The hundred year hunt for the red sprite

General interest seminar

The hundred year hunt for the red sprite

Event details

Red sprites are upper atmospheric optical phenomenon associated with thunderstorms that have recently been only documented using low level television. The first images of a sprite were taken in 1989 and from 1990 to 1994 the space shuttle obtained twenty more images. Despite nearly a century of anecdotal reports from airline pilots, most scientists didn't really believe in sprites until the first images were captured on high-speed video.

The Hundred Year Hunt For The Red Sprite is a 42 minute film which documents one of the most unexpected scientific findings in the atmosphere during the late 20th century. For over a century, people, including well respected scientists, had reported seeing strange lights in the night sky about thunderstorms - and they were. But it remained for a “happy accident” in 1989 when the first such event was captured on a low-light camera’s video tape. One researcher exclaimed it was as if Biology had just suddenly discovered a new human body part. Since then, an entire “zoo” of luminous creatures have been found in the thin air above thunderstorms. And the discoveries are still being made. This program shows how the public can become engaged in the search for new thunderstorm related electrical phenomena. This film also discusses aspects of astronomy, space science and meteorology. 

Tea and Doughnuts supplied

Further information

Our General Interest Seminars are an opportunity for distinguished speakers to present new research in physics and related areas. The material presented is suitable for undergraduate level upwards and all members of the School are welcome to attend..

Find out more about General interest seminars.