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knocker

A Sprite On Film

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A sprite glows red (inset) in this image captured by astronauts on the International Space Station on April 30, 2012. Credit: Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center

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High above the clouds during thunderstorms, some 50 miles above Earth a different kind of lightning dances. Bursts of red and blue light, known as "sprites," flash for a scant one thousandth of a second. They are often only visible to those in flight above a storm, and happen so quickly you might not even see it unless you chance to be looking directly at it. One hard-to-reach place that gets a good view of sprites is the International Space Station. On April 30, 2012, astronauts on the ISS captured the signature red flash of a sprite, offering the world and researchers a rare opportunity to observe one.

Indeed, sprites are so hard to catch on film, that pilots had claimed to see them for almost a century before scientists at the University of Minnesota accidentally caught one on camera in July of 1989. Since then, researchers aboard planes have occasionally snapped a shot, but it continues to be difficult to methodically film them. So a group of scientists, along with help from Japan's NHK television, sought them out regularly for two weeks in the summer of 2011.

http://www.nasa.gov/...ng-sprites.html

Edited by knocker
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CLOUDTOP PHENOMENON: For years, researchers have been studying red sprites and blue jets--strange forms of lightning that come out of the tops of clouds. On May 27th, a new form appeared. Pilot Cherdphong Visarathanonth was in the cockpit of an A320 at the airport in Bangkok, Thailand, when he saw a white tornado-like beam dancing atop this cumulonimbus cloud:

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"We could see the same phenomenon through both windshields even after the aircraft has pushing back in a different direction," says Visarathanonth. "I made a4 minute video in which we can see the phenomenon quickly moving and disappearing from time to time."

Brian Whittaker, another pilot with extensive sky watching experience, says, "I have seen Blue Jets and Sprites, but this is something totally different. Good luck figuring out what it is."

One reader suggests that it is a "jumping sundog." Lightning discharges in thunderclouds can temporarily change the electric field above the clouds where charged ice crystals were reflecting sunlight. The new electric field quickly re-orients the geometric crystals to a new orientation that reflects sunlight differently.Videos of the phenomenon show that it might be related to what Visarathanonth saw. http://www.spaceweather.com/

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