At first glance, Smith's capture resembles a Gigantic Jet--that is, a type of "sprite on steroids." But lightning expert Oscar van der Velde of the Universitat Politècnica de Catalunya thinks it may be something else, equally exotic.
"In early days of sprite research, they were called 'palm trees' by researchers from the University of Alaska," van der Velde explains. "It is, basically, a bushy group of red sprites on top, with a secondary purple discharge hanging below. These types of events are quite rare. You need a big, active mesoscale convective system to produce them."
"Last night was so much fun," adds Smith. "In addition to the sprites, my son Thomas photographed Jupiter and our Moon with the Nikon coolpix 80x zoom camera. We also saw a nice bolide exploding over the storms. The kid's reactions were priceless."