Sprites, Jets, Elves, Gamma Rays and Antimatter

Update, July 15, 2018: I thought of this five-year-old post tonight when seeing this tweet:


No, this isn’t a pitch for the next Avengers movie.  It’s even more terrific.

Scientists have installed an instrument package called Firestation on the space station to try to better understand the things that come out of the tops of thunderstorms: red sprites, blue jets, blue elves, gamma rays and antimatter.

Lightning is apparently responsible for all of those things, including antimatter and gamma rays, and scientists would like to know how that happens. Apparently “Because Thor” isn’t a good enough explanation.

NASA Earth tweeted a video about Firestation and these upper atmosphere phenomena today:


Another update, September 17, 2018: Most Dickensian science story of 2018: Chinese scientists have found the sprites’ parents.

Featured image: Gunnar Ries zwo, CC BY-SA 2.0

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