Expert says Mount Isa red light not a sprite

WHAT IS IT: A rather large red light hovers next to the stack in the Mount Isa sky last Thursday, but still we have no answer. Photo: John WestMount Isa’s own version of the Min Min lights mystery has been ruled out as ameteorological phenomenon called a ‘sprite’.

Ten days agoa North West Star reader emailed us photos of a strange red light hovering above Mount Isa Mines, which now has experts stumped.

AFacebook commentsuggested they might be a weather phenomenon called ‘sprites’,large-scale electrical dischargesthat can occurhigh abovethunderstorm clouds.

Sprites are triggered bydischarges of positive lightning between underlying cloud and the ground.

Although extremely rare, they seemed to provide a plausible explanation for our ruby orb in the stormy skies of Mount Isa.

Dean Narramore from the Bureau of Meteorologyadmitted he wasn’t an expert, but seemed confident the images were of sprites.

“They are sprites, lucky, and nice pictures,” Mr Narramore said.

“They are electrical discharges above a thunderstorm that can be seen from a long way away.”

RED SPRITE: A diagram from the Danish National Space Center shows how electrical discharges high above thunderstorm clouds can culminate in a red or blue light.

University of Queensland weather expert Professor Hamish McGowan however, took onelook at the photos and promptly quashed ourhopes.

“It’s definitely not a sprite,”Professor McGowan said.

“Sprites are very short lived,fractions of a second.

“It’s certainly rather strange and not too dissimilar to somephotos posted on the web.”

The Professor suggested a few non-weather possibilities such asaircraft, ash or gas emissions from the mine stack, and also pointed out the upward movement was “interesting”.

A spokesperson from Mount Isa Mines said they had no idea what caused the red light, and assured us it had nothing to do with the mines.

The anonymous reader described what he saw in detail.

“It was stationary for a few minutes and then shot off upwards at what must have been a phenomenal speed because it had a tail on it like a shooting star,” he said.

“I have no idea what it could have been. It was the strangest thing I’ve ever seen.”

STORM HUNTING: An instructional guide on how to look for sprites. Image: Otha H. Vaughan, Jr. NASA/MSFC and Walter A. Lyons, FMA

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