Subscribe to our free daily newsletters
  Space Travel News  




Subscribe to our free daily newsletters



A Sprightly Explanation For UFO Sightings

From their unique vantage point in Israel, the researchers are leading the world in the study of winter sprites. Prof. Price's new camera techniques, in particular, have revealed the sprites' circular structures, which are much like those of candles on a birthday cake.
by Staff Writers
Tel Aviv, Israel (SPX) Feb 25, 2009
In legend, sprites are trolls, elves and other spirits that dance high above our ozone layer. But scientists at Tel Aviv University have discovered that some very real "sprites" are zipping across the atmosphere as well, providing a possible explanation for those other legendary denizens of the skies, UFOs.

Thunderstorms, says Prof. Colin Price, head of the Geophysics and Planetary Sciences Department at Tel Aviv University, are the catalyst for a newly discovered natural phenomenon he calls "sprites." He and his colleagues are one of the leading teams in the world studying the phenomenon, and Prof. Price leads the study of "winter sprites" - those that appear only in the northern hemisphere's winter months.

"Sprites appear above most thunderstorms," explains Prof. Price, "but we didn't see them until recently. They are high in the sky and last for only a fraction of a second." While there is much debate over the cause or function of these mysterious flashes in the sky, they may, Prof. Price says, explain some bizarre reports of UFO sightings.

An Electrifying Discovery
Sprites are described as flashes high in the atmosphere, between 35 and 80 miles from the ground, much higher than the 7 to 10 miles where regular lightning bolts usually occur.

"Lightning from the thunderstorm excites the electric field above, producing a flash of light called a sprite," explains Prof. Price. "We now understand that only a specific type of lightning is the trigger that initiates sprites aloft."

Though sprites have existed for millions of years, they were first discovered and documented only by accident in 1989 when a researcher studying stars was calibrating a camera pointed at the distant atmosphere where sprites occur.

"Sprites, which only occur in conjunction with thunderstorms, never occur on their own, and are cousins to similar natural phenomenon dubbed by atmospheric electricians as 'elves,' 'goblins' and 'trolls,'" Prof. Price says. These flashes are so named because they appear to "dance" in the sky, which may explain some UFO sightings.

Candles on a Celestial Birthday Cake
Tel Aviv University's research team is one of the leading global groups studying the phenomenon. But Prof. Price and his students are now working in collaboration with other Israeli scientists from The Open University and The Hebrew University to take three-dimensional pictures of sprites to gain a better understanding of their structure.

Using remote-controlled roof-mounted cameras, the researchers are able to look at the thunderstorms that produce sprites when they are still over the Mediterranean Sea.

From their unique vantage point in Israel, the researchers are leading the world in the study of winter sprites. Prof. Price's new camera techniques, in particular, have revealed the sprites' circular structures, which are much like those of candles on a birthday cake.

Using triangulation, Prof. Price and his team have also been able to calculate the dimensions of the sprites' features. "The candles in the sprites are up to 15 miles high, with the cluster of candles 45 miles wide - it looks like a huge birthday celebration!"

Because of their high altitude, sprites may also have an impact on the chemistry of the Earth's ozone layer. "Since they are relatively infrequent, the global impact is likely small," says Prof. Price. "But we're researching that now."

Related Links
Tel Aviv University
Astronomy News from Skynightly.com



Memory Foam Mattress Review
Newsletters :: SpaceDaily :: SpaceWar :: TerraDaily :: Energy Daily
XML Feeds :: Space News :: Earth News :: War News :: Solar Energy News


From Earth To The Universe Project Launches Globally
Washington DC (SPX) Feb 25, 2009
A worldwide exhibition of large-scale astronomical images has launched in the United States under the banner of the International Year of Astronomy 2009 (IYA2009).







  • MIT Rocket Aims For Cheaper Nudges In Space
  • India's Cryogenic Engine Set For Integration With Rocket
  • Segment Of Ares I-X Test Rocket Arrives At Kennedy
  • Boeing Submits Proposals For Ares V Rocket Design Support

  • Kepler One Step Closer To Launch
  • DPRK To Test-Fire Satellite
  • South Korea Warns North Satellite Launch Would Breach UN Order
  • New Developments Across Arianespace's Family Of Commercial Launch Vehicles

  • NASA Defers Setting Next Shuttle Launch Date
  • Shuttle Flight Readiness Review Still On Track For Feb 20
  • NASA again postpones Discovery launch
  • Discovery Facing More Delays

  • Second ATV Named After Johannes Kepler
  • Russian supply craft arrives at space station: agency
  • Satellite collision poses 'small' risk to ISS: NASA
  • Happy Birthday, Columbus!

  • Sweet Potato Takes A Ride On Space Shuttle
  • Mosquito Survives In Outer Space
  • Climbing Into Space By The Rope
  • MDA Plays Significant Role In Planning Future Global Space Explorations

  • China Plans To Launch Third Ocean Survey Satellite In 2010
  • Satellite Collision Not To Delay China's Space Program
  • China plans own satellite navigation system by 2015: state media
  • Fengyun-3A Weather Satellite Begins Weather Monitoring

  • U.S., Chinese scientists build nanorobot
  • NASA And Caltech Test Steep-Terrain Rover
  • NASA And Caltech Test Steep-Terrain Rover
  • ASI Chaos Small Robot To Participate In Series Of Exercises

  • Phoenix Mars Lander Team Wins 2009 Swigert Award
  • Dawn Spacecraft View Of Mars
  • As Dawn Approaches Mars, PSI Scientists Gear Up For GRaND Tests
  • NASA Spacecraft Falling For Mars

  • The content herein, unless otherwise known to be public domain, are Copyright Space.TV Corporation. AFP and UPI Wire Stories are copyright Agence France-Presse and United Press International. ESA Portal Reports are copyright European Space Agency. All NASA sourced material is public domain. Additional copyrights may apply in whole or part to other bona fide parties. Advertising does not imply endorsement, agreement or approval of any opinions, statements or information provided by Space.TV Corp on any Web page published or hosted by Space.TV Corp. Privacy Statement