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New Lightning Theories

April 27th Fact-of-the-Day

Lighting has been generally considered in the past to be an extremely large electric spark. However, one of its most puzzling aspects has been where all the voltage comes from to create such massive sparks, because measured electric fields inside thunderstorms do not seem to be near large enough to generate conventional electric discharges as large as lightning. The recent detection of x-ray emissions up to about twice the level used for chest x-rays just prior to lightning strikes has led to new theories. One promising model involves particle showers created by cosmic-ray emissions from outer-space that may work together with run-away breakdown to create lightning. In the summer of 2004 a huge burst of gamma rays was detected 650 meters from a lightning channel. The RHESSI imager also recently detected gamma-rays while orbiting 600 KM from thunderstorms. This information, together with recent x-ray detection, may make it possible to eventually solve the puzzle Benjamin Franklin thought he had solved. ©2005 Martek International All rights reserved.

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