RED SPRITES OVER EUROPE: High above thunderstorms in eastern Europe, red sprites are dancing across the cloudtops, reaching up to the edge of space itself. Martin Popek of Nýdek, Czech republic, photographed these specimens on June 1st:
The transient forms were shooting up from a storm in Slovenia,” says Popek.
Sprites are a true space weather phenomenon, inhabiting the upper reaches of Earth’s atmosphere alongside noctilucent clouds, meteors, and auroras. Some researchers believe they are linked to cosmic rays: subatomic particles from deep space striking the top of Earth’s atmosphere produce secondary electrons that, in turn, provide the spark that triggers sprites. If this is true, then sprites could multiply in the years ahead as cosmic rays intensify.
Although sprites have been seen for at least a century, most scientists did not believe they existed until after 1989 when sprites were photographed by cameras onboard the space shuttle. Now “sprite chasers” routinely photograph sprites from their own homes. “I used up a Watec 910HX security camera with UFOCapture software to catch my sprites,” says Popek. Give it a try!