Lightning Bolts are Natural Particle Accelerators (Study)

Lightning bolt in the night sky

In a recent study published by the journal Nature, a physicist at Kyoto University in Japan, Teruaki Enoto, has managed to prove for the first time ever that lightning bolts actually act as natural particle accelerators. Thanks to him and his team, a speculation dating back to 1925 has finally been proven true. Back then, some experts claimed that radioactive particles might be able to escape through the lightning bolts created during a thunderstorm.

It seems like those particles actually emit some precise wavelengths of energy. This is where Enoto did the extraordinary, because he successfully managed to detect them. When a lightning bolt occurs, particles split in its hot belly. Then, it the bolt’s afterglow, they decay. Finally, this phenomenon makes gamma rays fall down on our planet.

An extraordinary discovery

Each time a lightning bolt strikes, electrons shoot extremely fast either between the clouds and the Earth’s surface, or between two clouds. But the most important idea is that those particles don’t simply travel through some void space. In their journey, they crash into molecules of atmospheric gas. Because of the collisions, the gas molecules are heated up and become plasma which has blackbody radiation.

When we see a lightning we also see some of that specific glow. However, some of that emission happens at frequencies that the human eye is not able to detect. Enoto’s paper proves that those unseen emissions, gamma rays in particular, fill up the atmosphere with nitrogen and oxygen. So, when gamma rays encounter molecules, they knock the neutrons out of them. Basically, this is how nuclear fission happens.

Then, the N-13 and O-15 molecules begin decaying. Each unstable isotope than creates one extra positron and neutrino. The positrons are the main attraction here as they collide with their twins. Matter and anti-matter meet and annihilate each other in a flash of energy. This is what the team of experts discovered in their study and discovered that lightning bolts can actually be natural particle accelerators.

Image source: publicdomainpictures

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