Rare Weather Phenomenon
It is not every day you get to capture footage of some new or unusual weather phenomenon, and Red sprites are just one of them. How many times have you come across a video of jellyfish-shaped streaks in the sky? They are called Red Sprites and are considered to be one of the rarest phenomenon—or something that is most elusive to the human eye.
So what are they? What causes them?
Historical perspective of Red sprites
Red sprites or blue jets are flashes of lights that takes place above thunderstorms. Usually, they are connected with regular lightning in thunderclouds below.
The first successful photograph of Red sprites dated back to 1989. From then on, they have been seen from the space shuttle, the ISS and various aircraft. They are usually approximately 50 miles high up in the atmosphere. Despite this, Red sprites remain elusive and mysterious. Whenever they appear, they flash only for a matter of seconds. This leaves scientists with little or no time to gather information about them.
What they are and how they are formed?
Scientists have had some difficulty in analyzing Red sprites. New technologies and recent sightings have given scientists fresh ideas about what they are and from where they form. Recent footage from the International Space Station (ISS) taken by Andreas Mogensen, a European Astronaut in 2015. This plus with another sighting indicates that they occur with local thunderstorms.
It is believed Red sprites are caused by a sporadic but strong form of lightning known as “positive lightning.” Most
lightning that occurs from cloud to ground possesses a negative electric charge. In this case, it is different with positive lightning which consists of positive charge. Positive lightning and its positive charge are just below five percent of lightning. But it has enormous power that is ten times stronger than negative lightning.
The immense power of the lightning is so extreme that it breaks apart molecules within the atmosphere into ions. After that forming a cold plasma cloud that can stretch across a radius of ten miles.
The red color possessed by Sprites likely comes from these molecules-smashing ions in the air. While functioning the same way like the Aurora, the charged particles elicit hydrogen, nitrogen, and oxygen. The gases then settle down and later release that energy. Some end up in the form of pretty colors that are known as Red sprites.
Red sprites deciphered
The findings of Andreas Mogensen has been published by the National Space Institute of Denmark. Mogensen documented 245 blue flashes in his 160-second video of a thunderstorm right above the Bay of Bengal.
The findings have enabled researchers to investigate these intriguing thunderstorms in more precise and advanced details. The Mogensen’s footage has been running in an ESA video and is now made public. This is for interested scientists to explore and study the Red sprites phenomenon, which is sometimes called blue jets, elves or pixies.
Resource: https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/main/index.html, http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Human_Spaceflight/Astronauts/Andreas_Mogensen, https://www.space.com/15139-northern-lights-auroras-earth-facts-sdcmp.html, http://www.esa.int/spaceinvideos/Videos/2016/04/Red_sprites_and_blue_jets
Image Resource: Featured Image Source https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Lightning_sprites.jpg, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Red_sprite_lightning_seen_from_ISS_(ISS031-E-010712).jpg, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Midsummer_Night_Brings_Sprites.jpg