In the stormy skies of Hawaii in July 2017, stripes of red and blue lightning seemed to meet above the white light.
The camera on the Gemini North Telescope at the Gemini Observatory in Mauna Kea took pictures of the stunning multi-color light show. The National Optical Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory (NOIRLab) released this photo on Wednesday as its “image of the week.”
NOIRLab said that the lightning in the image “looks extraordinary and looks like a special effect.” It also released a zoomable version.
These colorful light lightning phenomena are aptly referred to as red sprites and blue jets. They are very tricky to capture on the camera: the flickers only last for a few tenths of a second and are difficult to see from the ground because they are usually obscured by thunderstorm clouds.
According to Peter Michaud, Education and Participation Manager of NOIRLab, astronomers near Hilo use telescope cameras to remotely track the severe weather brewing near the observatory. The camera system takes a picture of the sky every 30 seconds.
He told insiders: “We have seen some other examples of similar phenomena, but this is the best example of high-altitude lightning elves.”
Red white and blue
Regular white lightning differs from sprites and jet streams in several key ways. During a storm, regular lightning shoots between the charged air, clouds and the ground, while the elves and jets start from different places in the sky and then move into space. Their unique colors also make them unique.
The red elves are ultra-fast electrical impulses that travel through the upper part of the atmosphere-between 37 and 80 kilometers (23 to 49 miles) in the sky, and move into space. Some elves are in the shape of jellyfish, while others (such as the elves in the Gemini Observatory image) are vertical red beams with drooping tendrils. These are called carrot elves.
Stephen Hummel, a dark sky expert at the McDonald’s Observatory, took a spectacular photo of the sea elves on the ridge of Rock Mountain, Texas, in July last year (below).
Hummel told The Insider: “Elves usually look very short-lived, dim, gray structures. You need to look for them to find them, and sometimes I am not sure if I have actually seen elves until I confirm the camera lens. “then.
Davis Sentman, a professor of physics at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, coined the name “Sprite” for the phenomenon of red lightning. He said that the word “is well suited to describe their appearance” because the word is reminiscent of the lightning-like fairytale, short-lived nature. Sentman died in 2011.
At the same time, the blue jet is closer to the earth than the red jet. These cone discharges are also brighter than the elves, and they explode from above the clouds.
The location of Leiyun Peak can be 1 to 14 miles (22 kilometers) above the earth’s surface. The blue jets moved towards the sky until they reached an altitude of about 48 kilometers, and then they disappeared. These jets move at a speed of more than 22,300 mph (9.9 km/s).
You can see elves and jets from space
When conventional lightning strikes the ground, it tends to release positive electrical energy, which needs to be balanced by equal and oppositely charged energy elsewhere in the sky. Therefore, sprites and jets are the electric discharges that balance the equation-which is why these colorful lightning phenomena occur.
Hummel said: “The stronger the storm, the more lightning and the greater the possibility of Sprite.”
Sometimes, astronauts can see elves and jets from the International Space Station 402 kilometers (249 miles) from Earth.
Astronaut Andreas Morgensen of the European Space Agency first captured the elusive blue jet in a video in 2015. He spotted these jets while filming a storm in the Bay of Bengal, India. Later, scientists used these lenses as part of the 2017 study.
The study author wrote that Morganson’s observation was “the most spectacular of its kind.”
This article was originally published by Business Insider.
More information from Business Insider: