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According to Mike Kosch, an exciting new area of middle atmosphere research is the NRF-funded 'sprites' project. Sprites are optical gas dischargers in the atmosphere triggered by lightening. "Although reported on before, we have never seen them in Africa", says Mike.
SANSA is setting up a new, three-year experiment with a video camera system in a new optical station in a large, 6 m container at Sutherland. The intention is to make recordings during summer – the thunderstorm season in South Africa – by pointing the camera northwards to capture the elusive sprites that occur at high altitudes, well above the clouds. "Some lighting goes towards the ground and we need very large positive lightning strikes, which are quite rare."