Spritacular

Transient Luminous Events (TLEs) are colorful, bright, faster-than-lightning flashes that thunderstorms generate above the clouds. TLEs can take a variety of fanciful shapes with equally fanciful names. The most frequently observed TLEs are called “sprites,” like the enigmatic and playful fairies of folklore.

The Spritacular project invites photographers from all over the world to contribute observations of TLEs to help us better understand these enchanting phenomena and their role in our skies.

SAFETY NOTE: When you observe a thunderstorm, be sure to use caution and maintain a viable and quick exit to safety.

Go to Project Website

ages

18 and up

division

Heliophysics

where

Outdoors

launched

2022

What you'll do

  • Locate a nearby storm and place yourself 60-250 miles away, where you can see clear, dark sky above the clouds.
  • Sync your camera’s clock to a time source and aim your camera above the storm. Be patient.
  • Share your pictures of TLEs with researchers and our community of sprite enthusiasts.

Requirements

  • Time: Hours observing and photographing the sky. Minutes uploading images. 
  • Equipment: A dedicated Digital Single-Lens Reflex (DLSR) or mirrorless camera and a tripod. A lens with focal length 20-85 mm works best. 
  • Knowledge: How to use a camera.

Get started!

  1. Visit the project website.
  2. Click on the “Get Started” tab to access illustrated instructions on observing and photographing sprites and uploading your images.
  3. Other pages will help you learn more about how to photograph sprites and other TLEs.

Learn More

You can find out more about sprites on the project’s blog. This article  provides a great introduction to sprite-chasing.

Click here for a short video from Goddard Glossary explaining sprites. Check out this video to hear why sprite chasers love what they do. See project scientist Dr. Burcu Kosar talking about sprites and Spritacular with Miles Hatfield from NASA Heliophysics Science Division. Follow the project on X @Spritacular!

Spritacular project logo On a white field, we see the word Spritacular in black text. To left of the word, we see a graphic in red: a downward facing arc with three uneven lines stretching down below it. This is a cartoon of a classic red jellyfish sprite with a halo.
a dozen red lights hover in the sky, well above the clouds, which are grey and visible in front of a diffuse patch of light that is generated by a lightning flash, and a black horizon of tree tops. Each red light looks like a cone of intense but diffuse light shining upward from a bright spot. Below the bright spot, jagged tendrils of light like roots extend downward towards the clouds.
A cluster of red jellyfish sprites hover above a large storm cloud that appears to be glowing due to lighting within the cloud.
Credit: Levi Riggins.
This image shows a wide view of a horizon, with the distinctive round top of an observatory on top of a dark mountain on the left and a big storm cloud over the horizon on the right, with a wide view of distant stars clear in the night sky above. The storm cloud is lit from within by lighting, with a white-to-purple to red finger of light extending from the top of the cloud up. The top of this finger of light extends much higher in the sky than the distance from cloud-to-ground. At the top of this jet, the light is red and spreads in smaller fingers, still pointing up, like a tight bouquet of grass blades or a quiver of arrows.
A gigantic jet TLE captured on February 10, 2007 above Tucson, Arizona.
Credit: NOIRLab, Gemini North
Portrait photo of a woman wearing glasses with long hair

Burcu Kosar

Physicist / Lead Investigator

Portrait photo of a smiling man with dark hair

Jia Yue

Scientist / Co-Investigator

Portrait photo of a person wearing glasses with a nose piercing and hair died bright green and red. A cat sits above their shoulder on the back of the chair.

Rachel Lense

Science Writer

Portrait photo of a smiling man with dark hair against a dark background.

Oliver Gerland

Product and Strategy Developer

Portrait photo of a man standing outside with green trees in the background.

Sean Simmons

User Interface (UX) Designer

Portrait photo of a balding man with light blue sky and trees in the background.

József Bór

Environmental Scientist / Admin of International Observers of Upper-Atmosphere Electric Phenomena