High above Earth in the realm of meteors and noctilucent clouds, a strange and beautiful form of lightning dances at the edge of space. Researchers call the bolts "sprites"; they are red, fleeting, and tend to come in bunches. Martin Popek of Nýdek in the Czech republic photographed these specimens on August 27th:

Red Lightning_1
© Martin Popek
Image Taken: Aug. 27, 2011
Location: Nýdek,Czech Republic
"Sprites are a true space weather phenomenon," explains lightning scientist Oscar van der Velde of Sant Vicenç de Castellet, Spain. "They develop in mid-air around 80 km altitude, growing in both directions, first down, then up. This happens when a fierce lightning bolt draws lots of charge from a cloud near Earth's surface. Electric fields [shoot] to the top of Earth's atmosphere--and the result is a sprite. The entire process takes about 20 milliseconds."

Red Lightning_2
© Martin Popek
Image Taken: Aug. 27, 2011
Location: Nýdek,Czech Republic
Although sprites have been seen for at least a century, most scientists did not believe they existed until after 1989 when sprites were photographed by cameras onboard the space shuttle. Now "sprite chasers" routinely photograph sprites from their own homes. "I used up a Watec 902H2 Ultimate security camera with UFOCapture software to catch my sprites," says Popek. Give it a try!