Thursday, July 17, 2008

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.


  1. Lightning travels from the ground up to the clouds... This basic detail inaccuracy undermines the credibility of your article greatly!

  2. anonymous, that is wrong. it travels to the ground then charges from the ground travel back up the bolt creating thunder


  4. Lightning travels because of hot whether. For example, summer in Florida can cause lots of thunder and lightning strikes because the hot weather stirs up the air particles.