Red flashes during thunderstorms are a rarity. There are several reasons why red flashes occur. The reasons are not always scientifically proven and can rather be seen as an assumption. However, there can be various explanations for the occurrence of red flashes. Red flashes in multiple forms are known as so-called “red goblins” and were recorded on various space shuttle missions until recently. Pilots had observed these flashes and the researcher Stephan Hummel was able to photograph the natural phenomena. In addition to the “red goblins”, there are also rare red flashes during thunderstorms. Such a red flash could also be observed in Germany. There are also attempts to explain these occasional red flashes.
What are red goblins?
Red sprites are also known as Red Sprites in English and have a special shape. The form has been described as mushroom-like or goblin-like. The lightning bolts can be up to 20 km long and are mostly found at altitudes of 75 km. The flashes are branched and are described as red discharges. The lightning bolts travel upwards and break up into many branches after emerging from a cloud cover. These “divisions” of the lightning can even reach extensions of up to 50 km. The branches of the red goblins can even split again. This has been observed in at least some cases. When the division occurs again, however, it tends to turn blue and further division proceeds downwards. Due to the blue color, these flashes (sprites) are also called “angel sprites”.
When were the red sprites first recorded?
The Red Goblins were recorded in 1989 and from 1991 onwards. The natural phenomena were recorded by various space shuttles and there were therefore reconnaissance flights. The observations showed that the red sprites appear only at altitudes of 55-85 km and appear during very strong thunderstorms. However, the extreme thunderstorms must be in the so-called mesosphere.
Red sprites appear in swarms
The red sprites cannot only be seen individually, but can actually be seen in swarms. Humans can best see these flashes against a dark background.
How do Red Goblins form?
The origin of lightning has not been finally clarified and there are various theories in circulation. The widespread assumption of the emergence is the independent discharge of a very strong voltage field. The tension field arises above the cloud cover only during extreme thunderstorms and leads to electron oversaturation. The electrons collide with gamma rays from the ionosphere and discharge.
What other red flashes were observed?
A red flash was also observed in Germany. The observation was confirmed by several eyewitnesses and a “prominent red flash” was reported. This isolated “red flash”, it was assumed, should have coincided with the so-called “blood rain”. The “blood rain” carries Saharan dust and other particles (dirt and pollen) that cause the flash to be perceived as “red.” In this special case, it is assumed that the flash itself was white or yellow in color.
Why could a flash contain red components?
There is nitrogen in the air, which when a lightning flashes. It is assumed that the oxygen can cause red components in the flash.