Worldwide, lightning strikes around 50 times every second (more than 4 million times every day). Electrical imbalances generated by turbulent skies are suddenly balanced by a spectacular discharge tracing across a darkened sky -- a display that is both frightening and awe-inspiring. Collected below are recent images of lightning around the world, including a rare image of an upper atmosphere "red sprite" flash captured by NASA astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
Lightning strikes the Statue of Liberty in New York on Sept. 22. Photographer Jay Fine spent two hours in Battery Park City, Manhattan, trying to get the perfect picture. He shot 80 photos before capturing this image just before 9 p.m. local time.
Lightning strikes the CN Tower in Toronto, Canada, on Aug. 9, 2009.
Neil Fraser watches as lightning hits beyond a church in Rosser, Manitoba, early Sunday morning July 30, 1995.
Lightning sparks across the night sky as a heavy thunderstorm makes its way across Ocean Isle Beach, N.C., on May 20, 2008.
Lighting strikes over buildings in Nanjing, in China's eastern Jiangsu province, on Aug. 1, 2006.
Lightning strikes behind a house in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, on Aug. 26, 2004.
Lightning bolts appear above and around Chile's Chaiten volcano as seen from Chana, to the north, as it began its first eruption in thousands of years on May 2, 2008.
Lightning strikes over Guangzhou International Finance Center during a rainstorm in Guangzhou in south China's Guangdong province on June 3, 2009.
Lightning strikes as a much-needed rainstorm comes to Lake Powell near Page, Ariz., on March 24, 2007.
A bolt of lightning strikes near Terminal D as an American Airlines jet takes off from Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport on Sept. 11, 2006.
Lightning lights up the Rotterdam skyline on May 26, 2009 as a heavy storm raged over the Netherlands.
A lightning bolt strikes through a rainbow during a thunderstorm over Sheridan, Wyo., on June 15, 2005.
Lightning flashes in the night sky on Aug. 7, 2008 in London, England.
Lightning strikes west of the Space Needle in Seattle, Wash., on Aug. 4, 1999.
The ancient Greek Parthenon temple, atop the Acropolis hill overlooking Athens, is framed by a lightning bolt during a thunderstorm on Oct. 9, 2006.