Red sprite discharges in the atmosphere at high altitude: The molecular physics and the similarity with laboratory discharges

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    Abstract

    An overview of the general phenomenology and physical mechanism of large-scale electrical discharges termed 'sprites' observed at high altitude in the Earth's atmosphere above thunderstorms is presented. The primary emphasis is placed on summarizing available experimental data on various emissions documented to date from sprites and interpretation of these emissions in the context of similar data obtained from laboratory discharges, in particular the pulsed corona discharges, which are believed to be the closest pressure-scaled laboratory analogue of sprite discharges at high altitude. We also review some of the recent results on modelling of laboratory and sprite streamers emphasizing the importance of the photoionization effects for the understanding of the observed morphological features of streamers at different pressures in air and provide a comparison of emissions obtained from streamer models with results of recent satellite-based observations of sprites.

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Article numberS02
    Pages (from-to)S13-S29
    JournalPlasma Sources Science and Technology
    Volume16
    Issue number1
    DOIs
    StatePublished - Feb 1 2007

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Condensed Matter Physics

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