Using chemical mixtures that mimic the atmospheres of Venus, Jupiter and Saturn, and electrical circuits that simulate lightning, Dubrovin's team studied how sprites would be created - and what they would look like - on other worlds.
"We make sprites-in-a-bottle," Dubrovin said.
Because sprites are connected to lightning, and lightning plays a key role in many theories concerning how life first developed on Earth, it stands to reason that the existence of sprites on other planets (both in our own solar system and others) may be something to look out for when searching for signs of alien life, according to Dubrovin.
Not only would sprites indicate lightning further down in a planet's atmosphere but also what kinds of molecules exist there, and may explain the presence of exotic compounds. Sprites would also provide information on the conductivity of a planet's atmosphere.
The team's research was presented in October at the European Planetary Science Congress in France.
Dubrovin's research is funded by the Israeli Science Foundation and by an Ilan Ramon Scholarship and Endowment, which is named after the Israeli astronaut who flew on the STS-107 Columbia shuttle mission that ended in tragedy on Feb. 1, 2003. Part of the scientific research aboard that shuttle was on sprites, and Dubrovin is proud to continue Ramon's legacy.
Read more on the American Friends of Tel Aviv University site.
Top image: A sprite captured on video over a thunderstorm above the U.S. midwest on July 3, 1995. The top of the sprite is 280,000 feet (85 km) above the Earth. Credit: Geophysical Institute, University of Alaska Fairbanks. Inset image: TAU lab-created sprite streamers as they would appear on Saturn.