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News Link • Space Travel and Exploration

Astronauts photograph elusive red sprite

•, Russel McLendon
As their name suggests, "red sprites" are strange, ghostly phenomena that few humans have ever seen. They're so elusive for two main reasons: They appear in the upper atmosphere above thunderstorms, and they last for just a few milliseconds.
Despite these hurdles, however, astronauts aboard the International Space Station managed to capture the above photo of a red sprite pulsing upward from a thunderstorm over Myanmar. The image was taken April 30 by members of ISS Expedition 31, and posted online this week by NASA's Earth Observatory.
This image is the latest step in a relatively recent quest to document and demystify red sprites. While airplane pilots had periodically reported seeing these enigmatic outbursts for decades, the first photographic evidence didn't come until 1989, followed by more photos from NASA space shuttles over the next decade. Scientists dubbed them "sprites" in 1993, and now regularly record them as part of ongoing research into the secrets of thunderstorms. Still, a chance sighting like this is rare.

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