Jellyfish Sprites over Bethune, Colorado
© Michael Gavan
Jellyfish Sprites on May 23, 2020 @ Bethune, Colorado
Have you ever seen a sprite? Some say it's impossible. The strange and fleeting forms of red lightning materialize above thunderheads, usually disappearing again in less time than it takes to blink. Yet storm chaser Michael Gavan had no trouble seeing these on May 23rd.

"Extremely bright 'jellyfish' sprites were easily visible naked-eye through evening twilight!"says Gavin. "This is a framegrab of the brightest one I managed to capture with my astrophotography-modified Canon T3i."

Gavin saw the display from northwestern Kansas. "Clear skies to the northwest afforded fantastic views of an MCS (Mesoscale convective system) moving through the Nebraska panhandle," he says. Over the weekend, a low pressure system got stuck in the area, producing ferocious electrical storms with abundant lightning and sprites.

Solar Minimum could be boosting sprites. During this low phase of the solar cycle, cosmic rays from deep space flood into the inner solar system relatively unimpeded by the sun's weakening magnetic field. Some models hold that cosmic rays help sprites get started by creating conductive paths in the atmosphere. If so, now is a good time to look for sprites.