Where does lightning come from, and what is lightning from a scientific point of view? Let us first consider the nature of electricity in general. All bodies and objects in our world consist of atoms, which in turn consist of a nucleus in which there are protons (positively charged particles) and neutrons (electrons neutral in electric charge) and electrons which carry a negative charge and rotate around the nucleus. The speed of lightning can reach over 56,000 km per second.
The attraction between particles in atoms is caused by electromagnetic forces. On this basis, we can say that “electricity” is present in every object on our planet but do not be afraid of it. First, these charges are very small, and second, while the body is at rest, the total charge of all protons and electrons is 0. For example, the charge of all protons is +1, and the charge of all electrons is 1, so they compensate each other and give 0 in total.
When a body loses a part of its electron as a result of friction, it gets a positive charge, and it needs to compensate the number of missing electrons. When this body is at a close distance to the body, which has more electrons, it begins to attract electrons with greater force, and electrons jump to the body, which has a positive charge. When does lightning strike? Just at the moment, when electrons jump from one body to another. The jump of electrons is accompanied by discharge as the jump of electrons emits quanta of light. This phenomenon can be observed if, for example, a person’s hand has a positive charge, and his hand touches an iron door handle. So, we have considered the nature of the voltage of a lightning bolt.
The situation is exactly the same with lightning clouds. Clouds in the sky are rubbing against each other, and there is a redistribution of charges. Some cloud loses electrons, and some take on extra electrons. As you have noticed, lightning can be of different kinds:
Lightning voltage carries a huge amount of energy, more than 15,000 Megawatts. In theory, if mankind skillfully used this energy, the discharge of one lightning would be enough to provide electricity to a small town for a few minutes. But unfortunately, mankind is not yet able to use the energy of lightning for its own purposes.
A direct hit of lightning can melt the power cable or cause a forest fire. However, it was not known for a long time what the temperature and force of lightning discharge were. Scientists from Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology (China) have identified a mathematical relationship between current strength and lightning temperature.
The unpredictable nature of the appearance of lightning impedes their systematic study. A group of Chinese scientists worked with artificial lightning obtained with a special generator. They managed to create discharges with different current strengths – from 5 thousand to 50 thousand amperes. They fixed the lightning temperature about 9.5 thousand degrees Celsius – almost twice as high as the temperature of the Sun’s surface.
Naturally, it is impossible to measure such a high temperature with an ordinary thermometer. To determine it, scientists measured the intensity of light at different wavelengths.
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