Scientists are getting to the secret of lightning




Scientists are getting to the secret of lightning

No one really knows what causes lightning to be born. Apart from the two Russian scientists, who believe that such discharge of billions of volts can be generated by the interaction of cosmic rays – particles from space – with drops of water in the storm clouds.

Cosmic rays are born deep in space as a result of an incredibly powerful and devastating events such as the collision of stars, gamma-ray bursts and supernovae birth . These cataclysms accelerate charged particles – protons in most cases – to the incredibly high energy. Rays sweep through space and those that reach the upper zone of the Earth’s atmosphere, generating an invisible but very energetic shower of ionized particles and electromagnetic radiation.

The idea that these showers may cause lightning while passing through a storm cloud, seen for twenty years. In 1992, the Russian physicist Alexander Gurevich of the Physics Institute. Lebedev in Moscow suggested that the high-energy particles produced by cosmic ray ionizes the air in the storm cloud, creating a region with a large number of free electrons. The electric field accelerates the electrons clouds to nearly light speed, filling them with energy. Thereafter, the electrons collide with atoms of air, creating an even larger number of electrons and X-rays and gamma rays. This stream of high-energy particles in the cloud, which Gurevich called “punch escape”, provides the ideal environment for the birth of lightning.

Researchers all over the world discussed the idea of ​​Gurevich from the moment of her birth. But Gurevich has not provided concrete evidence that all the fault of the cosmic rays. Radio waves can help. Joseph Dwyer, a researcher of lightning from the Florida Institute of Technology in Melbourne, says the following: electron cascades until a lightning strike should generate radio waves.

“The community of cosmic rays is well known that cosmic rays may give rise to radio waves, and in the case of a lightning storm, you see a lot of radio pulses. However, no one has yet to put an end to this study, and showed that the air showers passing through the electric field of a thundercloud, do indeed generate these runaway electrons. ”

To confirm the idea Gurevich and his counterpart Anatoly Karashtin of the Research Institute of Radio Physics in Nizhny Novgorod analyzed data from 3,800 lightning strikes recorded in Russia and Kazakhstan. They used a radio interferometer, which measured the radio show and where they come from, and studied radio pulses, born at the beginning of a lightning strike.

As a result, it was reported that the storm clouds are studying “hundreds or thousands” of short high-power radio pulses just before the lightning strike. Their shape, as the researchers note, follows the model of runaway electrons due to exposure to cosmic rays. But there is one problem: the cosmic rays of sufficient energy is too rare to provoke all pulses recorded by Gurevich and Karashtin.

Researchers believe that the so-called hydrometeors – drops of water and hail in each of clouds – can enhance impulses. When the free electrons created by cosmic ray particles pass near the hydrometeors, they cause a flurry of micro-discharges that increase the momentum of the electrons and the radio flux.

Lightning researcher Clive Saunders of the University of Manchester does not agree with the fact that cosmic rays play a role in the birth of lightning: “There is no connection between lightning activity and the level of income of cosmic rays in the atmosphere.”

This rate increases and decreases according to the 11-year cycle of solar activity. When the solar wind is stronger, the Earth is exposed to more cosmic rays. If cosmic rays were associated with thunderstorms, according to Saunders, the frequency of storms should correlate with the 11-year cycle. But while researchers can not prove this correlation, all their principal concept remains questionable.

Most studies tend to a different theory. Lightning occurs when the collision of ice crystals and hail storm cloud separate electrical charge sufficient to cause a strong electric field. The process itself can ionize the air enough to born by lightning and do not need any of cosmic rays.

Dwyer believes that the dispute can be resolved by a detector of cosmic ray showers, known as Cherenkov telescope:

“What we really need is to measure tracts of air showers that are exposed to cosmic radiation, radio waves to measure, count the pulses and put it all together.”

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Tags: Cosmic Rays , Lightning , Physics .

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