Rare jellyfish-shaped sprite lightning flashes above storm clouds

An otherworldly flash of light appears in a thunderstorm, giving a glimpse at a strange and rare weather phenomenon.

One of our planet's most elusive weather happenings is the rare (and rarely photographed) sprite, a bright electrical discharge that can occur above clouds in stormy weather. Puerto Rico sprite hunter Frankie Lucena captured footage of a spectacular jellyfish sprite dangling searing tentacles over the Caribbean Sea on Sunday. It's a beauty.

Sprites are associated with thunderstorms, but they're quite a bit different from normal lightning. NASA describes them as "cold plasma phenomenon without the extremely hot temperatures of lightning that we see underneath thunderstorms." They're bright flashes, sometimes visibly tinged with red, like with this red sprite seen from the International Space Station.

Lucena's jellyfish sprite gets its name from the dangling tendrils of light below the main body, notes.

Sprites are notoriously illusive. The first one ever to be caught on camera dates back to just 1989, though anecdotal reports stretch back hundreds of years. Scientists still have a lot to learn about how and why the light bursts form. If you happen to see one in the wild, consider yourself very lucky.