Man Captures Rare Jellyfish Sprite Lightning

Red 'jellyfish' sprite lightning.

A jellyfish sprite is a rare form of lightning that looks like a red jellyfish. (Image: Screenshot via YouTube)

When thinking of lightning, most people would come up with images of white, thin strips of light snaking through the sky. However, this is only one type of lightning. There are many more fascinating variations of lightning in nature. In July, a man took a picture of the rare jellyfish sprite, which is basically red lightning that looks like a jellyfish.

Jellyfish lightning

Sprites are large-scale electrical discharges that occur above thunderstorm clouds. This gives rise to various visual shapes that flicker in the sky for brief instances. Sprites are categorized into many types. The jellyfish sprite is one among them and tends to be very large, measuring up to 30 miles long and 30 miles high.

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Receive selected content straight into your inbox.

Stephen Hummel, a dark-skies specialist at the McDonald Observatory, was fortunate enough to witness a Jellyfish Sprite in its full glory and even took an excellent image of it. “Sprites usually appear to the eye as very brief, dim, grey structures. You need to be looking for them to spot them, and oftentimes I am not certain I actually saw one until I check the camera footage to confirm… Overall I’ve probably recorded close to 70 hours’ worth of footage and stills this year, and caught about 70 sprites,” he said to Business Insider. And the bulk of the sprites he has caught came from a single storm.

Sign for McDonald Observatory.
Stephen Hummel, a dark-skies specialist at the McDonald Observatory, was fortunate enough to witness a jellyfish sprite in its full glory. (Image: Screenshot via YouTube)

Hummel notes that the jellyfish sprite he saw was not an ordinary one. Even though it appeared for just an instant, Hummel succeeded in capturing it through the camera. You can only see a jellyfish sprite late at night, far away from a thunderstorm, in a place that is without any light pollution. Hummel was 100 miles away at half-past 1 a.m. when he noticed the jellyfish sprite.

The name sprite was proposed by Davis Sentman, a professor of physics, who thought that it accurately captured the fairy-like, fleeting characteristic of this type of lightning. In addition to the jellyfish sprite, another popular type of sprite commonly seen is the carrot sprite, which looks like a column with long tendrils. When lightning strikes the ground, it releases positive electrical energy. This energy has to be balanced out by an opposite charge somewhere in the sky, which is what gives birth to sprites.

When a sprite sparks, it excites the nitrogen gas in the environment, which ends up emitting a red glow, thus giving the sprite its characteristic red color. Sprites can be spotted from space, as some astronauts have attested to seeing them from the International Space Station. Sprites were only documented photographically in 1989. Since then, scientists have spotted sprites on every single continent on Earth except Antarctica.

Lightning seen from space.
Some astronauts have attested to seeing sprites from the International Space Station. (Image: via Wikimedia Commons)

Fascinating lightning types


These are ultra-bright, ultra-fast bursts of electricity that can appear as rings or halos above clouds. ELVES can extend up to a massive 185 miles. ELVES is actually an acronym that stands for “Emissions of Light and VLF perturbations from EMP events.”

Ball lightning

As the name suggests, ball lightning basically looks like slowly rotating balls of light. These are usually the size of a grapefruit. These lightning balls float about three feet above the ground and can sometimes appear right in the middle of a room. But they usually disappear in about 10 seconds. It was only in 2012 that ball lightning was captured on camera.

Follow us on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest

Recommended Stories

Closeup of a sea lion swimming underwater.

10 Cutest Ocean Animals That Will Surely Make You Smile

Have you ever wondered what lies beneath the surface of the ocean? Well, it’s home ...

Illustration of a man in ancient Chinese robes taking a nap while a dragon swirls over his head in a misty cloud.

5 Legendary Dreams of Chinese Folklore

Throughout China’s vast folklore, there are five dreams that have become household tales. These legendary ...

Business skyscrapers in reflection in La Defense financial district in Paris, France.

Integrity in Business: The Bedrock of Trust and Success

Integrity stands as one of the most cherished virtues, timeless and universal. Regardless of the ...

Virtual influencers.

Virtual Influencers: Meet the AI-Generated Figures Posing as Your New Online Friends

The future of influence is here: a digital avatar that captivates millions of adoring fans ...

A Japanese moai

Unlocking Wisdom: Lessons From the Japanese Moai Tradition

In Japan, tight-knit social groups, moais, have helped people gain insight and support. As an ...

Photo of a group of business people each holding a brightly colored gear and combining them to illustrate a teamwork concept.

Technology Companies and Autism: A New Era of Inclusion

When you think of autism, what comes to mind? Quietness, sensitivity, or difficulty in communication? ...


18 Resourceful Ways That Help Reduce Mental Stress

Many people have experienced stress at some point in their life. People generally sense that ...

Standing at a desk while working.

Is Standing at Your Desk Actually Better Than Sitting?

In modern life, many of us spend the majority of our waking hours sitting. A ...

The Greek philosopher Plato.

Plato’s Influence on Architecture: How Do Architects Think?

Architecture is a discipline where art meets mathematics (engineering). Architects essentially blend these two sides, ...

Send this to a friend