Photographer captures rare, red lightning during thunderstorm

A photographer captured a mesmerizing form of red lightning in southern China.

On May 9, around midnight in Guiyang, a photographer happened to be at the right place at the right time. A storm was unfolding miles away which allowed the lightning, known as sprites, to be caught on camera

Red streaks spread across the night sky, almost like a cloud of distorted fireworks.

Sprites are large discharges of electricity that occur high in the atmosphere, miles above the severe thunderstorms that generate them. The red color is caused by lightning interacting with nitrogen, according to AccuWeather

However, if you look closely, the photographer did manage to capture two sprites. The first appeared only as a few red streaks, but the second, much larger sprite is known as a “jellyfish sprite.” It’s characterized by a mushroom-like formation at the top and long tendrils underneath. 

Sprites can almost extend to space at around 100 kilometers above the Earth’s surface and are usually five to ten kilometers wide. In this case, the lightning was about 30 to 90 kilometers above the ground. However, sprites only last 10 to 100 milliseconds, which is why they’re often missed.

Luckily, the natural phenomenon’s expansive size makes sprites detectable from space. A space shuttle mission in 1989 provided evidence of sprite’s existence by accidentally photographing one. 

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