Several transient luminous events illuminate pockets of Earth’s upper atmosphere. A line of thunderstorms off the coast of South Africa powers the rare phenomena.
NASA/Matthew Dominick

NASA astronaut Matthew Dominick photographed red sprites in Earth’s upper atmosphere from the International Space Station on June 3, 2024. The bright red flashes (more easily seen by clicking on the photo to see a larger version) are a less understood phenomena associated with powerful lightning events and appear high above the clouds in the mesosphere. Transient Luminous Events (TLEs), including red sprites, are colorful bursts of energy that appear above storms as a result of lightning activity occurring in and below storms on Earth.

Crew members typically capture TLEs with wide focal lengths during Earth timelapses. Instruments mounted outside station, like Atmosphere-Space Interactions Monitor (ASIM), can capture a range of data for researchers on Earth using cameras, photometers, X-ray and gamma-ray detectors. Learn more about seeing storms from space. 

While space station crew hunt for TLEs from space, you can help right here on Earth: send your photographs of sprites and other TLEs to NASA’s citizen science project, Spritacular, to contribute to a crowdsourced database that professional scientists can use for research.

Image Credit: NASA/Matthew Dominick

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