Up in the atmosphere, high above thunderstorm clouds or cumulonimbus, sometimes mysterious electrical discharges occur known as sprites. They appear as bursts of red light and are usually found in clusters around 50–90 km above the surface of the earth. Unlike ordinary lightning that generates a continuous electric circuit as high energy electrons move from cloud to ground, sprites are fleeting in nature, often splashing for just a few milliseconds, and because they occur so high up in the atmosphere they are difficult to observe and even more difficult to photograph. In fact, sprites were not documented until 1989, when a scientist in Minnesota accidentally caught one on videotape. These pictures were captured by Marko Korosec, from Sezana in Slovenia, while he was following storms in Vivaro, Italy.
“Sprites are not easy to capture, and might occur just a few times in hours, but this storm system was very active this time,” Mr Marko said to The Daily Mail. “It was very difficult to get these shots as they are so rare and you simply have to be quite lucky that the storm will produce them. You might take hundreds of photos without capturing any of them,” he added.
Mr Marko was standing on the open corn fields when he happened to capture them on his camera.
Sprites are sometimes inaccurately called upper-atmospheric lightning. However, sprites are cold plasma phenomena that lack the hot channel temperatures of tropospheric lightning, so they are more akin to fluorescent tube discharges than to lightning discharges.
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