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Location: UFOUpDatesList.Com > 1999 > Apr > Apr 1

Sprites and UFOs

From: Nick Balaskas <nikolaos@YorkU.CA>
Date: Wed, 31 Mar 1999 14:48:24 -0500 (Eastern Standard Time)
Fwd Date: Thu, 01 Apr 1999 17:23:34 -0500
Subject: Sprites and UFOs

Hi everyone.

In recent years science has accepted ball lightning as a real
natural phenomena and even rocks falling from the sky (and
possibly from Mars too) as fact. More recently, certain red
lights observed in the sky, often by farmers and pilots, are now
also accepted as real and known as "red sprites". Below is an
article which shows just how frequent these red sprites are.

In an earlier post to UFO UpDates in March 1997, I suggested
that red sprites, the related "blue jets", the flying saucer
shaped "ELVES" and other similar natural phenomena may even
account for some of the unusual UFO sightings made from the
Space Shuttle while flying over the Earth's nightside.

Nick Balaskas


March 30, 1999
AGU Contact: Harvey Leifert
(202) 939-3212 hleifert@agu.org

Joint release with the University of Massachusetts
UMass Contact: Elizabeth Luciano - (413) 545-2989 -

Radio signals help scientists trace lightning-associated

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- For the first time, engineers and scientists
have a reliable estimate of the number of "sprites" spawned by a
single thunderstorm. Sprites, luminous red glows that are the
high-altitude companions of some lightning strikes, are the
focus of a new study by Steven Reising of the University of
Massachusetts and Umran Inan and Timothy Bell of Stanford
University in California. The team's findings appear in the
April 1 issue of Geophysical Research Letters (GRL), published
by the American Geophysical Union. The research was funded by
NASA, the U.S. Air Force, and the National Science Foundation.

Sprites accompany roughly one in every 200 lightning strikes.
Studied primarily since 1994, they tower up to 55 miles above
thunderclouds, occurring simultaneously with lightning strikes.
Sprites can be seen with the naked eye, sometimes from as far
away as 400 miles. They are electrical phenomena that appear
above thunderclouds, reaching the lower ionosphere. These
striated, glowing ribbons appear at several-minute intervals
above all the major landmasses of the Earth, according to

"I really enjoy this field because it's so newly discovered,"
said Reising."Sprites only began to be studied in detail about
five years ago. It's remarkable that a phenomenon that's existed
during all of human history essentially went unnoticed for such
a long time." He added that for many decades, airline pilots
reported seeing sprites, but were met with skepticism. "The
pilots were vindicated," he said. Reising, an engineering
professor who works with the University of Massachusetts
Microwave Remote Sensing Laboratory, is embarking on an
extension of the research using new portable radars to study the
interior structure of clouds.

In the GRL paper, the researchers focus on a thunderstorm that
occurred on August 1, 1996, in western Kansas, above which 98
sprites were observed in a 90-minute period. The team recorded
the sprites on videotape, along with the radio signals emitted
by each lightning strike. For each visible sprite, they examined
the corresponding radio wave measurements, using custom-designed
antennas and receivers. Researchers found that the lightning
strikes that produce sprites also tend to carry a distinctive
radio signature. The radio signals the team "read" were emitted
by the lightning itself, rather than by its companion sprite.
The information gleaned in the study may have a bearing on
climate monitoring and atmospheric chemistry, Reising said.

"This marks the first time that independent measurements not
requiring video have been used to estimate the number of sprites
produced by a single thunderstorm," said Reising. A typical
lightning strike occurs in one-tenth of a millisecond, but those
associated with sprites emit a much longer-lived electrical
current. "These electrical currents last for at least several
milliseconds. In a relative sense, that's quite a long period of
time, and radio measurements can easily tell the difference. We
can't rely on video alone to count all the sprites, because many
times, sprites are visually blocked by the clouds," he said.
Also, it would be nearly impossible, and extremely costly, to
video-monitor every thunderstorm in the hemisphere, or around
the world.

Sprites do not interfere with spacecraft launches, aircraft, or
telecommunications satellites, Reising said. However, there is
some concern in the scientific community regarding chemical
changes that sprites could potentially produce in the
atmosphere. But in order to address that issue, scientists first
need a reliable estimate of how many sprites actually occur.
Another application of the same lightning monitoring technique
would be the monitoring of rainfall in remote areas.

"Using four relatively low-cost receivers, you can count the
number of lightning strikes and sprites in the Western
hemisphere, 24 hours a day, and at very low cost. A storm in
Brazil could be monitored by stations in California and
Antarctica," said Reising. "You can do this from 12,000
kilometers away--a quarter of the way around the world."

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