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Trivial phenomena:

Phenomena that are not UFOs:

There is a whole series of phenomena, either natural or artificial which do not have any extraterrestrial visitors features about them. These phenomena are sometimes called upon rightly, or wrongly, as the cause of a UFO report, or the as cause of all UFO reports. Here is some information on these very terrestrial phenomena, including descriptions of their features. In connection with UFO reports, this enables you to check if a sighting can or cannot be explained by one of these commonplace causes.

Red sprites:

The phenomenon:

The red sprites are luminous flashes that form a strange red spot with strange randomized contours in the upper sky. This red spot extends from about fifteen kilometers to about fifty kilometers high.

The phenomenon is extremely brief: three tenth of a second. Because of this extreme brevity, nobody wanted to believe pilots reports, until back in 1990 when they were finally confirmed by video. The pilot reports of red stripes were dismissed as hallucinations or eyesight problems.

The first images of red sprites were obtained in 1990 from the ground and from the Discovery American space shuttle.

Sprite seen from NASA jet, 1994

Above:This is the first color television image of a red sprite taken from a NASA jet during the night from July 3rd July 4th, 1994, during investigation by a research project of the University of Alaska about this phenomenon.

The phenomenon occurs very high in the sky, raising up to a hundred kilometers above stormy zones. They are very regularly visible on the video recordings of the old Russian space station MIR, and on videos taken during NASA space shuttle missions.

Pilots seldom see the phenomenon, because the normal storm flashes and lightings necessary to generate red sprites above them are much brighter, which adds up to the brevity of the event and the fact that the red color is not ideal for the focal vision and more appeals to peripheral vision.

There is also a project to film them from the International Space Station (ISS), within the framework of a draft study of Département Analyse Surveillance de l'Environnement (DASE) of the French Commission of Atomic Energy (CEA). Their devised LSO (Lights and Sprites Observation) experiment will determine if a small dedicated satellite named Taramis, under study for specifically collecting data on this phenomenon, will be launched by CNES (CNES is the NASA French counterpart - Centre National d'Etudes Spatiales).

The explanation:

The physicists who studied them think that these extremely short flashes are due to cosmic radiations tearing off electrons on the upper surface of the high clouds. The generated electron beam acts on the nitrogen molecules of the atmosphere and the reaction produces the constant characteristic red color. The phenomenon is also accompanied by x-rays and gamma rays emission.

Red sprites and the UFO phenomenon:

It is erroneous to think that the UFO phenomenon UFO might be explained by the red sprites phenomenon:

In other words, an observation of UFO is explainable as a manifestation of the red sprites phenomenon if and only if:


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This page was last updated on October 26, 2001.