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Published on Oct 6, 2015
This slow-motion video shows the impressive process of a lightning strike. The first part of the video shows the process in real time at a frame rate of 25 fps. All one is able to see is a bright flash. The second part plays the process back in extreme slow-motion at a rate 100 times slower than the original speed.
The lightning strikes initiate inside a storm. Three very faint channels called “stepped leaders” emerge from the storm base. They propagate toward the ground in a series of steps about 50 meters (160 feet) in length and 1 microsecond (0.000001 seconds) in duration. They seem harmless but are carrying an extremely strong electric potential of about 100 million volts!! As they approach the ground they branch out in many directions looking around for an object to strike. Two stepped leaders find their target. An electric current wave called a “return stroke” shoots up the channel as a brilliant pulse. This is what we see as lightning.
The video was recorded using an ultra-sensitive MotionBLITZ® Cube high-speed camera at a frame rate of 2,503 frames per second and a resolution of 512 x 512 px. The recording was shot within 14.8 milliseconds (=0.0148 seconds). It consists of 38 frames.
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