Sprites and Trolls at the Edge of Space


This is pretty cool [emphasis added]

We all know what comes out of the bottom of thunderclouds: lightning. But rarely do we see what comes out of the top. On August 10th, astronauts onboard the International Space Station were perfectly positioned to observe red sprites dancing atop a cluster of storms in Mexico. 

A few minutes after the astronauts saw the sprites, they spotted a related creature–a “Troll.” It jumped up to the left of the sprites: [see image above]

The photo shows their red forms reaching all the way from the thunderstorm below to a layer of green airglow some 100 km above Earth’s surface. This means sprites touch the edge of space, alongside auroras, meteors and noctilucent clouds. They are a true space weather phenomenon
“Trolls are also known as ‘secondary transient luminous events,” explains Oscar van der Velde, a member of the Lightning Research Group at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. “They are occasionally observed alongside big clusters of sprites, and they can reach 40-60 km high.”

Van der Velde says that sprites can actually pull Earth’s ionosphere down toward the thunderstorm. When the gap shrinks, and the local electric field intensifies, Trolls appear.


For the full story and more pictures visit SpaceWeather


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