Flashes in outer space hint at alien life
Colourful bursts of sprites, which are one of the most indefinable phenomena occurring in earth’s atmosphere, may also flash in outer space, signalling the existence of alien life, a new study has revealed.Updated: Nov 25, 2011 13:01 IST
Sprites are large electrical discharges that flash high in the upper atmosphere - usually above powerful lightning storms. Often bright red in colour with streaming tendrils of blue and purple stretching down beneath, they hadn’t even been photographed in colour until 1995, Discovery News reported.
Although sprites are quite common on Earth, they have not been well documented as they occur high in the mesosphere, well above the range of weather balloons.
Researchers at Tel Aviv University have suggested that lightning is not only found in large quantity on Earth but also on other planets in our solar system as well.
Venus has been shown to have Earth like lightning, while Jupiter and Saturn experience lightning a thousand times more powerful than Earth’s.
Daria Dubrovin, along with her team of supervisors and collaborators re-created other planetary atmospheres in the lab to study the presence of extraterrestrial sprites.
Using chemical mixtures that mimic the atmospheres of Venus, Jupiter and Saturn, and electrical circuits that simulate lightning, Dubrovin’s team studied how sprites would be created and what they would look like on other worlds.
“We make sprites-in-a-bottle,” Dubrovin said.
According to Dubrovin, as the sprites are linked to lightning, and lightning plays a major role in defining several theories concerning how life first developed on Earth, it stands to reason that the existence of sprites on other planets (both in our own solar system and others) may be something to watch out for when searching for signs of alien life.
First Published: Nov 25, 2011 12:50 IST