• The photo shows the massive red glow in the night sky
  • The phenomenon reportedly lasted for a "fraction of season"
  • Luckily, the photographer had the right equipment to capture it

A photographer has captured a rather incredible view of a rare phenomenon called ELVE, but it's not exactly the magical type one might think.

Photographer Valter Binotto captured the fascinating view from Italy on March 27, according to In the image, which Binotto shared on his social media page, one can see the rather eerie ring of red light in the evening sky.

The event, Binotto explained, was huge at 360 kilometers (223 miles) in diameter. It was about 80 to 100 kilometers (62 miles) above the ground.

dopo gli Sprites ecco gli elfi! altro fenomeno luminoso legato ai temporali. questo si è sviluppato sopra Ancona ( 285km da dove ho fatto la foto) La sua dimensione è enorme, circa 360km di...

It lasted only for a "fraction of a second," but luckily, the photographer had the right equipment for the job.

"With normal cameras, they are difficult to photograph," Binotto told PetaPixel. "The light they emit is very low and in the infrared, where the sensors cannot see. I use a camera without the normal IR Cut filter so it also sees the infrared band well."

In another post on Facebook, Binotto shared his measurement of how big the event was, and it really puts into perspective how massive it truly was.

Ho misurato la dimensione dell'elfo fotografato ieri sera, ha un diametro di circa 360 km e si è sviluppato a circa 100 km di altezza nella ionosfera. La durata dell'evento è stimata in un...

But what exactly is an ELVE?

Short for Emissions of Light and Very Low Frequency Perturbations due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources, an ELVE pertains to the flattened, expanding reddish glow that appears briefly over a thunderstorm.

It forms when the electromagnetic pulses from lightning propagate into the ionosphere. It is a rare type of Sprite, which itself is also a luminous flash that appears above active thunderstorm systems. Sprites, however, look quite like jellyfish, unlike the ring-like structure of ELVEs.

Indeed, Binotto was said to be following a storm when the ELVE appeared. And the photo he took may just be among the best ones captured from the ground, according to It was also quite impressive that he even caught a photo of it when ELVEs typically only last for "less than a thousandth of a second."

Scientists have been studying such transient luminous events, with the others also having rather magical names like Pixies, Trolls, Gnomes and Sprite Halos. These phenomena have only been documented relatively recently.

ELVEs, for instance, were only discovered in the early 1990s, thanks to cameras aboard the space shuttle. In 2020, scientists even found evidence of Sprites in the atmosphere of Jupiter. It was the first time that the phenomenon was observed in another world apart from the Earth.

Binotto's stunning photo may only be the beginning of such incredible sightings. The ELVE season in Europe and North America is only beginning, according to

Jellyfish Sprite
Sprites over northwestern Kansas. Michael Gavan