In just one night, this Russian astronomer took pictures of almost all rare atmospheric phenomena, including sprites, elves, airglow, meteors, fireballs, northern lights over Irbit, Sverdlovsk Oblast, Russia.
Elves are electromagnetic pulses generated by lightning strikes. Elves is an acronym for Emission of Light and Very Low Frequency Perturbations Due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources. They look like doughnut-shaped flashes that spread laterally up to 186 miles. Atmospheric research indicates the brightness of elves is closely related to the peak current in a return lightning stroke (the movement of charges from the ground to the cloud), and that elves may be the most dominant type of TLEs in the atmosphere.
Red sprites appear high in the atmosphere, usually 25 to 55 miles above thunderstorms, with tendril-like structures that extend downward as far as 25 miles. They usually are associated with positively charged cloud-to-ground lightning strikes.
Atmospheric researchers have discovered that sprites are common above the decaying portion of large mesoscale convective systems but are rare above supercell thunderstorms.
Sprites are thought to occur due to ionization of the upper atmosphere above terrestrial lightning strikes. When a positively charged lightning bolt strikes the ground, it leaves the top of the thunderstorm negatively charged. When enough electric potential builds up, a discharge results in the form of a red sprite.
Airglow. Earth’s nightside sky is never completely dark. Long after sunset and even with no interference from artificial lights, moonlight or aurorae the sky has a soft glow.
To see it needs long dark adaptation. Eventually, when stars are almost blinding and the Milky Way is a bright convolved mass, the sky itself will be seen to be luminous and a hand held towards the heavens will be a black silhouette.
Unlike the aurora, the airglow is visible all over the globe. Though brightest 10-15 degrees above the horizon it fills the sky. It is strongly coloured yet it is without colour to our unaided eyes because its light is below their threshold of colour perception. From orbit it is a green bubble enclosing the world.
Look carefully and banded or uneven structure changing slowly over minutes might be visible. The bands can appear to cross the sky and converge towards two opposite points on the horizon in the same way that crepuscular and anticrepuscular rays do. The reason is the same, the glowing bands are parallel and perspective effects makes them appear to converge.
New transient luminous events are discovered every year, for a description of those pictured above and a full list of the ethereal phantoms visit the TLEs webpage of University of Albany-SUNY.
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