Characteristics of Red Sprites
Sprites are massive but weak luminous flashes that appear directly above an active thunderstorm system and are coincident with cloud-to-ground or intracloud lightning strokes. Their spatial structures range from small single or multiple vertically elongated spots, to spots with faint extrusions above and below, to bright groupings which extend from the cloud tops to altitudes up to about 95 km. Sprites are predominantly red.
Blue jets are a second high altitude optical phenomenon, distinct from sprites, observed above thunderstorms using low light television systems. As their name implies, blue jets are optical ejections from the top of the electrically active core regions of thunderstorms. Following their emergence from the top of the thundercloud, they typically propagate upward in narrow cones of about 15 degrees full width at vertical speeds of roughly 100 km/s (Mach 300), fanning out and disappearing at heights of about 40-50 km. Their intensities are on the order of 800 kR near the base, decreasing to about 10 kR near the upper terminus. These correspond to an estimated optical energy of about 4 kJ, a total energy of about 30 MJ, and an energy density on the order of a few mJ/m^3. Blue jets are not aligned with the local magnetic field.
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