Lightning is essentially a giant spark of static electricity, though much about how and why it forms remains unknown and the subject of scientific research. It is known that lightning occurs in thunderstorms when there is a separation of electrical charge within the storm clouds, which can cause cloud-to-cloud lightning, the majority of lightning that occurs in a storm. A charge separation can also form between thunderstorm clouds and the ground, leading to classic cloud-to-ground lightning. Thunder is the acoustic shock wave that results from the heat that a lightning strike produces. NASA research suggests that lightning flashes 40 times a second around the globe. Read about the latest lightning research and see amazing lightning photos below.
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Satellite Imagery Reveals Most Lightning-Prone Places on Earth
Lake Maracaibo, Venezuela
December 14th, 2015
Lake Maracaibo is the spot most prone to lightning strikes on Earth, according to new data with incredibly high resolution.
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Electrifying Photo Takes Internet by Storm: Why Rainbow Lightning Is So Rare
August 14th, 2015
A real-estate agent and storm chaser captured a snapshot of a lifetime on Aug. 9, when he photographed a rare duo — an eerie flash of lightning framed by a glorious rainbow — in Tucson, Arizona. Here's how the two phenomena happened.
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Snapshot of a Storm: Scientists Capture 1st 'Image' of Thunder
May 6th, 2015
For the first time, scientists have imaged thunder, shedding light on the physical processes that create it.
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Lightning Can Warp Rocks at Their Core
August 10th, 2015
A zap of lightning can change the very structure of a rock, new research shows.
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Zap! New Map Charts Every Lightning Bolt
Map of Lightning Strikes
April 2nd, 2015
A new map shows the distribution of lightning strikes across the Earth over the past two decades.
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Global Warming Will Bring More US Lightning Strikes
November 13th, 2014
Expect a 50 percent increase in lightning strikes within the United States by 2100 if temperatures continue to rise due to greenhouse gas emissions.
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Amazing 'Red Lightning' Photographed from Space
A red sprite photographed by space station astronauts on Aug. 10, 2015, above Acapulco, Mexico.
August 25th, 2015
Like a giant jellyfish floating through the atmosphere, red sprites hover above thunderstorms in two new photographs snapped from space by astronauts aboard the International Space Station.
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'Iron Man' Laser: Beams Can Shape Electrical Discharges
By putting different types of lenses in front of a laser beam fired rapidly between two electrodes, the researchers created sparks with various shapes.
June 22nd, 2015
Want to make lightning bend like the super-villain Ivan Vanko in "Iron Man 2?" Lasers might be the way to do it. Turns out, laser beams can control the shape and direction of electrical discharges, physicists have found.
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Cities Birth More Thunderstorms Than Rural Areas
Atlanta lightning
February 19th, 2015
Hot and humid cities can birth more summer thunderstorms than rural areas in the Southeast.
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