Thursday, August 07, 2008

6-7 August, 56+11 sprites over Spain and France (updated)

A long night with many things happening!

Nightfall started with a storm system growing over far SW France and a smaller one over northern Spain. First a far sprite was detected over the SW France system not long after nightfall.

From my place (Sant Vicenç de Castellet, near Manresa, NE-Spain) I lost sight of the big French system because a smaller MCS passed by in between. But 11 sprites were recorded by Serge in Toulouse over the French system, before clouds limited observations.

Being right at the cloud edge of the smaller MCS I was lucky to have some open sky. Sprites started to occur there and I had to point at 30-45° elevation. Surely I have missed some because the lens offered only 30 degrees FOV, and others were behind the clouds. A big dancing sprite event started with bright sprites visible, but large subsequent ones of that event were much dimmed by the storm anvil cloudiness while occurring farther away, with strong AM sferic activity.

I regularly could see lightning flashes going in sequence from right to left, looking to NW, and in one occasion spider lightning channels were visible for more than a second. Below is a map of the Catalonian lightning detection system, my location is just under the center of the image.

Many sprites were pretty dim. I noticed this before with other nearby systems (150 km or closer), so perhaps they are common but hard to detect from larger distances.

After this, the sky cleared slowly, and finally I could record sprites from the big French MCS. These below are some of the closer ones:

I managed to get some color images with the IR-modified Canon 350D but from town I needed to go 1 second exposures plus light pollution filter (neodymium). See these pictures on my website.
The unfortunate part is that the Pic du Midi system had starting problems.
By the way, the Perseid meteor shower is already quite active with several per hour being detected (in a narrow view) while observing sprites. This was one of the bigger, with dust tail: