TECH
04/02/2015 06:35 GMT | Updated 04/02/2015 06:59 GMT

Rare 'Sprites' Captured On Camera By European Southern Observatory

A rare set of atmospheric ‘sprites’ have been caught on camera by the European Southern Observatory in Chile.

But this is no dubious UFO nonsense - this is a real, but until very recently totally elusive physical phenomenon.

Sprites are red sparks which appear in the upper atmosphere, high above storm clouds, which are caused by rare positive lightning traveling from clouds to the ground.

The lightning originates from higher portions of the cloud, and appears as a red tendril in the sky at about 80km above the ground. They are caused by “irregularities” in the ionsphere and last for less than a second.

In a new set of pictures from the La Silla Observatory, the ESO managed to capture these sprites in some of the best images ever taken of the phenomenon. The sprites were caused in this case by a storm in Argentina, 310 miles from the observatory.

In fact, sprites weren’t photographed at all until 1989, though since then they have been pictured even from the International Space Station.

In the pictures, below, you're looking to the bottom left of the image just above the horizon. That red spark? That's a sprite.

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