'Red sprites' are nature's best recently discovered light show
Brief bursts of energy over storms were first photographed from space less than 30 years ago. Now fans on the ground are starting to chase the phenomenon.
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If you're lucky enough to catch them, so-called red sprites are like something from a fireworks show or a psychedelic sci-fi trip. But they're a natural occurrence, kind of like the aurora borealis or those streaking meteors that turn into bright fireballs as they burn up in the atmosphere.
Today the proliferation of better photographic technology has brought us more sightings, including a trio from just the last week alone.
Martin Popek, an observer for the Czech Academy of Sciences' Institute of Atmospheric Physics, shared his most recent photo of the sprites, taken July 21.
But Popek isn't the only person making a hobby of catching the elusive sprites in the sky. Last week, Australian amateur sky watcher David Finlay managed to grab rare video of some red sprites:
Apparently, observers in Tokyo grabbed their own images of the intermittent dancing tendrils within hours of Finlay's spotting down under:
Popek also shared a few more of his favorite sprite shots with me:
Popek told me via email that in 2017 alone, he's already observed 286 sprites from 33 different storms. That's not bad for a phenomenon that typically lasts less than a second and was only captured from orbit until recent years.