Photographer Stephane Vetter captured an amazing image, shared by NASA as its "Astronomy Picture of the Day," that has the appearance of something out of a science fiction movie. Known as a "red sprite," the photo shows red-casted lightning that branches downward like jellyfish tentacles.
"A sensitive video camera on a summit of the Vosges mountains in France captured these surprising fireworks above a distant horizon on June 26," NASA said.
The enigmatic bursts form over intense thunderstorms and are caused when a positively charged lightning bolt contacts the ground below. Exceedingly rare, many observers liken them to what they believe an alien invasion would like.
"The transient luminous events are caused by electrical breakdown at altitudes of 50 to 100 kilometers," NASA said. "That puts them in the mesosphere, the coldest layer of planet Earth's atmosphere."
This is not the first time Vetter has captured the strange meteorological phenomenon. In the previous "red sprite" photo, the lightning is seen in much greater detail.