – user6760 Aug 30 '17 at 3:42
  • $\begingroup$ A one time thing or a continuous process. I don't need it to be natural, I just need to know the required conditions for space lightning then I can kinda set them up. $\endgroup$ – Douglas Aug 30 '17 at 6:06
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    $\begingroup$ You may be interested in What are the effects of a planet staying long-term inside of a nebula? Full disclosure: The accepted answer is my own. $\endgroup$ – a CVn Aug 30 '17 at 7:47
  • $\begingroup$ Could you link to your earlier question? It would be easier to understand your context $\endgroup$ – nzaman Aug 30 '17 at 9:41
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PULSAR STAR

You could make your battle rage near a pulsar star, this things burst insane amounts of radiation, lasers and deadly rays. Make it spin inside a nebula and the interaction with the dust could provide something that could emulate a "storm"

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pulsar#/media/File:Chandra-crab.jpg

GAS GIANT

Hunt the pirate ships inside a gas giant and you will have the perfect storm and even more things to worry about that only the enemy batteries.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Saturn#/media/File:Rotatingsaturnhexagon.gif

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  • $\begingroup$ +1. I like your answer better than my answer. Maybe think of my answer of a black hole accretion disk as type #3. $\endgroup$ – ShadoCat Aug 29 '17 at 23:43
  • $\begingroup$ @ShadoCat Ooh it's true! a black hole could produce alot of mayhem. One eating a binary star system!. That would present enough caos to make any storm look like a walk in the park. $\endgroup$ – Tridam Aug 29 '17 at 23:49
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There is such a thing as "space weather", and satellite operators are constantly aware of this. The Sun releases a massive amount of energy every second in the form of radiation across the spectrum, as well as charged particles (the solar wind) and the occasional large bursts of matter and energy in the form of solar flares.

enter image description here

Basic elements of space weather

The interactions between all this energy and the magnetic fields and atmospheres of the planets is the "space weather" which can do everything from scramble communications signals to damaging electronic circuits in spacecraft to heating the upper atmosphere and creating extra drag on objects in Low Earth Orbit.

While actually pretty amazing in ts own right, the vast scale of the events and the fact that much of this happens in vacuum or the very rarefied upper atmosphere means it is also subtle and not generally visible to the human eye, the aurora being one of the few exceptions to this.

Understanding how space weather works gives us a way to get the sort of "space weather" the OP is asking for. Things like hurricanes, thunderstorms, tornadoes etc. require massive amounts of matter in addition to energy. In free space this is difficult to achieve, but there are places which can be tapped.

Molecular clouds, dust clouds and nebula exist which have a much greater concentration of matter than normal in space. While this is often enough to block the light of distant stars for astronomers on Earth, it is still dense as a matter of degree, the material is still far less dense than the upper atmosphere of Earth.

enter image description here

The Eagle Nebula

Even higher density of matter can be found near stars, ranging from the nebula released by red giant stars as they go through their death throes (being near a Supernova as it implodes is an entirely different story, and "weather" doesn't even begin to describe the event). Newly forming stars have dense clouds of dust and gas, which will eventually form planetary systems. While much denser than molecular clouds in free space, they still are not going to be as dense as the atmosphere of Earth, except in localized knots where protoplanets are forming.

enter image description here

Artists impression of a protoplanetary disc

Finally, the highest density of materials are probably to be found in the accretion disc of a black hole. Once again, we have other effects, including the immense tidal effects of the black hole itself, the radiation environment of the disc as it is accelerated and heated by the black hole and weird relativistic effects like "frame dragging", which affect the flow of time in the region.

enter image description here

Accretion disc as depicted in the movie "Interstellar"

The conditions of space are far different from what we experience here on Earth, so extrapolating weather the way we understand it isn't going to be correct. You can play with these environments and probably come up with interesting space based effects which are much different from what we see here on Earth.

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Lightning between dust particles requires friction or some other way to build up a static charge. A nebula is probably too dispersed to generate enough friction to make lightning except right after the nova that creates it and at that point, there's enough bad stuff going on that I doubt that any stray static electricity is going to matter.

The accretion disk of a black hole might have enough stuff moving at different speeds to create lightning. Again there will be other stuff to worry about but the lightning won't be as overshadowed as it would in a nova.

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