No, the enormous red ring over Italy was not a UFO

An enormous red ring over Italy caused both terror and curiosity. It was not a UFO, just a rare electromagnetic natural phenomenon, ELVE
The ELVE photo captured by nature photographer Valter Binotto. Credit: Valter Binotto

An enormous red ring recently appeared in the night sky over Italy. The bizarre halo, which looks like something out of a science fiction movie, appeared and disappeared in just a few milliseconds. This means that most people probably missed the strange spectacle.

Everyone except for naturalist photographer Valter Binotto (rif.), who managed to capture a shot of the luminous halo in the sky above the town of Possagno in northern Italy on March 27th. However, the red ring wasn’t actually located over his town. The huge circle, which had a diameter of around 360 kilometers, flickered above central Italy and partially over the Adriatic Sea.

No UFO, just an ELVE

This strange natural phenomenon is known as “Emissions of Light and Very low frequency perturbations due to Electromagnetic sources” or ELVE for short. ELVEs are a rare type of stratospheric/mesospheric disturbance resulting from intense electrification by thunderstorms. Red rings are formed when electromagnetic pulses (EMPs) emitted by lightning strikes the Earth’s ionosphere, the ionized part of the upper atmosphere that extends between 80 and 644 kilometers above the ground.

Due to their short-lived nature, ELVEs are typically visible only from satellites orbiting the Earth. They were actually discovered in 1990 thanks to cameras aboard NASA space shuttles. Binotto’s new image is likely “the best ground-based image ever taken” according to the American website

The Italian photographer believes that the red ring over Italy was produced by an EMP generated by a large thunderstorm near Ancona, a city about 280 kilometers southeast of Possagno. Normally, lightning does not emit EMP because it does not carry enough current. But during this storm, an unusually powerful lightning strike, at least 10 times more powerful than normal lightning, likely generated the electrical shock wave, which then hit the ionosphere. When electrons from within the EMP hit the ionosphere, charged particles excite nitrogen atoms, which emit the reddish glow.

Probable location of the ELVE, the red ring over Italy captured by photographer Valerio Binotto
Probable location of the ELVE, the red ring over Italy captured by photographer Valerio Binotto

A rare but already documented phenomenon.

But this is not the first time the Italian photographer has been able to capture these rare natural appearances. Binotto has photographed hundreds of ELVEs and other types of transient luminous events (TLEs). But since he started photographing them in 2019, this is “one of the largest structures” he has ever captured, he told the press.

This is not the first time rings like this have been photographed from Earth. In February 2021, a very similar red ring was spotted over Hawaii. But previously, in April 2013, the phenomenon was recorded and photographed in the American skies over Nebraska.

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