APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

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APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by APOD Robot » Mon Feb 25, 2019 5:09 am

Image Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra

Explanation: What are those red filaments in the sky? It is a rarely seen form of lightning confirmed only about 30 years ago: red sprites. 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 featured image, taken just over a week ago in Kununurra, Western Australia, captured some red sprites while shooting a time-lapse sequence of a distant lightning storm. Pictured, green trees cover the foreground, dark mountains are seen on the horizon, ominous storm clouds hover over the distant land, while red sprites appear in front of stars far in the distance. Red sprites take only a fraction of a second to occur and are best seen when powerful thunderstorms are visible from the side.

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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by Nitpicker » Mon Feb 25, 2019 7:01 am

Great pic!

I saw a (sadly cropped) version of this in the news the other day, along with a bit more of the back story:

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-02-15/ ... d/10803300

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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by orin stepanek » Mon Feb 25, 2019 12:15 pm

Wow; looks like the sky's on fire! I have never saw that happen in my lifetime. :shock: 8-)
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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by neufer » Mon Feb 25, 2019 2:44 pm

Click to play embedded YouTube video.
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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by alcor » Mon Feb 25, 2019 3:25 pm

Aah! Ooh! I love this picture with the all the red sprites :D 8-) :D

I wish I would have the opportunity to see these red sprites. A very interesting phenomena. I suppose they are very hard to see from a city, because a) you need a camera (due to the short-lived phenomena) and b) the city lights svamps the faint red sprites.

Well, I have to confess that the photographer Ben Broady first noted it visually, as he tells to in the https://www.abc.net.au link above.
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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by DL MARTIN » Mon Feb 25, 2019 4:43 pm

Isn't this a meteorological topic, rather than astronomy?

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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by Tszabeau » Mon Feb 25, 2019 4:46 pm

Have we seen sprites on other planets?

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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by Tszabeau » Mon Feb 25, 2019 4:54 pm

Tszabeau wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 4:46 pm
Have we seen sprites on other planets?
Answered my own lazy question.

https://www.astrobio.net/alien-life/ext ... rites/amp/

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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by DL MARTIN » Mon Feb 25, 2019 5:01 pm

Thanks for enlightening me.

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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by Chris Peterson » Mon Feb 25, 2019 5:22 pm

DL MARTIN wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 4:43 pm
Isn't this a meteorological topic, rather than astronomy?
How is meteorology not reasonably seen as a subcategory of astronomy? With our exploration of other planets in our own solar system (including weather and climate phenomena on those planets), as well as our growing knowledge of thousands of exoplanets (and a developing understanding of the atmospheres of some of then), the lines between astronomy, geology, planetary science, meteorology, and biology are rapidly getting fuzzy.
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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by neufer » Mon Feb 25, 2019 6:19 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 5:22 pm
DL MARTIN wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 4:43 pm

Isn't this a meteorological topic, rather than astronomy?
How is meteorology not reasonably seen as a subcategory of astronomy? With our exploration of other planets in our own solar system (including weather and climate phenomena on those planets), as well as our growing knowledge of thousands of exoplanets (and a developing understanding of the atmospheres of some of then), the lines between astronomy, geology, planetary science, meteorology, and biology are rapidly getting fuzzy.
  • The lines between astronomy, geology, planetary science, and meteorology have always been fuzzy.
https://www.etymonline.com/word/fuzzy#etymonline_v_33249 wrote:
<<fuzzy (adj.) 1610s, "soft, spongy;" a dialectal word of uncertain origin, apparently from fuzz (n.) + -y (2), but perhaps an import from continental Germanic. Compare Low German fussig "weak, loose, spongy," Dutch voos "spongy." From 1713 as "covered with fuzz;" 1778 as "blurred;" and 1937 as "imprecise," with reference to thought, etc.>>
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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by Chris Peterson » Mon Feb 25, 2019 6:22 pm

neufer wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 6:19 pm
Chris Peterson wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 5:22 pm
DL MARTIN wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 4:43 pm

Isn't this a meteorological topic, rather than astronomy?
How is meteorology not reasonably seen as a subcategory of astronomy? With our exploration of other planets in our own solar system (including weather and climate phenomena on those planets), as well as our growing knowledge of thousands of exoplanets (and a developing understanding of the atmospheres of some of then), the lines between astronomy, geology, planetary science, meteorology, and biology are rapidly getting fuzzy.
  • The lines between astronomy, geology, planetary science, and meteorology have always been fuzzy.
Quite. But they are getting fuzzier all the time (as are the lines between many different branches of science).
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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by DL MARTIN » Mon Feb 25, 2019 8:29 pm

Then it's agreed that astronomy is a branch of history.

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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by florid_snow » Mon Feb 25, 2019 9:31 pm

I would like to defend the position that meteorology and astronomy (and history!) are different fields. Perhaps we are all trying to express the importance of the history of the separation of scientific fields. I am a meteorologist and I appreciate APOD's expression of the fuzziness between these fields, precisely because of the value that comes from clarifying their separation, historically and presently.

I mean, meteorology is so-named because the field is concerned with understanding when rain, hail, and other hydro-meteors will fall from heaven! Aristotle thought of meteorology as a subcategory of astronomy, and he was mostly wrong (which means he was a little bit right.) But the magnitude of the misunderstanding that western culture (and the rest of the world) had about the nature of the sky, "heaven", meteors and hailstones, etc., cannot be overstated.

Besides all that "revolutionary" stuff, Tycho Brahe's coordinated measurements were the first to show that comets must be much farther away than the upper atmosphere as previously assumed. Separating the church from science and heaven from the sky is an important story from the time, but it also means we've only had a few centuries to scientifically deal with the separation of scales from the upper atmosphere to outer-space. There, at the top of the atmosphere where red sprites occur, the boundary with space is quite fuzzy, and the boundary between the sciences is as well!

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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by DL MARTIN » Mon Feb 25, 2019 10:18 pm

If I find a flint arrowhead, I assume the ancient archer is not nearby. If I decipher a neutrino in Sudbury, I assume the generating entity is not in the mine. In other words, because one perceives astronomical evidence does not allow one to classify it a s current events. That is why I disregard the 'just over there ' ethos when describing things in the universe. Everything is 'ago' - a branch of history.

Leave the Starship nonsense to Hollywood.

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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by florid_snow » Mon Feb 25, 2019 10:43 pm

DL MARTIN wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 10:18 pm
If I find a flint arrowhead, I assume the ancient archer is not nearby. If I decipher a neutrino in Sudbury, I assume the generating entity is not in the mine. In other words, because one perceives astronomical evidence does not allow one to classify it a s current events. That is why I disregard the 'just over there ' ethos when describing things in the universe. Everything is 'ago' - a branch of history.

Leave the Starship nonsense to Hollywood.
I care deeply about my responsibilities as a meteorologist. And I have colleagues who are historians, and they care deeply about their field. Your opinion about conversational use of the terms is fine. Though I thought we were having a discussion more like... well, imagine a university budget meeting in which people are going to lose their jobs, a department has to be cut, and you roll up and say everything happened "ago" let's roll the astronomy department into the history department. And we would laugh and say haha yeah, we get it, you're technically right, but this issue is a little more sensitive to people like me whose livelihood depends on the regular defense of the importance of my science. I'm a scientist in the US, we really have to defend against this regularly. Do you see where I'm coming from?
Last edited by florid_snow on Mon Feb 25, 2019 11:36 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by Chris Peterson » Mon Feb 25, 2019 10:59 pm

florid_snow wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 9:31 pm
I would like to defend the position that meteorology and astronomy (and history!) are different fields.
Of course they are (well, history doesn't fit here simply because it's not a branch of science).

Meteorology is a subdiscipline of atmospheric and oceanic physics, which is also a subdiscipline of astronomy these days. It's not that the different sciences aren't different, it's just that as we make more and more connections about nature, the overlap between different disciplines becomes much greater. Today, there are people with meteorological training who are specialized in looking at weather on planets other than the Earth.
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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by florid_snow » Mon Feb 25, 2019 11:20 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 10:59 pm
florid_snow wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 9:31 pm
I would like to defend the position that meteorology and astronomy (and history!) are different fields.
Of course they are (well, history doesn't fit here simply because it's not a branch of science).

Meteorology is a subdiscipline of atmospheric and oceanic physics, which is also a subdiscipline of astronomy these days. It's not that the different sciences aren't different, it's just that as we make more and more connections about nature, the overlap between different disciplines becomes much greater. Today, there are people with meteorological training who are specialized in looking at weather on planets other than the Earth.
I do not like thinking of the shared foundations of the fields as meaning one is a sub-discipline of another. There is a practical way to define current discipline separations: by the way they are typically separated into departments at universities. This allows us to say meteorology is not a sub-discipline of atmospheric and oceanic physics. Meteorology is quasi-synonymous with atmospheric physics, and oceanography is its own discipline. Many departments used to be called "Department of Meteorology" but throughout the past few decades, we've all been transitioning to various forms of "Department of Atmospheric Science" to stress the importance of climatology and the overlap with fluid dynamics.

To your last point, I really wish there were more opportunities for people with meteorological training to study weather on planets other than the Earth. There really is not a lot of 2-way communication between (terrestrial) research meteorology and planetary atmosphere people, at a given university, they seem way more likely to be in Department of Physics and Astronomy than Department of Atmospheric Science, wouldn't you say? Though I recently saw an offer for a post-doc doing something like applying cumulus parameterizations from weather and climate models to a Titan atmospheric model, that looked pretty cool. Heard of any other recent such projects? I've heard good things about Penn State, and also CU Boulder, in terms of institutions where good collaborations like that are going on.
Last edited by florid_snow on Mon Feb 25, 2019 11:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by Chris Peterson » Mon Feb 25, 2019 11:24 pm

florid_snow wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 11:20 pm
Chris Peterson wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 10:59 pm
florid_snow wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 9:31 pm
I would like to defend the position that meteorology and astronomy (and history!) are different fields.
Of course they are (well, history doesn't fit here simply because it's not a branch of science).

Meteorology is a subdiscipline of atmospheric and oceanic physics, which is also a subdiscipline of astronomy these days. It's not that the different sciences aren't different, it's just that as we make more and more connections about nature, the overlap between different disciplines becomes much greater. Today, there are people with meteorological training who are specialized in looking at weather on planets other than the Earth.
I do not like thinking of the shared foundations of the fields as meaning one is a sub-discipline of another. There is a practical way to define current discipline separations: by the way they are typically separated into departments at universities. This allows us to say meteorology is not a sub-discipline of atmospheric and oceanic physics. Meteorology is quasi-synonymous with atmospheric physics, and oceanography is its own discipline. Many departments used to be called "Department of Meteorology" but throughout the past few decades, we've all been transitioning to various forms of "Department of Atmospheric Science" to stress the importance of climatology and the overlap with fluid dynamics.

To your last point, I really wish there were more opportunities for people with meteorological training to study weather on planets other than the Earth. There really is not a lot of 2-way communication between (terrestrial) research meteorology and planetary atmosphere people, at a given university, they seem way more likely to be in Department of Physics and Astronomy than Department of Atmospheric Science, wouldn't you say? I saw an offer recently for a post-doc doing something like applying cumulus parameterizations from weather and climate models to a Titan atmospheric model, though, that looked pretty cool. I've heard good things about Penn State, and also CU Boulder, in terms of collaboration between (terrestrial) research meteorology and the planetary atmosphere people.
As is usually the case, it is up to researchers themselves to forge interdisciplinary connections. The majority, perhaps all researchers who study weather and climate phenomena on other planets and moons were either conventionally trained meteorologists who transtitioned to this type of planetary science, or atmospheric physicists who did so. Of course, some of them now have students who are entering directly into those areas right out of university.
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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by florid_snow » Mon Feb 25, 2019 11:35 pm

Chris Peterson wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 11:24 pm
The majority, perhaps all researchers who study weather and climate phenomena on other planets and moons were either conventionally trained meteorologists who transtitioned to this type of planetary science, or atmospheric physicists who did so. Of course, some of them now have students who are entering directly into those areas right out of university.
That's the one-way communication from atmospheric science to astronomy. The major one-way communications in the past were the other direction. As planetary atmospheric science gets a little more respect from university administration, a little more visibility on campuses, I hope there will be more 2-way communication, and our departments exchange students more often!

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Re: APOD: Red Sprite Lightning over Kununurra (2019 Feb 25)

Post by neufer » Mon Feb 25, 2019 11:41 pm

Click to play embedded YouTube video.
Chris Peterson wrote:
Mon Feb 25, 2019 11:24 pm

As is usually the case, it is up to researchers themselves to forge interdisciplinary connections. The majority, perhaps all researchers who study weather and climate phenomena on other planets and moons were either conventionally trained meteorologists who transtitioned to this type of planetary science, or atmospheric physicists who did so. Of course, some of them now have students who are entering directly into those areas right out of university.
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