Incredible pic of Red Sprite Lightning

Discussion in 'Astronomy, Exobiology, & Cosmology' started by DaveC426913, Oct 7, 2023.

  1. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    This is a relatively newly discovered phenomenon, reported by eyewitnesses for a century but only
    first photographed (accidentally) in 1989.

    And this is just a low-rez sample ...

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    Click through! Click through!
    https://apod.nasa.gov/apod/ap231002.html
    Then click on the page image - once to open the image in the window, then again to see it full size.
     
    Last edited: Oct 7, 2023
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  3. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Beautiful picture. There seem to be several atmospheric electrical phenomena that remain to be explained satisfactorily. Ball lightning is another.
     
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  5. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

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    Is there not footage of ball lightening? Let me have a look and feedback.
     
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  7. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

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    Ok this is from the History Channel so although not foolproof it has some legs. I have no idea on the physics of these things.

     
  8. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

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    Just to complete the trio some St Elmo's fire.
     
  9. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

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    This is a personal channel so not as robust as a news Channel or History Channel.

     
  10. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Hmm, as a rule I don't watch YouTube videos and there's something fishy about the picture. Red sprites are a very high altitude phenomenon (ionosphere?) and extremely transient.
     
  11. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

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    All the videos are sped up too. I'll see if I can find something on National Geographic or News channel.
     
  12. foghorn Valued Senior Member

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    The ball lightning. Post #4.
    The first video showing the rail tracks ball lightning, at time mark 3:35 it was admitted the effects were CGI. I’m left wondering whether they meant the ball itself was CGI or was the 'sparking out' the CGI?
     
  13. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    A document, rather than a video, would be nice

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    .
     
  14. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

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    I will have a look around and feedback.
     
  15. foghorn Valued Senior Member

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    Lighting striking the ground and heating chemicals in the soil…
    There’s a good comic-picture depiction of the process of this idea on the linked page.
    It only theory still, but this is rather good.
    https://www.dos4ever.com/bolbliksem/bolbliksem.html
    Ps. The link courtesy of Mick West site.
     
  16. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Interesting and they may be onto something regarding mechanisms for ball lightning, but as it stands I have problems with it. There are cases of ball lightning at sea and even on aircraft. And I myself have observed it in the tank farm of an oil plant, where the ground was concrete, not soil. Though there was a bit of oil around.
     
  17. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

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  18. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Nice pictures, though not a lot by way of information. I see that, contrary to what I had thought, it can be possible to see them from the ground if one is sufficiently far away from the thunderstorm responsible. They seem to occur in the mesosphere, 30-50 miles up. From what I have read so far they are not "sparks", as the person quoted in one article says, but discharges more akin to those in a fluorescent tube. That's what you would expect, I think, since the ionosphere contains a lot of ionised air molecules. I notice they say the red colour comes from excited states of nitrogen. However when you look up aurora borealis, you don't find red due to nitrogen. I'll have to look into that some more.
     
  19. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    I have found a quite detailed paper investigating sprites here: https://digital.csic.es/bitstream/10261/222445/1/IAA_2020JGRD..12533170S.pdf

    Evidently the red colour is due to various emissions bands of the N2 molecule, which they describe with historical terminology from classical lab experiments with discharge tubes. Hence for instance they talk of the "first positive band" or the "second negative band" etc, these being references to whether the glow would be seen towards the anode or the cathode of a gas tube. (I had to spend a bit of time to research and understand this, as it was terminology unfamiliar to me from chemistry. Here's a link to how discharges in tubes are characterised:https://www.g3ynh.info/disch_tube/intro.html ) .

    What's clear is that these sprites are a glowing discharge of the type seen in "neon" tubes, rather than the explosive arc seen (and heard) at ground level in a lightning bolt. This makes sense when one appreciates how thin the air is at the altitudes where they occur.

    It seems the mechanism is as in a discharge tube: an electric field causes electrons and ions to be accelerated to velocities at which, when they collide with molecules of nitrogen, they are able to kick them into certain electronically excited states. These radiate when they return to the ground state, each emission band being due to a particular excited state, which can be identified from the wavelength range of the emission, using a spectrometer.

    Apparently too the electric field and/or the stream of electrons that initiates the sprite are triggered by a lightning discharge, the glow appearing a few milliseconds after the lightning flash.

    This is all rather fascinating, I must say. The mechanism of charge separation in thunderstorms is still poorly understood and this activity far above the cloud tops adds a further area of study.
     
    Last edited: Oct 10, 2023
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  20. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    Thanks for this thread, Dave. It has made me do some reading on the subject. Good science!
     
  21. DaveC426913 Valued Senior Member

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    I would be very interested in hearing your account of the incident.
     
  22. exchemist Valued Senior Member

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    This was a long time ago, 1982 or so, so my memory isn't very exact. I was in my office in the admin block of the oil plant when there was a thunderstorm. At one point there was a loud bang - evidently lightning had struck some piece of the tank farm across the yard. Anyway I looked out of the window, to make sure that was all it was. I then saw a globe, about a couple of feet across, not specially bright but glowing gently, moving slowly and silently along, just above the ground. I can't be sure whether it was touching either the ground, or a pipetrack or the brick wall of the bund, or else floating in the air above. The ground was concrete and wet obviously. There was also a bit of oil around (this was a lubricants plant and if one spilt a bit it was hard to get it all cleaned up), so maybe that could have contributed to some species that could be volatilised by lightning. The ball moved slowly for a few yards and then silently vanished. I'd been rather doubtful that ball lightning was real up to that point. Looking now at other people's reports of it, it seems my experience fits with that of others.
     
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  23. Pinball1970 Valued Senior Member

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