Red Sprites

Red sprites appear over the landscape in this award-winning photo.

Sprites, or red sprites, are high-altitude electrical discharges in the atmosphere. Although sometimes called upper-atmospheric lightning, sprites are a cold plasma phenomenon. They often occur in clusters, as in this photo by Angel An, which won in the Skyscapes category of the 2023 Astronomy Photographer of the Year competition. Sprites, which last only a millisecond or so, take place during intense thunderstorms, but, unlike our more familiar lightning, sprites move upward from the storm toward the ionosphere. They can occur on Venus, Saturn, and Jupiter as well, although sprites have only been observed directly on Earth and Jupiter. (Image credit: A. An; via Colossal)

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