APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Comments and questions about the APOD on the main view screen.
User avatar
APOD Robot
Otto Posterman
Posts: 3663
Joined: Fri Dec 04, 2009 3:27 am

APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by APOD Robot » Wed May 22, 2013 4:12 am

Image Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora

Explanation: What's that in the sky? It is a rarely seen form of lightning confirmed only about 25 years ago: a red sprite. Recent research has shown that following a powerful positive cloud-to-ground lightning strike, red sprites may start as 100-meter balls of ionized air that shoot down from about 80-km high at 10 percent the speed of light and are quickly followed by a group of upward streaking ionized balls. The above image, taken a few days ago above central South Dakota, USA, captured a bright red sprite, and is a candidate for the first color image ever recorded of a sprite and aurora together. Distant storm clouds cross the bottom of the image, while streaks of colorful aurora are visible in the background. Red sprites take only a fraction of a second to occur and are best seen when powerful thunderstorms are visible from the side.

<< Previous APOD This Day in APOD Next APOD >>
[/b]

User avatar
Ann
4725 Å
Posts: 9734
Joined: Sat May 29, 2010 5:33 am

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by Ann » Wed May 22, 2013 4:33 am

Color Commentator

Boomer12k
:---[===] *
Posts: 2569
Joined: Sun Apr 22, 2007 12:07 am

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by Boomer12k » Wed May 22, 2013 4:56 am

Fascinating....nature's fireworks...such interesting phenomena...


:---[===] *

PhilT

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by PhilT » Wed May 22, 2013 8:35 am

Sounds like an explanation for many a UFO sighting

mister T
Ensign
Posts: 20
Joined: Sat Oct 08, 2011 12:01 pm

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by mister T » Wed May 22, 2013 10:50 am

Giant Plasma Space Lobster!!

Cover yourselves in lemon and butter!!

User avatar
Beyond
500 Gigaderps
Posts: 6889
Joined: Tue Aug 04, 2009 11:09 am
Location: BEYONDER LAND

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by Beyond » Wed May 22, 2013 11:13 am

Interesting comments, i Tink!
To find the Truth, you must go Beyond.

nstahl
Science Officer
Posts: 233
Joined: Mon Nov 29, 2004 4:08 am

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by nstahl » Wed May 22, 2013 2:08 pm

10% of the speed of light is an immense speed for anything with mass, which ionized air certainly has. And it would take a LOT of force to accelerate that air to that speed that fast.

If that kind of force is generated in our upper atmosphere over thunderstorms, that sounds like a dangerous place to be. And it sounds like some fascinating phenomenon is going on right over our heads that we don't understand at all well.

ta152h0
Schooled
Posts: 1346
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 12:46 am
Location: Auburn, Washington, USA

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by ta152h0 » Wed May 22, 2013 3:40 pm

Fred Flinstone hit a chunk of flint
Wolf Kotenberg

User avatar
Chris Peterson
Abominable Snowman
Posts: 14487
Joined: Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:13 pm
Location: Guffey, Colorado, USA

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by Chris Peterson » Wed May 22, 2013 5:04 pm

nstahl wrote:10% of the speed of light is an immense speed for anything with mass, which ionized air certainly has. And it would take a LOT of force to accelerate that air to that speed that fast.
Not so much, I think. When we talk about "ionized air" we're talking about extremely low atomic or molecular densities- only one atom out of millions or billions is actually in an ionized state. So the total mass involved is very small. We're essentially talking about a current flow, and as such, speeds of 0.1c don't seem that extraordinary. The force that propels the ions is created by an imbalanced charge, which would have almost no effect at all on a neutral body like a balloon or space plane in that region.
Chris

*****************************************
Chris L Peterson
Cloudbait Observatory
http://www.cloudbait.com

User avatar
neufer
Vacationer at Tralfamadore
Posts: 16220
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:57 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by neufer » Wed May 22, 2013 5:27 pm

nstahl wrote:
10% of the speed of light is an immense speed for anything with mass, which ionized air certainly has. And it would take a LOT of force to accelerate that air to that speed that fast.
  • I don't believe that the plasma, itself, is moving that fast.

    It is rather the excitations within the plasma that travel that fast. (Think of a tsunami, for instance.)
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_sprite wrote:
<<Sprites are sometimes inaccurately called upper-atmospheric lightning. However,sprites are cold plasma phenomena that lack the hot channel temperatures of tropospheric lightning, so they are more akin to fluorescent tube discharges than to lightning discharges.>>
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glow_discharge wrote: <<The simplest type of glow discharge is a direct-current glow discharge. In its simplest form, it consists of two electrodes in a cell held at low pressure (0.1–10 torr). The cell is typically filled with neon, but other gases can also be used. An electric potential of several hundred volts is applied between the two electrodes. A small fraction of the population of atoms within the cell is initially ionized through random processes (thermal collisions between atoms or with gamma rays, for example). The ions (which are positively charged) are driven towards the cathode by the electric potential, and the electrons are driven towards the anode by the same potential. The initial population of ions and electrons collides with other atoms, ionizing them. As long as the potential is maintained, a population of ions and electrons remains.

Some of the ions' kinetic energy is transferred to the cathode. This happens partially through the ions striking the cathode directly. The primary mechanism, however, is less direct. Ions strike the more numerous neutral gas atoms, transferring a portion of their energy to them. These neutral atoms then strike the cathode. Whichever species (ions or atoms) strike the cathode, collisions within the cathode redistribute this energy until a portion of the cathode is ejected, typically in the form of free atoms. This process is known as sputtering. Once free of the cathode, atoms move into the bulk of the glow discharge through drift and due to the energy they gained from sputtering. The atoms can then be excited by collisions with ions, electrons, or other atoms that have been previously excited by collisions. Once excited, atoms will lose their energy fairly quickly. Of the various ways that this energy can be lost, the most important is radiatively, meaning that a photon is released to carry the energy away.>>
Art Neuendorffer

jm3

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by jm3 » Wed May 22, 2013 6:20 pm

If I understand the caption right, the sprite is occurring high above a presumed powerful ground strike in the storm low on the horizon below. No wonder these are hard to see.

The symmetry is interesting as well, I wonder what would keep the ionized gas contained, even temporarily, in the repeating shapes.

User avatar
neufer
Vacationer at Tralfamadore
Posts: 16220
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:57 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by neufer » Wed May 22, 2013 7:01 pm

jm3 wrote:
I wonder what would keep the ionized gas contained, even temporarily, in the repeating shapes.
Even at these altitudes the mean free path is only ~3 millimeters.

Moving at ~300 m/s an atom/ion will engage in ~ 106 collisions in ~10 seconds
and thereby random walk only 103 mean free paths = ~3 meters.
Art Neuendorffer

jambo

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by jambo » Wed May 22, 2013 7:43 pm

Being from SD, I'm wondering more specifically where this fascinating picture was taken. And for me the image evokes a spider on a stick...

ta152h0
Schooled
Posts: 1346
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 12:46 am
Location: Auburn, Washington, USA

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by ta152h0 » Wed May 22, 2013 7:46 pm

looking at the Earth as a Nixie tube
Wolf Kotenberg

User avatar
MargaritaMc
Look to the Evenstar
Posts: 1836
Joined: Wed Jan 09, 2013 10:14 pm
Location: 28°16'7"N 16°36'20"W

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by MargaritaMc » Wed May 22, 2013 9:27 pm

jambo wrote:>>. And for me the image evokes a spider on a stick...
sprite.jpg
"In those rare moments of total quiet with a dark sky, I again feel the awe that struck me as a child. The feeling is utterly overwhelming as my mind races out across the stars. I feel peaceful and serene."
&mdash; Dr Debra M. Elmegreen, Fellow of the AAAS

User avatar
DavidLeodis
Perceptatron
Posts: 1169
Joined: Mon May 01, 2006 1:00 pm

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by DavidLeodis » Thu May 23, 2013 11:29 am

Could someone please inform me what the FMA in FMA Research stands for as it does not seem to be mentioned in the website brought up through the link and I have been unable to fairly readily find out. Based on the year dates seen that website also seems not to have been updated for many years.

The sprite reminds me of illustrations I've seen of the structure of a virus with its head and tail.

User avatar
bystander
Apathetic Retiree
Posts: 18758
Joined: Mon Aug 28, 2006 2:06 pm
Location: Oklahoma

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by bystander » Thu May 23, 2013 12:56 pm

DavidLeodis wrote:Could someone please inform me what the FMA in FMA Research stands for as it does not seem to be mentioned in the website brought up through the link and I have been unable to fairly readily find out.
Forensic Meteorology Associates :?:
Know the quiet place within your heart and touch the rainbow of possibility; be
alive to the gentle breeze of communication, and please stop being such a jerk.
— Garrison Keillor

User avatar
DavidLeodis
Perceptatron
Posts: 1169
Joined: Mon May 01, 2006 1:00 pm

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by DavidLeodis » Thu May 23, 2013 1:30 pm

bystander wrote:
DavidLeodis wrote:Could someone please inform me what the FMA in FMA Research stands for as it does not seem to be mentioned in the website brought up through the link and I have been unable to fairly readily find out.
Forensic Meteorology Associates :?:
Thank you for that bystander, which is appreciated. :)

User avatar
flash
Ensign
Posts: 60
Joined: Mon May 17, 2010 11:42 pm

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by flash » Thu May 23, 2013 3:43 pm

APOD Robot wrote:red sprites[/url] may start as 100-meter balls of ionized air that shoot down from about 80-km high at 10 percent the speed of light
As Chris and Art point out it is the ionization charge that moves at 0.1c, not the ionized air molecules themselves.

Consider the orientation of the linear features of the sprites: They appear to be angled downward along the surface of an inverted cone (apex up). This would seem to be in correlation with charges travelling downward starting from a point (the apex of the cone). Since the ions all have the same charge (positive? negative?) they mutually repel and so the charges fan out on the way down. Do we know anything about why the previously neutral atoms ionize in the first place? Or why the charges move the way they do? What happens to the opposite charges?

User avatar
DavidLeodis
Perceptatron
Posts: 1169
Joined: Mon May 01, 2006 1:00 pm

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by DavidLeodis » Thu May 23, 2013 7:38 pm

Nobody has queried this so I may be the only person that was surprised by the statement in the explanation that "Red sprites take only a fraction of a second to occur and are best seen when powerful thunderstorms are visible from the side." (my bold text). I've never realised that thunderstorms have a side, though I've probably also never given it any thought! :o

ta152h0
Schooled
Posts: 1346
Joined: Mon Aug 29, 2005 12:46 am
Location: Auburn, Washington, USA

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by ta152h0 » Thu May 23, 2013 7:45 pm

this phenomenon is getting analysed to death, just enjoy it ! Wait a minute, humans are curious creatures by nature, never mind.
Wolf Kotenberg

User avatar
neufer
Vacationer at Tralfamadore
Posts: 16220
Joined: Mon Jan 21, 2008 1:57 pm
Location: Alexandria, Virginia

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by neufer » Thu May 23, 2013 7:54 pm


DavidLeodis wrote:
I may be the only person that was surprised by the statement in the explanation that "Red sprites take only a fraction of a second to occur and are best seen when powerful thunderstorms are visible from the side." (my bold text). I've never realised that thunderstorms have a side, ... :o
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thunderstorm wrote:
<<The average thunderstorm has a 24 km diameter.>>
Art Neuendorffer (who went directly from "towering stage" to "dissipating stage.")

User avatar
Chris Peterson
Abominable Snowman
Posts: 14487
Joined: Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:13 pm
Location: Guffey, Colorado, USA

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by Chris Peterson » Thu May 23, 2013 7:55 pm

DavidLeodis wrote:Nobody has queried this so I may be the only person that was surprised by the statement in the explanation that "Red sprites take only a fraction of a second to occur and are best seen when powerful thunderstorms are visible from the side." (my bold text). I've never realised that thunderstorms have a side, though I've probably also never given it any thought! :o
Sprites always occur over thunderstorms. I catch them occasionally on my meteor camera- always near the horizon, under clear skies. These sprites are produced by thunderstorms that are a few hundred miles away- typically, over the horizon. If that isn't seeing a storm from the side, I don't know what is!
sprite_20110902_222108_001.jpg
You can see the horizon glow from the lightning that triggered the sprite, but not the lightning itself, or the thunderclouds. The sprites are in completely clear sky. These were only about 80 miles away.
You do not have the required permissions to view the files attached to this post.
Chris

*****************************************
Chris L Peterson
Cloudbait Observatory
http://www.cloudbait.com

User avatar
DavidLeodis
Perceptatron
Posts: 1169
Joined: Mon May 01, 2006 1:00 pm

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by DavidLeodis » Thu May 23, 2013 8:24 pm

Thanks neufer and Chris for your replies.

You state Chris "These sprites are produced by thunderstorms that are a few hundred miles away- typically, over the horizon. If that isn't seeing a storm from the side, I don't know what is!". I did not know, which is why I was trying to seek help which you have given but I did not need what seems to be the condescensive tone. :(

User avatar
Chris Peterson
Abominable Snowman
Posts: 14487
Joined: Wed Jan 31, 2007 11:13 pm
Location: Guffey, Colorado, USA

Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning with Aurora (2013 May 22)

Post by Chris Peterson » Thu May 23, 2013 8:32 pm

DavidLeodis wrote:Thanks neufer and Chris for your replies.

You state Chris "These sprites are produced by thunderstorms that are a few hundred miles away- typically, over the horizon. If that isn't seeing a storm from the side, I don't know what is!". I did not know, which is why I was trying to seek help which you have given but I did not need what seems to be the condescensive tone. :(
Sorry, there was no intent to be condescending at all. The sentence was intended to be purely exclamatory.
Chris

*****************************************
Chris L Peterson
Cloudbait Observatory
http://www.cloudbait.com