The researchers shared a scene just before lightning struck, and electrical jets that rose from the sky and launched from the ground collided.
Using high-speed cameras, researchers photographed lightning hitting a 325-meter high meteorological tower in Beijing, China. Two consecutive frames, each lasting 2.63 microseconds, show the moment when overhead beams of lightning suddenly appeared, releasing massive positive electricity and blinding flashes.
The above images contribute to shed light on the breakthrough phase, the moment when the beams begin to approach each other but have not yet coalesced. This is one of the least known processes scientists have in lightning research, but plays a key role in determining where lightning strikes, according to a paper published on February 1 in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
“The target of lightning cannot be determined from the beginning when it comes out of the cloud,” said Rubin Jiang, an atmospheric physicist at the Institute for Observing the Global Environment and Middle-Stage Atmosphere at the Academy of Sciences Chinese studies, study co-author, said. “Breakthrough is the process of helping to find an object that has been hit by lightning.”
Because the breakout occurred so quickly, scientists had difficulty observing the new High-Speed Camera that provided a clearer picture of the event. Lightning starts when negatively charged particles accumulate in the cloud, causing a positively charged charge on the ground below. The electric current originates from the cloud and splits into several branches. When these branches approach the ground, they attract a positive charge from the underlying object, leading to the breakout phase.