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NASA Releases Stunning Photos of Rare Red Sprites

Either an astronaut onboard the International Space Station took some amazing photos of a rare event in nature, or this is the last time we’ll speak together because soon the planet will be controlled by a giant 50-foot octopus.

In these gorgeous photos you can see what looks like a red mass extending straight up from a giant, glowing white circle.


The closer you get the more you can see how the phenomenon, a cluster of red sprites, hovers over what is a significant lightning and thunderstorm.


A sprite…it’s…the thing…look, I definitely can explain what this super rare occurrence in nature is and how it forms, but it would just confuse you, so I’ll let NASA offer a dumbed-down definition.

The basic understanding of sprites is that they are related to lightning, in which a neutrally charged cloud discharges some of the electricity to ground. Normally negative charge is carried from the cloud to the ground, but about one out of every ten times it’s positive charge — and that leaves the top of the cloud negatively charged. With this one in ten chance, the electric field above the cloud is “just right” to produce the sprite, an electrical discharge 50 miles above the thunderstorm.

Exactly. Sprites are exceedingly rare to see or capture on film because they last for one-thousandth of a second and occur above thunderstorms. Even though pilots had claimed to see them for almost a century, one wasn’t captured on film until 1989.

The closer you zoom in, the more impressive the cluster of sprites becomes.



In that last one it looks less like a monster and more like the climax of the upcoming Ghostbusters film.

These sprites may be 50-feet tall, and as long as we are definitely sure this isn’t a cover-up by NASA to shield us from the impending attack of some ancient space god, we can all sit back and enjoy the beauty of the cosmos.

What are some of your favorite photos of space? Share them in the comments because pictures of space are the best.

HT: The Daily Dot
mages: NASA

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