Odd lights in the sky are usually chalked up to UFOs, aliens, or malevolent shadow governments. However, a recent sighting in Europe shows that sometimes, weird lights in the sky have a much more natural but equally mysterious cause. Last month, residents of southern England and northern France were presented with a psychedelic light show as skies over the English channel were set alight with brilliant red streaks created by one of Earth’s rarest atmospheric phenomena. Photographer Stephanie Vetter posted images of the rare display to Facebook where they soon went viral, as pictures of weird phenomena normally do.
The images were shot from Hohneck, one of the highest peaks of the Vosges Mountains in Lorraine, far from the French coast. It turns out the pictures show what is known as red sprites, a type of electrical discharge which is seldom caught on camera.
Due to their rather elusive nature, sprites aren’t well understood by meteorologists. Unlike more conventional lightning, sprites occur above clouds and are cold discharges rather than hot. Sprites have more in common with the light produced by fluorescent lights than they do traditional lightning bolts.
Similar sprite sightings are often mistook for UFOs, and some UFO believers even claim the sprite explanation is a convenient cover-up similar to the worn-out “swamp gas” claims often thrown around in classic UFO cases. Now that smartphone cameras have become ubiquitous, it’s much easier to catch these rare phenomena on film, causing all sorts of wild conjectures any time a rare atmospheric discharge is caught on camera. It makes you wonder how the civilizations of the future will look back at us; it’s common for us to scoff at the beliefs of previous epochs which have since been disproven, but that the time those theories were cutting edge. Who knows what future discoveries might be made about these red sprites and similar mysterious phenomenon?