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The birth of lightning was captured on video

A new slow motion video offers the best view yet of the fraction of a second of collision of electric currents that creates lightning.

The video captures an electric current wire or lightning leader, who is pulling himself from a storm cloud to meet another leader coming from the ground. When the two touch, it triggers a much stronger current between the cloud and the ground, and the rays flash.

Researchers report online Feb. 1 in Geophysical Research Letters with a single chain of electricity, or coil, at the worn tip of each lightning to forge the connection between the two currents. Understanding this cloud-to-earth connection is important because it determines where lightning strikes (SN: 25/06/20).

It is known that the streamers at the tips of the lightning leaders joined these currents. But because streamers are so weak and lightning leaders melt in just a millionth of a second, it wasn’t clear exactly how they merged. The link could be forged by many superimposed coils that were joined into a single channel of electric current or by contact between unique beings of each leader.

Lightning is fast, but high-speed cameras are faster, allowing scientists to see the game by game of how lightning is formed (shown from left to right, each frame at 2.6 millionths of a second). When an electric current coming down from a cloud encounters one coming from the ground, a single, thin stream of electricity covers the space (red box), causing lightning.R. Jiang et al / Geophysical Research Letters 2021

Rubin Jiang, an atmospheric scientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Beijing, and colleagues caught two lightning tape leaders in 2017, during a lightning storm. Using a high-speed camera that took a picture of lightning every 2.6 microseconds, Jiang and his colleagues watched a game by game of what happened when they found the strip of streamers at the tip of each lightning leader.

A single bright filament of electricity appeared among the leaders just before the lightning. This suggests that the connection of the hair between the first two streamers when touched channeled the torrent of electric current that formed the lightning, while the other streamers disappeared (SN: 15/02/19).

Here it is: the collision of seconds of electric current that creates lightning. A low current from a cloud. He meets another who arrives from the ground. When a single faint wire of electricity covers the gap between them, the rays flash.

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