Astronaut Captures Image Of Mysterious “Red Sprite” High Above The Earth

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Astronaut Captures Image Of Mysterious 'Red Sprite' High Above The Earth

The rapid occurrence of a red sprite, lasting merely a millisecond, presents a challenge for scientists

A European Space Agency (ESA)astronaut recently photographed an uncommon occurrence termed a red sprite. Astronaut Andreas Mogensen captured these images using a high-resolution camera for the Thor-Davis experiment at Danish Technical University. The experiment aims to investigate upper atmospheric lightning and its implications on greenhouse gas levels, thereby influencing global warming. Scientists approximated the dimensions of the red sprite in the astronaut’s image to be around 14 by 26 kilometres (8.7 by 16.2 miles).

“These images taken by Andreas are fantastic,” Olivier Chanrion, lead scientist for this experiment and DTU Space senior researcher told BBC

“The Davis camera works well and gives us the high temporal resolution necessary to capture the quick processes in the lightning.”

What is a red sprite? 

A red sprite represents an extraordinary meteorological phenomenon categorized as a Transient Luminous Event (TLE). Occasionally dubbed red lightning, it occurs above thunderclouds at altitudes between 40 and 80 kilometres (25 – 50 miles) above the Earth’s surface. Unlike typical lightning bolts that descend from the clouds to the ground, a sprite behaves inversely, ascending into the atmosphere, resembling a form of reverse lightning.

The rapid occurrence of a red sprite, lasting merely a millisecond, presents a challenge for scientists aiming to capture and study them comprehensively. Because these phenomena materialize above thunderclouds, they pose difficulties for observation from Earth and are predominantly visible from space. Nonetheless, delving deeper into their characteristics can furnish significant insights into upper-atmospheric activities, offering valuable information for scientific understanding.

Rare sprite is not the only weather phenomenon that takes place, blue jets are another example of a Transient Luminous Event.

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