Red Sprite..

  ..over Southern Bavaria 2015 

Photographed at the 9th of August 2015 from Germerswang, Fuerstenfeldbruck


9th of August 2015

Heavy thunderstorms in the Garmisch-Partenkirchen region were already announced on the radio during the whole afternoon. Viewing from Fuerstenfeldbruck in the southern direction at 22.30h (total darkness) very bright strokes in a distance of may 80-100 km illuminated sometimes the whole southern part of the Bavarian Alp region. A nearly clear sky was situated over that spectacle and it was nearly new moon. Ohh.. best condition for catching Red Sprites. On our grass hill in Germerswang a very strong storm took place and made the photographing work very difficult. Also the illuminted area around Munich was not the best precondition.

Despite the feeling to get such a seldom Red Sprite-phenomenon never in my lifetime on chip , I was such surprised that it will take only 25 minutes ;-). So try your luck ....

Red Sprites Bavaria 2015 by Boeckel

After checking out 600 photos, surprisingly a little Red Sprite appeared clearly left up at 21:07 UTC.

Canon5D MIII,24mm, f2.8, ASA 3200, Exp. 5sec

Red Sprite 2015 by Boeckel

A more amplified image

Red Sprites Bavaria 2015 by Boeckel     Red Sprites Bavaria 2015 by Boeckel

A cutout from the image shows more details


More images of the thunderstorm scenery, but without sprites

Red Sprite 2015 by Boeckel     Red Sprite 2015 by Boeckel

About Red Sprites

The appearance of a Red Sprites takes less than 2/100 seconds, and could be very bright and be seen with the naked eye. However, the brightness is several times under a lightning discharge. 'Red Sprites' can appear on an average altitude of 60-80 km in the mesosphere. Also sightings to a height of 90 km to the edge of the ionosphere are possible. The height of the sprite can vary from 10 km to 20 km. The width of the discharge can reach up from 40 to 60 km.

But how does the rare luminous phenomena come to this name, when they were discovered and what is the reason of origin?

Until 1989, the existence of Red Sprites was generally denied because only jet pilots announced sporadic sightings. Here they reaped rather grumpy and sarcastic reactions :-(. Thus, many sightings have been omitted. 1989 the first Red Sprite photos did succeed, but due to the not yet advanced camera technology the results were scientifically useless. 1991 the astronauts of the former Space shuttle mission succeeded photographically to capture this phenomenon specifically the first time from space. These photos served as the first meaningful evidence. Afterwards high-tech peppered research aircrafts were inserted by very costly experiments from the NASA and NOAA, which should explain and analyze these phenomena further. After this efforts yielded no results for months, and the researchers literally get messed around with this situation, the called these discharges almost mischievously 'Sprites'. But after a while and patient effords impressive high speed filmings succeeded.  

Incidentally, we don’t have a plausible explanation of the origin of Red Sprites until today, but there are countless theories. Look out for the scientific article in the Washington post. The most common version declares that during heavy thunderstorms larger areas of electrical tension build itself up over the super cells, which consequently discharge due to the oversaturation by itself. Another theory says, that the electrical tension is changing inside the thunderstorm cells etc.. . The actual luminous phenomenon gets produced in the mesosphere by collision of electrons with the always present cosmic gamma radiation.

More at


(Sprite link)

Scientific article in the Washington post


Red Sprites 2107 by Th BoeckelRed Sprites 2107 by Th Boeckel

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 ©2015 photos& text by Thorsten Boeckel (tb)

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