NASA has declared a new “citizen science project” christened “Spritacular” in order to crowdsource images of this spectacular phenomenon from civilians. Scientists are curious about this mysterious occurrence and have therefore involved enthusiastic citizen scientists and photographers in this endeavor in order to extend research on the study of “sprites.” In addition to this, the study of ‘Transient Luminous Events (TLEs)’ will also be carried out under this project that mainly occurs adjacent to thunderstorms and is subjected to produce “strange flashes of light”. Aspirants will share the photos of sprites on this portal that have been taken on their end and this will eventually help NASA in evaluating the scope of this phenomenon as scientists are still unclear about the reason for its occurrence.
Coupled with this, Dr. Burcu Kosar, who is a NASA space physicist and the new project’s principal investigator, said, “People capture wonderful images of sprites, but they’re shared sporadically over the internet and most of the scientific community is unaware of these captures. Spritacular will bridge this gap by creating the first crowdsourced database of sprites and other TLEs that is accessible and readily available for scientific research.”
However, it is important to note that scientists were totally unaware of this mysterious phenomenon until 1989 when it was accidentally discovered by researchers from the University of Minnesota. The researchers said that they discovered it by “sheer accident” when they were testing ‘low-light film equipment ahead of a rocket launch’. Furthermore, Kosar stated, “It wasn’t a very high resolution or fast camera — they just captured two luminous blobs above a nearby thunderstorm. The whole field was kickstarted because a camera was pointed in the right direction at the right time.”
To that end, the newly launched website of Spritacular will open new doors of research for scientists to further investigate the formation of sprites and TLEs. All those civilians or photographers who want to upload their taken pictures of any of the above phenomena are welcome to create an account and start the venture by posting along with their time and locations. Hence, according to the new update released, NASA noted, “The broader goal of Spritacular is to foster a mutual exchange between observers of TLEs and the scientific community and to inspire citizen scientists all around the world to participate in the investigation of these elusive events.”