NASA is calling on citizen scientists to help it collect data on the elusive, mysterious phenomena known as red sprites.
Red sprites are impressive red streaks of light that usually occur over storms and reach as high as 55 miles (90 km) into the atmosphere. They’re like a form of inverse lightning and form part of a group of lightning-like phenomena given names derived from fantasy — other examples include elves and giant jets.
The U.S. space agency believes many people may have unwittingly captured the phenomenon on camera and that their images could contribute to ground-breaking science. In a bid to collect this data, it has announced it is forming a new citizen science project called Spritacular (pronounced sprite-tacular).
The first crowdsourced database of sprites
NASA’s new citizen science project aims to connect professional scientists with members of the public willing to share photographs they’ve taken on their phones or digital cameras that may feature evidence of sprites or other Transient Luminous Events (TLEs).
“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,” explained Dr. Burcu Kosar, a space physicist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland and Spritacular principal investigator. “Spritacular will bridge …