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Space Shuttle Sparks High-Altitude ElectroPhysics

Written By: The Electric Warrior

Posted: 2/7/2003 12:00:00 AM   Reads: 745   Submitted By:0x6a656666   Category: Space

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."