Rare Sighting of Red Lightning
An astronomer recently captured one of the most detailed sightings of a rare type of red lightning, nicknamed “sprite lightning”.
These lightning-fast sprites (or red sprites) briefly hovered in the air, like giant jellyfish during a thunderstorm over Central Europe.
Stunning Image of giant jellyfish sprite
Shape of zipper pointing up captured on August 14, astrophotographer Stanislav Kanyansky.
Full size image: https://t.co/0efPw2OKoq.
Observation by Stanislav Kanyansky
Spaceweather.com reports that Stanislav Kanyansky, an astronomer at the Banska Bystrica Observatory in Slovakia, caught lightning sprites near his home in Latki, Slovakia on August 14.
The glowing undulating structure was over 50 kilometers (31 miles) long and lasted only a few milliseconds before disappearing.
Bursts, or stratospheric disturbances, caused by the electrification of severe thunderstorms, occur when the electrical discharges of lightning rush upwards.
Creepy, ultra-detailed photo of lightning “sprite”
Bares one of nature’s least understood phenomena.
The Science Behind Sprites
According to NASA, these discharges create long filaments of plasma, or ionized gas, in the ionosphere, the ionized portion of Earth’s atmosphere that begins about 80 km (50 miles) above the Earth’s surface.
Sprites are very difficult to photograph because they are fleeting and often obscured by thick clouds. But Kaniansky was able to take a closer look at the phenomenon, telling Spaceweather.com: “The storm was about 320 km (200 miles) away, which gave me a good view of the atmosphere just above the cloud tops.”
Significance of the Image
According to Spaceweather.com, this image is “one of the most detailed images of these structures ever.”
Sprites were officially discovered in the early 1990s when NASA space shuttles took the first clear pictures of the phenomenon. But studying red sprites has proven difficult because they are short-lived.
Scientists now believe that the sprites may be partially caused by disturbances in the atmospheric plasma caused by small bodies such as meteorites, but the exact mechanism for this phenomenon is still unclear.
Sprites were also filmed on August 20 depicting lightning strikes caused by Hurricane Franklin passing over Puerto Rico.
Sprites are part of a group of phenomena known as short-lived light events (TLEs), which are all associated with lightning. Other short-term light phenomena include blue jets, which are more powerful and energetic versions of sprites, and frequency dips due to electromagnetic pulses (ELVES) or light emission and very low-frequency disturbances due to electromagnetic pulse sources, which are red light transient loops created by the emission of electromagnetic pulses (EMP) from lightning striking the ionosphere.
Other short-lived bright events are also very rare but have become easier to photograph thanks to advances in technology.
Source: Living Science