12 Elemental Fire and Light Formations and Phenomena: Flares, Lightning, Smoke and Meteors


(Part 3 in a 4-Part Series on Elemental Art Featuring Natural Wonders of the World)

Continuing the quest for the most inspiring and powerful art of nature, here are over 50 images and videos depicting the most spectacular shooting sun flares, unusual fires, shocking lightning, delicate smoke patterns and stunning meteor showers. All are fierce examples of nature’s artistic displays for which the price of admission is being in the right place at the right time to have your imagine sparked.



(Images via Pinetar Rag and Leet Software)

These images highlight some of the profoundly beautiful, yet ephemeral artworks created by lightning displays. Lightning, of course, is simply a discharge of electricity. Yet it is startling and stunning to behold.

Lightning can strike anywhere. View the above incredible clips of lightning striking Toronto in 2004 and a personal “art show” of lightning at a beach residence (warning: profanity).


(Images via Smeter and pics.ww.com)

Even the most incredible fireworks shows cannot compare to nature’s own light shows.



(Images via Geekologie and Borealis2000)

The famous “northern lights” are a beloved phenomenon that can startle the first time viewer with their haunting hues reminiscent of an impressionist painting or surreal watercolor.

They are created with electrically charged particles (like electrons), directed by the earth’s magnetic fields, crash into gas atoms. The result is the aurora flash.

Aurora Borealis


(Images via Hicker Photo, Destination 360 and Science Education)

There are actually both northern and southern polar lights. Aurora, Latin for “light”, are most commonly seen in the northern hemisphere (“borealis” for northern, as in the Boreal Forest) but are also displayed in the southern hemisphere (“astralis“…think Australia).


(Image via wikipedia)

The aurora borealis displays are colorful and dynamic, but the aurora astralis are remarkable in their own right, seeming to light up the frigid southern polar expanse with their intense vibrance. Watch the slideshow below for more incredible images of nature’s “paintbrush” on the skies.



(Image via EarthSky)

Meteor showers (also known as meteor storms or outbursts) are bits of debris from space that enter the earth’s atmosphere at extreme speeds. Hitting the air causes them to vaporize, which leaves the famous spark of light behind – hence the nickname “shooting star”.

The Ids Above Us

No, it’s not your boss’s selfish demands bellowing from the office upstairs. The “ids” refer to meteor showers that can be seen each month of the year. Meteors are quite frequent, and usually very small, but some meteor showers are recurrent and well-known for their brilliant shower of blazing artistry.




(Images via bazaar99 and Makezine)

The Perseids, in the images and video above, and the Geminids below are most famous, but, for example, the Orionids are coming up on October 21-22.



(Images via Carrie Patterson, Redneck Reality Check and Astronomy Buff; main post image via NASA)

The Geminid meteor shower happened last fall-winter 2007, but its peak was December 13-14. Driving a few hours up into the Sierra Nevadas, away from the light pollution and in the sharp cold, and you’ll see a spectacular art show.



(Images via NASA, Museum Victoria and Anne Danielson)

A fireball is an especially bright meteor, typically so bright it is confused for a planet. The Leonid fireball is one of the most famous in the world.



(Images via National Geographic and travelalltheworld)

Forest fires that spring up in nature due to weather conditions can wreak phenomenal havoc; but they can also cleanse the land and at times, create beautiful vistas and memorable images.

Bitterroot Fire Deer


(Image via Beautiful Sensations)

This Bitterroot Fire nearly engulfed two deer. The image was thought to be Photoshopped but evidence later revealed that it was in fact real.



(Images via the Constant Cynic, Alaska in Pictures, Songweaver and BBC)

These stunning portraits show fires from Canada to Alaska to Africa, both during the day and in the stark contrast of night. Though wildfires can be frightening and destructive, they can also be beneficial, clearing the land for new growth by eliminating underbrush and dead trees. Native Americans learned by watching nature’s self-sustaining wisdom; they would strategically manage forests by periodically burning certain portions.



(Images via Fire21, elanso and USDA)

Firewhirls are simply fire tornados. They’re often spawned by wild fires, though they can be caused by other elemental conditions. The look is both eerie and alive – as if made of molten glass.



(image via: Steven Rutledge)

Solar Flares


(Images via Crystallinks, NOAA News, Redorbit and answers.com)

Some solar flares have been large enough to easily wipe out Earth with their heat; we’ve luckily been missed and instead can take in the fiery beauty of the sun’s flares as cosmic art. Others are powerful enough to make the sun itself quake. Funny enough, scientists declared the sun in a rather dormant cycle of minimum activity, but the sun became incredibly active in March of this year with a spate of new eruptions, flares and other bursts.

Sun Dogs


(Images via Flight Level 390, Baterya and University of Utah)

A sun dog, or parhelion, is an exceedingly bright spot on a solar halo. According to wikipedia a sundog “is an atmospheric optical phenomenon primarily associated with the reflection or refraction of sunlight by small ice crystals making up cirrus or cirrostratus clouds. Often, two sun dogs can be seen (one on each side of the sun) simultaneously.” Pretty cool to observe.



(Images via Klachak and Frank Notes)

No art about nature’s fiery art would be complete without a few glimpses at the at times opaque, delicate, complex and swirling beauty of fire’s dissipation: smoke.


(Images via Canada Photos and Rocky Mountain Kids Corner)

More Natural Wonders of the World:

15 Elemental Earth Formations and Phenomena
15 Elemental Water, Snow and Ice Formations and Phenomena
10 Elemental Sky and Cloud Formations and Phenomena