Mysterious weather phenomenon 'SPRITES' captured in detail by astronauts ISS

It is a rare glimpse into space weather that has never been captured on film before.

This amazing Nasa image shows a 'sprite', a flash of red and blue light which flashes for a thousandth of a second.

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.

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.

This is the first color image of a sprite ever captured. It was taken in 1994 by a NASA-sponsored project through the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) that flew special cameras on two aircraft flown out of Oklahoma City. Credit: NASA/UAF.

The basic understanding of sprites is that they are related to lightning, in which a neutrally charged cloud discharges some of the electricity to ground. Normally negative charge is carried from the cloud to the ground, but about one out of every ten times it's positive charge -- and that leaves the top of the cloud negatively charged. With this one in ten chance, the electric field above the cloud is "just right" to produce the sprite, an electrical discharge 50 miles above the thunderstorm.

Source: nasagov

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