NASA officially calls upon the public to help it understand real-life sprites

NASA has announced its new citizen science project, and the space agency has called upon citizens to help it understand real-life sprites.

NASA officially calls upon the public to help it understand real-life sprites
Published Oct 28, 2022 5:17 AM CDT   |   Updated Thu, Nov 17 2022 7:31 AM CST
1 minute & 31 seconds read time

NASA is calling upon the public to send in photos of one of the least understood electrical phenomena that occurs in Earth's upper atmosphere.

NASA officially calls upon the public to help it understand real-life sprites 02

Above is an image of what the space agency calls Transient Luminous Events (TLEs), or more commonly referred to as sprites. These mysterious crimson figures occur between 31 and 56 miles in altitude at the higher regions of Earth's upper atmosphere, particularly above thunderstorms and produce large-scale electric discharges, similar to lightning.

Sometimes these bright flashes of light appear as red or orange, and are mistakenly called upper-atmospheric lightning. However, they aren't researchers have found they aren't as hot as true tropospheric lightning, lending to their mysteriousness. NASA has called upon citizens to send in any images of the phenomena so researchers can try and uncover the mystery behind their origin. The project is called "Spritacular".

NASA officially calls upon the public to help it understand real-life sprites 03

"People capture wonderful images of sprites, but they're shared sporadically over the internet and most of the scientific community is unaware of these captures. Spritacular will bridge this gap by creating the first crowdsourced database of sprites and other TLEs that is accessible and readily available for scientific research," said Dr. Burcu Kosar, a space physicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and Spritacular principal investigator.

NASA explains that sprites were discovered in 1989 when they were accidentally photographed. "Researchers from the University of Minnesota were testing a low-light TV camera for an upcoming rocket flight mission. By sheer accident, their camera captured the very first credible evidence for what we now call sprites," wrote NASA.

"It wasn't a very high resolution or fast camera - they just captured two luminous blobs above a nearby thunderstorm. The whole field was kickstarted because a camera was pointed in the right direction at the right time," Kosar said.

To read more on this story, or submit your image of sprites, check out this link here.

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Jak joined the TweakTown team in 2017 and has since reviewed 100s of new tech products and kept us informed daily on the latest science and space news. Jak's love for science, space, and technology, and, more specifically, PC gaming, began at 10 years old. It was the day his dad showed him how to play Age of Empires on an old Compaq PC. Ever since that day, Jak fell in love with games and the progression of the technology industry in all its forms. Instead of typical FPS, Jak holds a very special spot in his heart for RTS games.

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