Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Unlocking the mystery behind lightning’s puzzling friend

07.06.2005


Giant red blobs, picket fences, upward branching carrots, and tentacled octopi --- these are just a few of the phrases used to describe sprites --- spectacular, eerie flashes of colored light high above the tops of powerful thunderstorms that can travel up to 50 miles high in the atmosphere.



Most researchers have long supported the theory that sprites are linked to major lightning charges. Still, some scientists believe that conditions high in the atmosphere, like meteoritic dust particles or gravity waves might also induce sprite formation.

Now, a study led by Steven Cummer of Duke University, Durham, N.C. and Walter Lyons of FMA Research, Inc., Fort Collins, Colo. has found more evidence that sprites are generated by major lightning strikes. They also found the total charge, as it moves from the cloud to the ground, and multiplied by that distance, known as the "lightning charge moment," is most critical in the sprite’’s development. The study appeared in the April 2005 issue of Journal of Geophysical Research---Space Physics.


During the summer of 2000, researchers from across the nation participated in the Severe Thunderstorm Electrification and Precipitation Study. While the primary goal was to study severe thunderstorms and their link to heavy rain and hail, scientists also gathered important data on lightning’s role in triggering events above thunderclouds, like sprites.

Armed with the aid of sophisticated instruments and sensors, Cummer collected information from three thunderstorm outbreaks across the central U.S. and compared the "lightning charge moment" in both sprite and non---sprite producing lightning.

"The idea was that if other factors contributed to lowering the electric field threshold for sprite initiation, they would probably not always be present and we would find that sprites occasionally form after just modest lightning strokes," said Cummer.

Simulations created with the help of NASA computer animations and other data showed that weak lightning strikes do not create sprites. They also found factors other than the cloud---to---ground charge transfer are generally not important ingredients in sprite development.

Sprites, not formally identified until 1989 when the Space Shuttle (STS---34) recorded flashes as it passed over a thunderstorm in northern Australia, are largely unpredictable and brief --- lasting only 3 to 10 milliseconds and inherently difficult to study. But, the technique used in this study also proved that "a single sensor can monitor moment change in lightning strikes over a very large area, providing a reasonable way of estimating how often sprites occur globally," said Cummer. Much research to date has instead relied on the strategic placement of multiple low light video cameras.

Lightning’s other cousins, including elves that bring a millisecond flash of light that fills the entire night sky within a 100 kilometer (62 mile) radius of the associated lightning strike --- are generating much interest because of their strong electric fields and electromagnetic pulses that may interact with the Earth’s ionosphere and magnetosphere.

Rob Gutro | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nasa.gov/vision/earth/environment/sprites.html
http://www.gsfc.nasa.gov

More articles from Physics and Astronomy:

nachricht When helium behaves like a black hole
22.03.2017 | University of Vermont

nachricht Astronomers hazard a ride in a 'drifting carousel' to understand pulsating stars
22.03.2017 | International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research

All articles from Physics and Astronomy >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Giant Magnetic Fields in the Universe

Astronomers from Bonn and Tautenburg in Thuringia (Germany) used the 100-m radio telescope at Effelsberg to observe several galaxy clusters. At the edges of these large accumulations of dark matter, stellar systems (galaxies), hot gas, and charged particles, they found magnetic fields that are exceptionally ordered over distances of many million light years. This makes them the most extended magnetic fields in the universe known so far.

The results will be published on March 22 in the journal „Astronomy & Astrophysics“.

Galaxy clusters are the largest gravitationally bound structures in the universe. With a typical extent of about 10 million light years, i.e. 100 times the...

Im Focus: Tracing down linear ubiquitination

Researchers at the Goethe University Frankfurt, together with partners from the University of Tübingen in Germany and Queen Mary University as well as Francis Crick Institute from London (UK) have developed a novel technology to decipher the secret ubiquitin code.

Ubiquitin is a small protein that can be linked to other cellular proteins, thereby controlling and modulating their functions. The attachment occurs in many...

Im Focus: Perovskite edges can be tuned for optoelectronic performance

Layered 2D material improves efficiency for solar cells and LEDs

In the eternal search for next generation high-efficiency solar cells and LEDs, scientists at Los Alamos National Laboratory and their partners are creating...

Im Focus: Polymer-coated silicon nanosheets as alternative to graphene: A perfect team for nanoelectronics

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are less stable. Now researchers at the Technical University of Munich (TUM) have, for the first time ever, produced a composite material combining silicon nanosheets and a polymer that is both UV-resistant and easy to process. This brings the scientists a significant step closer to industrial applications like flexible displays and photosensors.

Silicon nanosheets are thin, two-dimensional layers with exceptional optoelectronic properties very similar to those of graphene. Albeit, the nanosheets are...

Im Focus: Researchers Imitate Molecular Crowding in Cells

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to simulate these confined natural conditions in artificial vesicles for the first time. As reported in the academic journal Small, the results are offering better insight into the development of nanoreactors and artificial organelles.

Enzymes behave differently in a test tube compared with the molecular scrum of a living cell. Chemists from the University of Basel have now been able to...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

International Land Use Symposium ILUS 2017: Call for Abstracts and Registration open

20.03.2017 | Event News

CONNECT 2017: International congress on connective tissue

14.03.2017 | Event News

ICTM Conference: Turbine Construction between Big Data and Additive Manufacturing

07.03.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

Pulverizing electronic waste is green, clean -- and cold

22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

Astronomers hazard a ride in a 'drifting carousel' to understand pulsating stars

22.03.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

New gel-like coating beefs up the performance of lithium-sulfur batteries

22.03.2017 | Materials Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>