NASA wants to collect photos from civilians in order to study a mysterious aerial phenomenon that scientists have dubbed "sprites."

Sprites captured in the night sky
Credit: science.nasa.gov

The agency announced the convening of its latest "citizen science project," which they're calling "Spritacular" and which will source images of the bizarre and fascinating sprite phenomenon, as well as other Transient Luminous Events (TLEs) that can occur in proximity to thunderstorms and produce strange flashes of otherworldly-looking light.

"People capture wonderful images of sprites, but they're shared sporadically over the internet and most of the scientific community is unaware of these captures," Dr. Burcu Kosar, a NASA space physicist and the new project's principal investigator, said in the agency's statement. "Spritacular will bridge this gap by creating the first crowdsourced database of sprites and other TLEs that is accessible and readily available for scientific research."

Perhaps remarkably, this incredible phenomena wasn't named or documented in modern photos until 1989, when University of Minnesota researchers captured them in a total fluke while testing low-light film equipment. Thus kickstarting the whole field of research into these aerial phenomena.

Scientists dubbed these beautiful phantasms "sprites" after the mythical beings from European folklore, and the naming convention stuck, with other scientists naming fellow TLEs things like Elves, Blue Jets, and Halos.



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