Space Shuttle Sparks High-Altitude ElectroPhysics
Written By: The Electric Warrior
photo: Red Sprite
(The Electric Warrior) - An unusual purple lightning bolt that
can be seen in a photograph of Shuttle Columbia has sparked
discussion about rare forms high-altitude lightning. Strange
flashes of colored lightning with names like Red Sprites and
Blue Jets are a recent scientific discovery that continue to
intrigue scientists. One peculiar thing about the phenomenon is
that the discharge travels away from Earth, up from a stormy
cloud bank toward the ionosphere.
A purple corkscrew lightning bolt can reportedly be seen in a
photograph taken by a Bay Area shuttle buff on the morning of
the Columbia accident. NASA experts are examining digital
photographs which await public release by the photographer, who
at this time remains anonymous.
An expert in high-atmospheric physics at Los Alamos National
Laboratories in New Mexico says it is not likely that the
electrical phenomenon has anything to do with the Columbia
accident, but that it needs to be studied. "I’m highly skeptical
they could have had anything to do with Columbia’s demise," he
told the San Francisco Chronicle. "But somebody needs to see how
they interact with spacecraft."