Red Sprite, Milky Way, Zodiacal Light, Venus and Saturn

March 11, 2016


Photographer: Brandon Giesbrecht
Summary Authors: Brandon Giesbrecht; Jim Foster
March 2016 Viewer's Choice
One day a few weeks ago shortly before sunrise near Colonia Menno, Paraguay, I was fortunate enough to capture this red sprite floating above a distant thunderstorm. Based on the weather map (weather radar) available to me, the storm was approximately 110 mi (176 km) away. Red sprites, though infrequently observed, are most often sighted above the decaying stage of large thunderstorms, some 25-55 mi (40-89 km) above the Earth's surface. These discharges are a cold plasma phenomenon rather than a true form of lightning.

Also noteworthy here is the zodiacal light, a wedge-shaped splotch of light at left center. Venus and Saturn are seen within the zodiacal light (Venus is above Saturn). A glorious view of the Milky Way rising high above completes this late summer pastoral scene. Photo taken on February 16, 2016. Also refer to yesterday's Earth Science Picture of the Day.

Photo Details: Camera Model: Canon EOS 6D; Exposure Time: 25.000 s; ISO equiv: 6400; Lens: 14 mm; f/2.8; Software: Adobe Photoshop Lightroom 6.1 (Windows).