NASA captures red sprite, puts it in a jar

Sharif Sakr
S. Sakr|07.16.12

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NASA captures red sprite, puts it in a jar

Lightning doesn't always shoot downwards. Just occasionally, a thunderstorm will be accompanied by a red sprite: a huge, momentary electrical explosion that occurs around 50 miles high and fires thin tendrils many miles further up into the atmosphere. Sprites have been caught on camera before, but a fresh photo taken by arty astronauts on the ISS helps to show off their true scale. Captured accidentally during a timelapse recording, it reveals the bright lights of Myanmar and Malaysia down below, with a white flash of lightning inside a storm cloud and, directly above that, the six mile-wide crimson streak of the rare beast itself. Such a thing would never consent to being bottled up and examined, but somehow observers at the University of Alaska did manage to film one close-up at 1000 frames per second back in 1999 -- for now, their handiwork embedded after the break is as intimate as we can get.

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