Taken by Harald Edens on July 18, 2014 @ Langmuir Laboratory for Atmospheric Research, New Mexico, USA
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Exposure Time: 1/1
Aperture: f/2.0
ISO: 25600
Date Taken: 2014:07:19 01:21:59
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This colorful sprite occurred over a large thunderstorm system in northeast New Mexico and was visible to the naked eye. The green bands in the photograph are ionospheric gravity waves caused by the thunderstorm complex. Photograph was taken with Nikon D4s and 50 mm f/2 lens at ISO 25600.
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Fantastic capture!
Posted by InFocus 2014-07-20 02:12:06
One of the finest images of a sprite I have yet seen - congratulations Harald!! It should be pointed out that the green bands are atmospheric airglow, and not gravity waves. Gravity waves are certainly one of the mechanisms that can disturb the airglow layer into bands and other shapes, and in this case the thunderstorm may very well be responsible for them. However, the the green airglow bands are possibly the result of gravity waves, and not the gravity waves themselves.
Posted by owleye1 2014-07-20 15:24:19
Thanks owleye1, you are quite right about the gravity waves. It was late when I submitted the image... as I understand it, the bands are enhanced airglow emissions caused by disturbances due to gravity waves. Other wide-angle images I took that night show the bands much clearer.

coboren3: the camera was making successive exposures of 1 second each, which was about the longest time at the ISO and f-stop settings.
Posted by harald 2014-07-20 16:50:13
In the wide angle view, it looks like the Andromeda Galaxy might be at top center. Was the photo taken sometime around midnight looking NE? It helps to know the field of view; a 50mm lens gives ~ 25x40 deg FOV, but I dont know if it has been cropped. If it is Andromeda, the photo has light from a city, from the upper atmosphere, from stars in our galaxy the Milky Way, and light that took 2.5 million years to get here from another galaxy. Fantastic indeed!
Posted by rocksnstars 2014-07-21 07:22:37
Great photography, congratulations!
Posted by Mesarthim 2014-07-21 14:56:58
How far away was the storm located from your position? Sorry if redundant question.
Posted by Mthalman 2014-07-21 17:09:46
rocksnstars, yes that is the Andromeda galaxy at the top of the image. The photo was taken to the northeast. The wide-field frame has not been cropped. The city lights of Socorro are to the lower right and those of the cities of Belen, Los Lunas and Albuquerque to the far left.

mthalman, a rough estimate is that the sprite was about 350 km distant from me. The west edge of the storm system (the cloud that is illuminated by lightning at the center of the image) was a bit closer, maybe 300 km.

The lab (where I observed from) is at 10,700 ft altitude with generally good air transparency (lower air density than at sea level), which probably helped make the sprite better visible.
Posted by harald 2014-07-21 17:44:25
Thanks Harald for the confirmation; for us amateur astronomers the depth of field makes the photo beyond fantastic! I think Spaceweather should have noted that the galaxy was in the wide angle view, but then maybe they didnt know it.
Posted by rocksnstars 2014-07-21 19:55:56
this is so amazing, I have never seen this phenomenon, so I am curious, the cam picks up red, what does the eye see? 25600 is very high sensitivity- is it a quick kind of event like lightning? Yes the best I have seen too of sprites
Posted by Shawn 2014-08-07 13:55:06
Thank you Shawn. I visually observed a few of the sprites of this storm system, and several ones before that day. They appear white to the eye (i.e. the light emissions and/or their speed are below the level of human color perception). Since they happen very fast (only a ms or so in duration, no motion is seen and they are gone too quickly to see much detail visually.

You can try observing sprites yourself. You need a clear skies and a clean atmosphere with a large thunderstorm (a mesoscale convective system is best) positioned a few hundred km away. Sprites are fairly bright, but since they are fast they are easy to miss.

Also, I should mention that the camera was not infrared-modified in any way. It has the Nikon stock low-pass filter in front of the sensor.
Posted by harald 2014-08-07 14:21:39
216 thumbs up
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