Huge ELVE captured high above a thunderstorm over Russia


A 300 km (186 miles) wide ELVE was photographed hight above a thunderstorm in central Russia on August 16, 2018. 

This transient luminous event was recorded using a low-light video camera in the Russian town of Irbit, Sverdlovsk Oblast, by amateur astronomer Ilya Jankowsky.

"In just one night, it was possible to take pictures and videos of almost all rare atmospheric phenomena, including sprites, ELVEs, airglow, meteors, fireballs and northern lights," Jankowsky said.

"[The ELVE] appeared for just a split second, surrounding the horns of Taurus," he said.

Image copyright Ilya Jankowski. Annotation: 

"ELVEs were first seen by cameras on the space shuttle in 1990. They appear when a pulse of electromagnetic radiation from cloud-to-ground lightning propagates up toward space and hits the base of Earth's ionosphere," Dr. Tony Phillips of explains. A faint ring of deep-red light marks the broad 'spot' where the EMP hits.

"For this to happen, the lightning needs to be very strong–typically 150-350 kilo-Ampères," says Oscar van der Velde, a member of the Lightning Research Group at the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya. "For comparison, normal cloud-to-ground flashes only reach 10-30 kA."

ELVEs often appear alongside red sprites, which are also sparked by strong lightning.

Featured image copyright Ilya Jankowsky

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  1. That’s so amazing. Thank you for enlightening us. Elves and sprites, I thought, were little fairy like beings. It’s good to know that they are above the earths surface as well.

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