Red Sprites and Blue Jets: Massive Luminous Displays in Stormy Skies

posted by Jason Kottke   Feb 28, 2022

Sometimes the sky above powerful thunderstorms can light up in massive displays of color; they’re called transient luminous events. Whoa, I’ve never seen or heard of this phenomenon before!

On rare nights with clear visibility over powerful distant thunderstorms, you might be able to see and capture red sprites. Sprites are large scale electrical discharges occurring high above thunderstorms in the upper atmosphere. They are massive events, sometimes 50 kilometers tall by 50 kilometers wide. Sprites belong to a mysterious and colorful group of phenomenon called Transient Luminous Events, or TLEs. Other TLE’s include halos, Elves, trolls, secondary jets, Blue starters, Blue jets and the magnificent gigantic jets. But what exactly are these transient luminous Events, and how do they form?

This video is a great explainer about the phenomenon — how it arises, where the colors come from, etc. (via the kid should see this)