Glowing red tentacles of jellyfish-shaped lightning captured over Texas
McDonald Observatory specialist Stephen Hummel has photographed the magical, jellyfish-shaped lightning known as a red sprite.
Although red sprites are an extremely rare phenomenon which occurs for mere tenths of a second, Hummel has successfully captured the moment one of these sprites appeared. According to the Business Insider, the photograph was taken “from a ridge on Mount Locke in Texas” on July 2, 2020.
The word ‘sprite’ is synonymous with elf or fairy.
For this reason, the late University of Alaska physics professor Davis Sentman used this term as a name for this magical, fairy-like phenomenon. The Mind Unleashed explains that sprites were first discovered in 1989 and have since been spotted over every continent apart from Antarctica. Due to its relatively recent discovery, there has not been sufficient research on the phenomenon.
Sprites are enormous and can be seen from space.
Hummel has reportedly stated that the sprite in the above photograph was enormous, spanning “probably around 30 miles long and 30 miles tall”. What is more, sprites can even be seen from a distance of around 300 miles away! Sprites are caused due to the positive electrical energy which lightning releases when it strikes the ground; taking this further, The Mind Unleashed claims that they occur because this positive energy needs to be “balanced out by equal and oppositely charged energy elsewhere in the sky”. What is more, according to the Business Insider, the glowing red color is due to the nitrogen gas which floats in the Earth’s atmosphere and gets excited by the electricity.
Several people have been lucky enough to spot and document the moment they witnessed a magical sprite.
Twitter user and Executive Editor of The Atlantic, Adrienne LaFrance has posted two photographs of this majestic phenomenon: one taken from the ground and one taken by NASA from space.
Here's some sprite lightning as photographed from the International Space Station in August 2015. City lights in an orbital blur, a flash of red, stars everywhere. It is so unbelievably cool we get to live on this planet. (credit: NASA/Expedition 44) pic.twitter.com/G1Ie7Z4II7
— Adrienne LaFrance (@AdrienneLaF) August 15, 2020
Hummel has further said that “sprites usually appear to the eye as very brief, dim, grey structures. You need to be looking for them to spot them, and oftentimes I am not certain I actually saw one until I check the camera footage to confirm”.
So, the next time there is a storm, observe and you too might get lucky!