When Lightning Strikes

Lightning has been flashin’ around forever- and yet scientists just can’t seem to figure it out. Granted, we have made progress since times of the early Greeks, who believed that lightning was a weapon of Zeus.

Fast forward centuries later to Ben Franklin’s kite experiment, and lightning became less of a scary God-power trip, and more like a giant electrical current.

Recently in (2001 and 2002), scientists proved that lightning actually produces large amounts of X-rays. No one understands how lightning makes X-rays, but physicists at University of Florida and Florida Institute of Technology Engineering are on the brink of discovering the source of x-rays emitted by lightning. According to scientists heading the research, knowing the source of x-rays could one day help predict where lightning will strike.

The problem is temperature. Lightning is really really hot-The temperature of the air around a bolt of is about 54000° Fahrenheit. That’s about 5-6 times hotter than the surface of the sun. Even so, lightning is still much to cold to produce the X-rays observed. But somehow they are being produced, the question is how.

Data from electric field and X-ray detectors, lead researchers to conclude that as lightning emerges from a cloud and hurdles to the ground in a series of 30 to 60 foot “steps”, X-rays almost instantly shoot out just below each step.

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