A very brief, predominantly red, luminous glow, that occurs in the → mesosphere. Sprites occur high above large → thunderstorms and last only a few milliseconds. They have a lump of light on top and numerous tendrils descending downward. Sprites can shoot about 90 to 95 km up into the atmosphere, reaching the → ionosphere, and extend 160 km across. They are very difficult to see, and for that reason were not reliably recorded until 1989. See also → elve; → blue jet.
Sprite "elf, fairy, eerie, ghost-like quality," so named by D. Sentman et al. (1995, Geophys. Res. Let, 22, 1205) because of the fleeting nature of sprites; M.E., from O.Fr. esprit "spirit," from L. spiritus "soul, vigor, breath," related to spirare "to breathe."
Farfadé, from Fr. farfadet, of dialectal origin, derived from fado "fairy."