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Home / Science / Photographer captures breathtaking images of rare and elusive weather phenomenon

Photographer captures breathtaking images of rare and elusive weather phenomenon



By Brian Lada Accu Weather meteorologist and staff writer
April 24, 2019, 10:48:16 AM EDT


(Photo / Paul Smith)

A vibrant sprite over Northern Oklahoma on April 17, 2019.

(Photo / Paul Smith)

Red sprites seen over central Kansas on April 21, 2019.

(Images / NASA / JSC)

A red sprite captures over Malaysia on April 30, 2012 , by astronaughts at the International Space Station.

(Image / NOAA)

An illustration of different kinds of transient luminous events (TLEs).

(Image / NASA / JSC)

A red sprite, photographed from the International Space Station.

The first color image of a sprite, taken from an aircraft on July 4, 1994.


A rare and elusive weather phenomenon was photographed last weekend in the central United States as severe thunderstorms swept across the region.

When lightning occurs, it usually dances through the clouds of a thunderstorm or strikes the ground, but when conditions are right, it may well extend beyond the thunderstorm itself. This type of lightning is known as a "sprite."

The red color of the sprites is believed to be caused by the interaction between the gases and nitrogen in the atmosphere, according to the University of Washington.

"Red sprites are short-lived, 80 miles (50 miles) up in the atmosphere." Long, vertical tendrils like a jellyfish, these electrical discharges can extend 20 to 30 kilometers into the atmosphere and lightning, "NASA reported.

To get their size into perspective, most commercial jets fly at a cruising altitude of 7 or 8 miles, just

Paul Smith on two occasions over the past week when severe thunderstorms rumbled over the central US Smith has been specializing in night photography since 2015 capturing mesmerizing images of the aurora, thunderstorms at night and red sprites.

Although sprites are bright and even larger than typical lightning bolts, they are seldom seen.

"Red s "NASA said on its website." NASA said on its website.

"The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration explains how they are most often imaged with highly sensitive cameras.

Sprites are so large and so much energy that cameras and instruments on the International Space Station (ISS), which orbits about 250 miles above the Earth's surface, are able to detect them. Lightning research conducted in the field

                        
                            
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For decades, they have reported the flashes of lightning high above thunderstorms, but their reports were discounted by the scientific community until the late 1980s.

In 1989, researchers at the University of Minnesota accidentally photographed sprites above a distant thunderstorm while using low-light cameras. Later that year, the existence of sprites was confirmed by flying aboard Space Shuttle Discovery.

According to NASA, in October 1989, Otha 'Skeet' Vaughan of NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center and scientists working on the Mesoscale Lightning Observation Experiment were able to verify the existence of STS -34. "

Further research was conducted on additional space missions from the ISS, which included the use of low-light cameras to photograph the phenomenon above thunderstorms around the globe.

 iss sprites Malaysia

A red sprite captures over Malaysia on April 30, 2012, by astronaughts on the International Space Station. (Images / NASA / JSC)

People hoping to capture the image of themselves. A low-light camera, such as a DSLR, a tripod, and the right perspective of a thunderstorm are needed to photograph a sprite.

"Viewers on the ground can photograph sprites by looking out at a thunderstorm in the distance, often looking out from high mountainsides over storms in lower plains," NASA explained.

However, it does not occur during every thunderstorm, so it may take several attempts to capture the elusive phenomonen in a photograph.

Anyone attempting to photograph lightning should do so with caution and from a safe distance. Most lightning strikes close to a thunderstorm, but some bolts can strike over 10 miles away without warning.

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