Sprites are a true space weather phenomenon. Some researchers believe they are linked to cosmic rays: subatomic particles from deep space striking the top of Earth's atmosphere produce secondary electrons that, in turn, provide the spark that triggers sprites. If this is true, then sprites could multiply in the years ahead as cosmic rays intensify due to the decline of the solar cycle. Indeed, increasing levels of cosmic rays might explain by the strange red forms are spilling over into the "off-season."
Although sprites have been seen for at least a century, most scientists did not believe they existed until after 1989 when sprites were photographed by cameras onboard the space shuttle. Now "sprite chasers" routinely photograph sprites from their own homes. "I used up a Watec 910HX security camera with UFOCapture software to catch my sprites," says Popek. Give it a try!
diagram: How to Look for Sprites