Lightning: Does it Go Down or Up?

Lyons, Walt

Année de publication
Earth is one of four planets in our solar system—along with Venus, Jupiter, and Saturn—that experiences giant atmospheric electrical discharges, or lightning. Only on our planet, however, are there sentient creatures pondering the origin and nature of these atmospheric pyrotechnics. This is most appropriate, given that the energy of ancient lightning flashes might have produced some key amino acids comprising the organic molecules that allowed for the evolution of these curious Homo sapiens. One question often asked by humans: which way does lightning travel? Does it come down from the cloud, or go up from the ground? The answer is: Yes. And no. Also both ways. And very often sideways. It turns out, it's complicated! Fortunately, lightning researchers, aided by new high-speed camera systems, have begun to clarify the amazingly complex physics that transpire within fractions of a second.

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