We’ve sent a telescope a million miles from Earth, but it only takes a simple camera to capture the wonders of our atmosphere.
The European Space Agency has a huge telescope in Chile, in the middle of the Atacama desert, one of the driest in the world. Is named European Southern Observatory (ESO) or La Silla Observatory, and it is one of the largest in the world.
These days we are all amazed by the incredible images that the James Webb telescope has sent us. But no need to travel to space so that the terrestrial skies continue to surprise us.
The photo you see in the opening image has been taken from the La Silla telescope, but not with the telescope, but with a camera from the door, by the scientists who work at the observatory:
What are those red lights on the horizon? And the green glow around it?
This is a very difficult phenomenon to see because it is only possible in skies with no light pollutionas occurs in the Atacama Desert.
Called Red Specters and, as the ESO website explains, it is about an elusive form of lightning which are generated high above storm clouds, discharging electricity high in the Earth’s atmosphere at an altitude of 50-90 km.
In addition to being triggered at a much higher altitude than regular lightning, they are cooler than white lightning and appear much weaker. They are very difficult to see: the first photograph was obtained in 1989.
Another extraordinary phenomenon that occurs in the same image is that the sky is illuminated with a green glow. Its scientific name is night luminescence.
This spectacle occurs because, during the day, sunlight strips electrons from nitrogen and oxygen present in the Earth’s atmosphere. At night these electrons recombine with atoms and molecules, causing them to glow.
The incredible photo has only been possible thanks to the high altitude of the Atacama Desert, and the absence of light pollution.