For a long time, red sprites seemed mythical. The rare form of lightning that appears as red streaks above storm clouds had been reported in the past, but there was little in the way of hard evidence until they were. An image released on Monday highlights just how beautiful these elusive sprites can be.
The sublime photo looks like a painting as layers of mountain peaks stretch along the horizon beneath a green airglow radiating low across the night sky. Stars shine through in the dark, and the sprites have a pattern like upward brushstrokes.
Sprites are one of a series of lightning phenomena with fantastical names. There are also elves and giant jets. Check outthat grazed the edge of space.
These wild occurrences are much more difficult to catch than what we typically see from the ground when we watch thunderstorms.
"In addition to occurring much higher in the sky than regular lightning, they are cooler than the white lightning we usually see and appear much fainter," ESO said of the red sprites.
Sprites have been photographed from the International Space Station, as well as from the ground. Bardon's image from Chile is exceptional for its beauty.
"Because of its high altitude and lack of light pollution," the ESO said, "La Silla is perfect for capturing these unusual phenomena."