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Sprites dancing above the Andes, and hydroxyl airglow

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Uploaded on Jul 4, 2009

Unfiltered time lapse imagery looking eastward from Cerro Tololo Observatory, Chile (30.169 S, 70.805 W) in January, 2005. The view is toward the East, and the dark ridge is the spine of the Andes Mountains, with the bright star field of the Southern Sky above. The wave-like undulations are hydroxyl airglow emissions in the mesosphere modulated by mountain waves. The camera used to take the images was a small astronomical camera, Starlight Xpress MX716. The images are 10 sec integrations at approximately 12 sec intervals. The clip is played back at 10 fps, giving a speed up factor of approximately 120 compared to real time. Just above the top of the ridge line, on the right, one observes sprites generated by an unseen thunderstorm on the other side of the Andes, approximately 500 km to the east in Argentina (verified separately using GOES images). It is interesting to note the clarity of the atmosphere and the complete absence of haze - stars suddenly pop into view on the horizon. (Music: Excerpt from "Simple Gifts" by Elder Joseph, made popular in Aaron Copeland's "Appalachian Spring.")

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