Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos!Each day a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe isfeatured, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

2019 February 25

Explanation: What are those red filaments in the sky?It is a rarely seen form of lightning confirmed only about 30 years ago: red sprites.Recent research has shown that following a powerful positivecloud-to-ground lightning strike,red sprites may start as 100-meter balls ofionizedair that shoot down from about80-km high at 10 percent the speed of light and arequickly followedby a group of upward streaking ionized balls.The featured image, taken just over a week ago inKununurra, Western Australia,captured some red sprites while shooting a time-lapse sequence of a distant lightning storm.Pictured, green trees cover the foreground, dark mountains are seen on the horizon, ominous storm clouds hover over the distant land, while red sprites appear in front of stars far in the distance. Red sprites take only a fraction of a second to occur and are best seen whenpowerful thunderstorms are visible from the side.

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Astronomy Picture of the Day

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