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Rare Sprite Lightning Caught on Film

Photographer captures pictures from plane

The first color image of sprite lightning (Courtesy of University of Alaska Fairbanks)

A photographer in Colorado has captured rare images of sprite lightning, hard-to-observe electrical bursts that occur high in the atmosphere, on a flight above Boulder. Jason Ahrns was flying on a special plane from NOAA when he used a dSLR and a window-mounted Gorilla Pod to catch pictures of the sprites, red-colored, split-second electrical bursts that occur at altitudes of about 40 to 45 miles.

While sprites aren't well-understood (the first photograph of one was captured in 1989) researchers believe that they're caused by a positively-charged lightning strike which reaches the ground, causing the top of the cloud it originated from to take on a negative charge.

To see Ahrns's sprite pictures, visit his website, or check out video of the sprites, taken at 10,000 frames-per-second, at Universe Today.

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