ISS astronaut shoots image of mysterious red sprite during lightning storm

A red sprite has nothing to do with a soft drink or paranormal phenomenon. A red sprite is an atmospheric phenomenon that is associated with powerful lightning discharges inside storms. The mechanism or mechanisms that create this red and very brief optical phenomenon are unknown.

An astronaut aboard ISS Expedition 31 took photograph on April 30 of a powerful thunderstorm over Myanmar. The lightning inside the storm was strong enough to create the red sprite phenomenon, which can be seen in the photo at approximately 1 o'clock position from the lightning inside the cloud. The sprite phenomenon is very difficult to observe from the ground because it occurs above the clouds.

The phenomenon has been described for decades by pilots flying above storms, but the first photographic evidence of a red sprite wasn't recorded until the 90s. The red tendrils of sprite reach upward from the region of lightning flash and can sometimes extend as high as 55 miles into the atmosphere. The brightest portion of the sprite is typically around 40 to 45 miles above the ground and may last only 3 to 10 ms. Sprite can be as bright as moderate auroral activity and can emit radio noise.