A night sky is known to offer spectacular sights for those willing to look up. From comets and meteor showers to planetary alignments, the activity happening up above brings together novice skywatchers, scientists, and artists to contemplate age-old mysteries. During a recent adventure, storm chaser, and photographer, Michael from Science Out There set out to capture glowing sprites.
“Usually sprites are quite dim and few of them are visible to the eye. So to see them in spite of the glow of twilight meant something extraordinary was going on,” Micahel shares in his video.
While Michael originally had intentions of documenting a storm in Kansas, failed thunder led him up to Colorado where he discovered these jelly-fish sprites.
“Sprites can be described as lightning discharges between the earth and the edge of space,” Michael mentions.
Unlike the thunder we typically see during a storm, sprites are not entirely from this realm. Earthly sky activity typically occurs in the troposphere, which is about 4 to 12 miles above the ground. Celestial phenomena like these sprites happen in the mesosphere which can be up to 50 miles up high.
The phenomena regarding sprites typically occur when cloud to ground lightning occurs during a powerful thunderstorm. In a sense, these flashes of light bridge the earthly world with the celestial.
In his video, Michael shares applicable tips for astrophotographers hoping to capture one of these events. Most photographers advise the necessity of a completely dark sky when snapping images.
However, Michael shares his approach using “an extraction technique to delete everything in the scene that isn’t part of the sprite event.” This allowed him to produce breathtaking images without depending on how bright or dim it would be.
“Sprite plus stuff, minus stuff, is just the sprite itself with no other distractions. Doing so reveals incredible detail and structure,” Michael shares as his equation when editing his photos.
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