International Space Weather Camp 2016

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First ground-based observations of sprites over South Africa

on . Posted in SANSA Space Science News

The South African National Space Agency recently recorded the first images of Sprites from Sutherland on 11 January 2016. Triggered by lightning, Sprites are optical gas discharges from the top of convective thunderstorm clouds at an altitude of 50-100 km.

"Despite being easily visible, nobody has ever reported seeing spites over Southern Africa. We are extremely excited to have finally captured the first images of Sprites over South African skies," says Prof Michael Kosch, Chief Scientist at SANSA's Hermanus office in the Western Cape and the principle investigator on the Sprite project.

Using an NRF-funded night-vision TV camera the sightings were made possible from the South African Astronomical Observatory (SAAO) in Sutherland, one of the world's darkest astronomical sites. The image shows the first South African observation of a "jellyfish" sprite, initiated by a single lightning strike, approximately 300 km north-east of Sutherland.

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