Timelapse: Sprites, Gravity Waves and Airglow

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.

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

Nancy Atkinson

Nancy has been with Universe Today since 2004. She is the author of a new book on the Apollo program, "Eight Years to the Moon," which shares the stories of 60 engineers and scientists who worked behind the scenes to make landing on the Moon possible. Her first book, "Incredible Stories from Space: A Behind-the-Scenes Look at the Missions Changing Our View of the Cosmos" tells the stories of those who work on NASA's robotic missions to explore the Solar System and beyond.

View Comments

  • "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.

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

  • 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?

  • 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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