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Astronaut Captures Rare Image Of Mysterious Red Sprite From Space

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The red sprite was captured on camera at the end of October 2023. ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen documented the rare red sprite from the International Space Station. PHOTO BY NASA/SWNS 

A jaw-dropping image of a mysterious red light has been captured from space.

ESA astronaut Andreas Mogensen documented the rare red sprite from the International Space Station.

The Danish spaceman shot a phenomenon associated with thunderstorms called a Transient Luminous Event (TLE).

TLEs takes place above thunderclouds, between 40 and 80 kilometres over the ground. Scientists estimate the size of this red sprite as roughly 14 by 26 km (85301.84 feet) .

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Sprites are large-scale electric discharges that occur high above thunderstorm clouds, giving rise to a varied range of visual shapes flickering in the night sky. They are usually triggered by the discharges of positive lightning between an underlying thundercloud and the ground.

The red sprite picture builds upon the former Thor experiment from astronaut Andreas Mogensen first mission in 2015. PHOTO BY ESA/SWNS 

Mogensen managed to capture the sprite during his mission as part of the Thor-Davis experiment from Danish Technical University (DTU).

The Thor-Davis experiment investigates lightning in the upper atmosphere and how it might affect the concentration of greenhouse gases. It builds upon the former Thor experiment from Andreas’s first mission in 2015 when he also captured images of a different thunder event shooting up toward space, a blue jet.

Blue jets are enormous bursts of electrical discharge spiking upward from storm clouds in the upper atmosphere. They emerge from the electrically charged cores of thunderstorms and can reach heights of up to almost 50km (164042 feet) .

ESA says of the October sighting: “As the red sprites form above thunder clouds, they are not easily studied from the ground and are therefore mostly seen from space, including using the Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM) that sits on the outside of the Space Station. However, few sprites have been seen from the ground.”

The red sprite picture builds upon the former Thor experiment from astronaut Andreas Mogensen first mission in 2015. PHOTO BY ESA/SWNS 

Mogensen used a Davis camera, which works like the human eye, sensing a change in contrast instead of capturing an image like a regular camera.

The red sprite appears above a thundercloud for only a fraction of a second, which is why the event-based Davis camera is needed to catch the fast lightning.

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“These images taken by Andreas are fantastic. The Davis camera works well and gives us the high temporal resolution necessary to capture the quick processes in the lightning,” said Olivier Chanrion, lead scientist for this experiment and DTU Space senior researcher.

Produced in association with SWNS Talker

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