Thursday, April 28, 2016

Space Weather News For April 28, 2016

'The stars at night are big and bright . . . deep in the heart of Texas.'
Git Sum 5D visuals south of the Pecos. 


Last night, a photographer in Texas captured a magnificent display of sprites dancing atop a powerful thunderstorm near Dallas. Sprites are an exotic form of lightning that shoot up from thunderstorms, reaching toward space. The Texas display shows that sprite season is now underway in the northern hemisphere. Visit for more information and observing tips.

Above: Sprites over Texas on April 27, 2016. Photo credit: Kevin Palivec

 Palivec's photo shows that sprite season is now underway.

Because sprites are associated with thunderstorms, they tend to occur in late spring and summer.
Sprites are a true space weather phenomenon, inhabiting the upper reaches of Earth's atmosphere alongside noctilucent clouds, meteors, and some auroras. Some researchers believe they are linked to cosmic rays: subatomic particles from deep space striking the top of Earth's atmosphere produce secondary electrons that, in turn, could provide the spark that triggers sprites.

"Sprites develop in mid-air very high above Earth's surface, around 80 km altitude, growing in both directions, first down, then up," says explains lightning scientist Oscar van der Velde of the Technical University of Catalonia, Spain. "An individual sprite lasts only around 5-50 milliseconds but a sequence of them can be seen to 'dance' over storm fronts for a much longer period of time."

Although sprites have been seen for at least a century, most scientists did not believe they existed until after 1989 when sprites were photographed by cameras onboard the space shuttle. Now "sprite chasers" routinely photograph sprites from their own homes. Give it a try!

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