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Talk lifts lid on mysterious red lights in the night sky

Other posts by  |  Sheelagh Caygill on Google+ |  November 3, 2011 | 0 Comments

An elusive red sprite captured on film

Internationally renowned Canadian artist Peter McLeish will present his work on the search for an elusive meteorological phenomenon at Newcastle’s Great North Museum: Hancock next Monday.

Often confused with UFOs, red sprites are upper atmospheric electrical phenomena associated with thunderstorms, that have only relatively recently been documented.

The first pictures of a sprite were taken from the space shuttle in 1989 and from 1990 to 1994 over 20 more images were obtained.  Before these likenesses were captured, red sprites were considered to be UFOs by many pilots.

Sarah Glynn, Manager at the Great North Museum, said: “We are really looking forward to Peter’s talk; it is such a coup for the museum to have attracted such an internationally renowned science based artist to the North East.

“Red sprites are an exciting phenomenon which Peter will explore in detail, we anticipate that this will be a very popular event and urge people to book their free tickets to avoid disappointment.”

Despite nearly a century of anecdotal reports from airline pilots, most scientists didn’t really believe in sprites until the first images were caught on high-speed video. The blink of an eye lasts 250 milliseconds: sprites often last only 10.

For the first time high speed cameras and computer models could freeze sprites in time. Peter’s work explores this phenomenon.

Peter has been involved in creating films including The Hundred Year Hunt for Red Sprites and Lightning’s Angels, both of which have been presented at major international science symposiums, conferences, media and film  festivals, museums and planetariums all over the world.

The talk takes place on November 7 at 6pm.  Tickets are free and available from the museum. Call (0191) 222 5121 or


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