Red sprites over Mexico
© Via Twitter @VladimirPozoC80
On Friday night, a strange phenomenon in the night sky known as sprites, caught the attention of the inhabitants of Villahermosa, Tabasco.

After the intense electrical storm that hit the capital during the afternoon, users on social networks shared photos and videos of a group of red lights in the sky of elongated appearance, as if it were sparks of fire:

Although speculation about its origin was immediately related to UFO sightings and other theories that lack scientific support, the explanation of meteorologists and specialists is that it is a luminous event that receives the name of sprites.

What are red sprites or spectra?

The sprites or red spectra are a light effect It appears when the high electrical activity of a storm is very intense and some rays with positive polarity produce a change in the electric field, which ascends into the atmosphere and whose discharge is manifested with a bright red glow.

Why is it so difficult to see a sprite?

During an intense electrical storm, different phenomena occur such as lightning, thunder and precipitation that can fall as a liquid rain; or solid and frozen, like hail.

All of them occur under the storm clouds (cumulonimbus) and are evident, but other phenomena that commonly go unnoticed by the human eye also occur over these clouds, especially if the clouds extend for kilometers and prevent seeing what happens above them. .

How does a sprite form in a thunderstorm?

According to the Andalusian Institute of Astrophysics, "a sprite is produced in the following way: a storm cloud has a negative electric charge at the bottom and a positive one at the top. Generally, the rays emerge from the lower region and show negative polarity, but sometimes rays with a positive polarity appear, much more powerful and dangerous. The latter produce an electric field that rises into the upper atmospheric layers and triggers the sprite. "

This phenomenon can appear as small columnar discharges or be more attractive, creating a kind of tentacles or filaments called jellyfish in the sky after a storm.

Sprites are part of a group of phenomena called Transient Light Events, which although they have been little studied, make up are part of the lights that are created in a storm at the top of the clouds.

Despite its spectacularity, the sprites pose no risk for the population, since they occur in the mesosphere, more than 50 kilometers high.