Red Sprites Above the U.S. and Central America

Viewing from a point over northwest Mexico, astronauts aboard the International Space Station looked northeast and shot this unusual photograph of a red sprite above the white light of an active thunderstorm. In the top image, the sprite was 2,200 kilometers (1,400 miles) away, high over Missouri or Illinois; the lights of Dallas, Texas appear in the foreground. The sprite shoots up to the greenish airglow layer, near a rising moon. Two minutes and 58 seconds later, as the ISS was over the coastal Mexican resort of Acapulco, the crew documented another red sprite (lower image) over a brilliant white thundercloud and lightning discharge near the coast of El Salvador. The shorter distance to the storm—about 1,150 km (710 miles)—makes it somewhat easier to see details of the sprite. City lights are a diffuse yellow because they are shining through clouds.”

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