Astronomy Picture of the Day
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November 11, 1995
Red Sprite Lightning
Credit: D. Sentman, G. Wescott,
U. Alaska Fairbanks,
Recently two new types of lightning have
red sprites and blue
jets. These atmospheric discharges occur very high in the
Earth's atmosphere - much higher than the
familiar form of
appear red in colour and go from the tops of clouds to as high as the
ionosphere - an ionized layer 90 kilometres above the Earth's surface.
They last only a small fraction of a second. The existence of red sprites
has been suggested previously, but
only in 1994 were aircraft flown above
massive thunderstorms with the high speed video equipment necessary to
verify these spectacular events. Scientists are unsure of the cause and
nature of red sprites.
Tomorrow's picture: Blue Jet Lightning
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