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The photographer captures amazing images of rare and elusive weather phenomena

April 24, 2019 By Brian Lada AccuWeather meteorologist and staff author April 24, 2019, 10:48:16 EDT Share: AP Photo / Garret Fischer (Photo / Paul Smith) A lively booze across northern Oklahoma on April 17, 2019 (Photo / Paul Smith) Red sprites are reviewed over downtown Kansas on April 21, 2019. (Photos / NASA / JSC) A red spiral catch over Malaysia on April 30, 2012, by astronauts on the international space station. (Image / NOAA) An illustration of different types of transient light events (TLE). (Image / NASA / JSC) A red liquor, photographed from the International Space Station. The first color image of a sprite, taken from an aircraft on July 4, 1994. A rare and elusive weather phenomenon was photographed last weekend in central United States as severe thunderstorms swept across the region. When the flash occurs, it usually dances either through the thunderstorm clouds or strikes the ground, but when the conditions are right, a certain type of lightning bolt can extend far beyond the thunder itself. This type of flash is known as a "sprite". The red color of sprites is believed to be caused by the interaction of sprites and nitrogen in the atmosphere, according to the University of Washington. That is why they are also known as "red sprites". "Red spriters are short-lived red flashes that occur about 80 kilometers (50 miles) up in the atmosphere. With long vertical tendrils as a jellyfish, these electric discharges can range from 20 to 30 kilometers…

By Brian Lada AccuWeather meteorologist and staff author
April 24, 2019, 10:48:16 EDT

(Photo / Paul Smith)

A lively booze across northern Oklahoma on April 17, 2019

(Photo / Paul Smith)

Red sprites are reviewed over downtown Kansas on April 21, 2019.

(Photos / NASA / JSC)

A red spiral catch over Malaysia on April 30, 2012, by astronauts on the international space station.

(Image / NOAA)

An illustration of different types of transient light events (TLE).

(Image / NASA / JSC)

A red liquor, photographed from the International Space Station.

The first color image of a sprite, taken from an aircraft on July 4, 1994.

A rare and elusive weather phenomenon was photographed last weekend in central United States as severe thunderstorms swept across the region.

When the flash occurs, it usually dances either through the thunderstorm clouds or strikes the ground, but when the conditions are right, a certain type of lightning bolt can extend far beyond the thunder itself. This type of flash is known as a “sprite”.

The red color of sprites is believed to be caused by the interaction of sprites and nitrogen in the atmosphere, according to the University of Washington. That is why they are also known as “red sprites”.

“Red spriters are short-lived red flashes that occur about 80 kilometers (50 miles) up in the atmosphere. With long vertical tendrils as a jellyfish, these electric discharges can range from 20 to 30 kilometers up into the atmosphere and are linked to thunderstorms and lightning strike, “says NASA.

To put their size in perspective, most commercial jets fly at a cross height of about 7 or 8 miles, only part of the height of each sprite is in the atmosphere.

This rare phenomenon was captured by nature photographer Paul Smith on two occasions over the past week when severe thunderstorms stumbled across the central American blacksmith specializing in night photography since 2015

“Although sprites are bright and significantly larger than typical lightnings, They are rarely seen.

“Red’s prites are hard to observe because they last for only a few milliseconds and occur over thunderstorms – which means they are usually blocked from the view on the ground by the very clouds that produce them, NASA said on their site. .

“They are rarely seen with the human eye, so they are most often depicted with highly sensitive cameras,” explains the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in an article exploring various types of lightning strikes.

Sprites are so large and energized that cameras and instruments on the International Space Station (ISS), which revolve about 250 miles above the Earth’s surface, can detect them. Lightning research carried out in space originally helped researchers to confirm sprite’s presence 30 years ago.


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For decades, pilots had reported large flashes of light that were high above thunderstorms, but their reports were largely discussed by the scientific community until the late 1980s.

In 1989, researchers at the University of Minnesota accidentally photographed sprites over a distant thunderstorm while using low-light cameras. Later that year, the presence of sprites of instruments flying on board Space Shuttle Discovery was confirmed.

According to NASA: “In October 1989, Otha & # 39; Skeet & # 39; Vaughan from NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center and researchers working with Mesoscale Lightning Observation Experiments were able to verify the presence of these electric discharges with their instrument on space shuttle STS -34. “

Further research was carried out on additional space mission missions and from the ISS, involving the use of low-light cameras to photograph the phenomenon above thunderstorms around the world.

 published sprites Malaysia

A red liquor catches over Malaysia on April 30, 2012, by astronauts at the International Space Station. (Pictures / NASA / JSC)

People who hope to capture a picture of sprites for themselves need the right equipment and a little luck. A low-light camera, like a DSLR, a tripod, and the right perspective of thunderstorms is needed to photograph a liquor.

“Seare on the ground can photograph sprites by looking at a thunderstorm at a distance, often looking out from high mountainsides over storms in lower plains,” NASA explains.

But sprites do not occur during every thunderstorm, so it can take several attempts to capture that addictive phenomenon on a photograph.

Anyone who tries to photograph flash should do so with caution and from a safe distance so as not to be in danger of being exposed to lighting. Most lightning strikes a thunderstorm, but some bolts can hit over 10 miles without warning.

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