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A New Dimension has been added to Meteorology in the last 20 years.Sprites, A fresh and newly found phenomena, hitherto unknown to us , was discovered as early as 1989.And was systematically imaged and studies carried out only after the satellites were able to locate the sprites. The first color image of one wasn’t taken until 1994.
An example of how energy can be exchanged between lower and higher regions of Earth’s atmosphere,
Back on April 30, Expedition 31 astronauts aboard the ISS captured this photo of a red sprite hovering above a bright flash of lightning over Myanmar.
Although the appearance of bright high-altitude flashes above thunderstorms have been reported by pilots for nearly a century, it wasn’t until 1989 that a sprite was captured on camera —and in 1994 a clear study picture was taken...
So-named because of their elusive nature, sprites appear as several clusters of red tendrils above a lighting flash followed by a breakup into smaller streaks, often extending as high as 55 miles (90 km) into the atmosphere. The brightest region of a sprite is typically seen at altitudes of 40-45 miles (65-75 km).
Because they occur above storms, only last for a thousandth of a second and emit light in the red portion of the visible spectrum (to which our eyes are the least sensitive) studying sprites has been notoriously difficult for atmospheric scientists. Space Station residents may get great views but they have lots of other things to do in the course of their day besides sprite hunting! Luckily, a team of scientists were able to capture some unprecedented videos of sprites from airplanes in the summer of 2011, using high-speed cameras and help from Japan’s NHK television.
Based on the latest research, it’s suggested that sprites form as a result of a positive electrical charge within a lightning strike that reaches the ground, which leaves the top of the cloud negatively charged — a one-in-ten chance that then makes conditions above the cloud “just right” for a sprite to form higher in the atmosphere.
“Seeing these are spectacular,” said Hans C. Stenbaek-Nielsen, a geophysicist at the University of Alaska in Fairbanks, Alaska, where much sprite research has been conducted. “But we need the movies, because not only are they so fast that you could blink and miss them, but they emit most of their light in red, where the human eye is relatively blind.”
Image from Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center,nset image: the first color image of a sprite (NASA/UAF.) Video: NHK.