Timelapse: Sprites, Gravity Waves and Airglow

Article written: 4 Sep , 2014
Updated: 23 Dec , 2015

Look! Fast! Sprite lightning occurs only at high altitudes above thunderstorms, only last for a thousandth of a second and emit light in the red portion of the visible spectrum, so they are really difficult to see. But one of our favorite astrophotographers and timelapse artists, Randy Halverson captured sprites during a recent thunderstorm in South Dakota. But wait, there’s more!

In his timelapse video, above, you’ll also see some faint aurora as well as green airglow being rippled by gravity waves.

See some imagery from the storm, below:

More sprites with airglow and gravity waves over South Dakota on August 20, 2014. Credit and copyright: Randy Halverson.

More sprites with airglow and gravity waves over South Dakota on August 20, 2014. Credit and copyright: Randy Halverson.

See more images and information about Randy’s fun night of observing these phenomena on his website, dakotalapse.

Nancy Atkinson is currently Universe Today’s Contributing Editor. Previously she served as UT’s Senior Editor and lead writer, and has worked with Astronomy Cast and 365 Days of Astronomy. Nancy is the author of the new book “Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos.” She is also a NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador.

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8 Responses

  1. Member
    Pete says

    “airglow being rippled by gravity waves.” ??
    REALLY? Does this amount to actual detection of gravity waves?
    I was under a perhaps mistaken impression that such had not yet been accomplished.
    What is the source of these gravity waves?
    How strong are they?
    Are they as strong as h=10^-18?
    How, exactly, do they modulate airglow?
    Please explain.

  2. kwestdjonmaarc says

    waiit…. gravity waves??

  3. Member

    Gravity waves, as in density waves in the atmosphere, not actually ripples in space-time. Hold that Nobel prize.

  4. weeasle says

    I am under the impression that the scientific community has not yet accepted absolute proof that gravity waves exist… Curious as to the matter-of-fact statement that these are gravity wave patterns in the sprites?

  5. weeasle says

    Nice article and photos!

  6. Ignoramus says

    If you can see gravity waves this way, why spend all that money on things like LIGO etc…?

  7. Ignoramus says

    Why can I not read the other comments?

  8. William928 says

    I can’t seem to read any of the comments on the articles anymore. My browser was updated to IE 10, not sure if that makes a difference.

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