Lightning and Ionization

November 07, 2004


Provided and copyright by: Domenico Licchelli, physicist
Summary authors & editors: Domenico Licchelli; Jim Foster

The photo above showing an ionized gas cloud resulting from a lightning bolt was taken above Gagliano Del Capo, Italy on July 12, 2004. The strong electric fields surrounding storm clouds are capable of ionizing the surrounding air, making it much more conductive. Ionization is the process whereby electrons are stripped from the outer shells of gas molecules -- the molecules are electrically charged. When ionization occurs in clouds, molecules composing air (mostly nitrogen and oxygen) are transformed into a soup of positive ions and free electrons -- a conductive plasma.

Photo Details: Taken in backyard observatory of Domenico Licchelli, 15 second exposure at F4

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