Red Sprite Observed Over Southeastern Greece

November 16, 2015

Redspriteimage

Photographer: Dimitris Sagiakos
Summary Authors: Dimitris Sagiakos; Jim FosterNovember 2015 Viewer's Choice

This photo of a red sprite above the thunderstorm in the background was captured from West Attica, Greece, on September 21, 2015. I used a Nikon D5200 camera to take the picture but was able to see the sprite with my naked eye as well. These mysterious sprites last only a fraction of a second and are generated at altitudes ranging from about 25-55 mi (40-89 km) above the Earth's surface during the mature and decaying stages of large thunderstorm complexes, where they may be observed every few minutes under the most favorable conditions. Unlike cloud-to-ground lightning discharges that occur in electrical fields set up in the very warm environment beneath cumulonimbus cells, red sprite discharges are associated with cold plasma -- like the discharge of a fluorescent tube. It wasn't until 1989 that they were first photographed.