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Lightning into Space

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If you have a question about this talk, please contact Ilya Mandel.

The recent discovery of lightning into space and brief illuminations above thunderclouds have attracted the broadest interest by the public media. These illuminations are termed sprites, gigantic jets, elves, halos, and blue jets. Sprites for example, are reddish illuminations of the Earth’s atmosphere ranging from 40-80 km height and extending up to 50 km in width. Sprites are seen above the largest thunderstorms on planet Earth, and they are mainly initiated by super strong lightning flashes to the ground. Recent research on sprites focused on their impact on the Earth’s atmosphere and in particular on the possibility to be associated with natural particle accelerators above our heads. A sophisticated camera was just installed on the International Space Station on April 13th this year to unravel the mysteries of lightning. These novel phenomena demonstrate that the area above thunderstorms is one of the least well known ‘terra incognita’ of the Earth’s atmosphere and many more discoveries are expected in the years to come.

This talk is part of the Physics and Astronomy Colloquia series.

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