Rare ‘sprite’ lightning discharge caught on camera

Have you ever seen a 'sprite'?

I'm not talking about the mythological creature or the soft drink, now. I'm referring to rare flashes of lightning that happen high above storm clouds.

The normal kind of lightning that we see is usually inside storm clouds or between the clouds and the ground. Just like we talk about positive and negative charge when dealing with electricity, a lightning bolt can be positive or negative. When a rare positive lightning bolt arcs between the cloud and the ground, this discharge also sets off a 'sprite' (also called a 'red sprite') above the cloud.

Sprites happen so rarely and so quickly that they're very hard to capture, but Jason Ahrns, while flying on a plane operated by NCAR — the National Center for Atmospheric Research — was able to snap a picture of a sprite above storms in Colorado. He even captured video, at 10,000 frames per second, which shows the incredible detail of the jellyfish like tendrils of lightning as they cascade down.

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The video is in black and white, but the photograph at the top of the article shows the true colour. This red colour is thought to come from nitrogen, which glows red when its electrically energized.

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