Lightning Sprites



Sprites are a gas discharge phenomenon in the middle atmosphere (~40-100 km altitude) which are triggered by powerful lightning strikes in large thunderstorms, which generate a large electric field in the atmosphere. The phenomenon was predicted in 1925, first recorded in 1989, and first recorded in South Africa in 2016. Although almost never observed by eye, we have recorded hundreds of sprites from the Karoo desert using specialised night-vision TV cameras during the summer months when powerful thunderstorms are common in South Africa. This project is to record sprites at two different wavelengths (blue and red), calibrate the image data using the background stars, and from these data estimate the electron energy and electric field within the sprites themselves. The student will go on a field experiment to capture their own data. Computing skills are essential