Curiosity sees bizarre spikes on Mars

In August 2012, the Curiosity rover landed in the Gale Crater on Mars and began exploring the surface for indications of past life. The rover made some profound discoveries during that time, including evidence that the crater ...

Weather satellite prepares for lightning

As one of the last milestones before liftoff at the end of the year, the first Meteosat Third Generation weather satellite is being fitted with its Lightning Imager. From geostationary orbit, 36,000 km above Earth's surface, ...

Early Earth's atmosphere was less conducive to lightning

In 1952, Stanley Miller and Harold Urey made sparks fly in a gas-filled flask meant to reflect the composition of Earth's atmosphere around 3.8 billion years ago. Their results suggested that lightning could have led to prebiotic ...

NASA delays final test for moon shot

The latest test of NASA's giant Moon rocket SLS has been suspended to allow for a SpaceX rocket to launch later this week, the US space agency announced Tuesday.

What does lightning actually do to a tree?

The huge storms many Australians have experienced recently have damaged or toppled old trees which had withstood the vagaries of our weather for the past century or more.

770-km US megaflash sets new lightning record

A single flash of lightning in the United States nearly two years ago cut across the sky for nearly 770 kilometres, setting a new world record, the United Nations said Tuesday.

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Lightning

Lightning is an atmospheric discharge of electricity accompanied by thunder, which typically occurs during thunderstorms, and sometimes during volcanic eruptions or dust storms. In the atmospheric electrical discharge, a leader of a bolt of lightning can travel at speeds of 60,000 m/s (130,000 mph), and can reach temperatures approaching 30,000 °C (54,000 °F), hot enough to fuse silica sand into glass channels known as fulgurites which are normally hollow and can extend some distance into the ground. There are some 16 million lightning storms in the world every year.

Lightning can also occur within the ash clouds from volcanic eruptions, or can be caused by violent forest fires which generate sufficient dust to create a static charge.

How lightning initially forms is still a matter of debate: Scientists have studied root causes ranging from atmospheric perturbations (wind, humidity, friction, and atmospheric pressure) to the impact of solar wind and accumulation of charged solar particles. Ice inside a cloud is thought to be a key element in lightning development, and may cause a forcible separation of positive and negative charges within the cloud, thus assisting in the formation of lightning.

This text uses material from Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA