Researchers at Duke Universitys Pratt School of Engineering have captured the best images ever produced of "sprites" -- mysterious flashes of light resembling giant undulating jellyfish that can occur above strong thunderstorms -- using a high-speed camera that recorded thousands of video frames a second.
The researchers said their findings could lead to a better understanding of the physics and chemistry of this fleeting, still-unexplained lightning phenomenon. They recorded and analyzed video of sprites associated with powerful thunderstorms occurring over the Great Plains during the summer of 2005. Their findings are scheduled to appear online in Geophysical Research Letters on Feb. 22. The research was supported by the National Science Foundation.
"By analyzing the high-speed images in sequence, weve been able to clearly define, for the first time, the processes by which sprites develop and what happens inside of them," said Steven Cummer, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at Dukes Pratt School. "This understanding of sprite structure is a necessary step to further elucidate sprite dynamics and their possible effects on the upper atmosphere."
Kendall Morgan | EurekAlert!
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