Strange gamma ray flashes from lightning storms may have explanation

Flashes of gamma radiation that seem to be produced by lightning storms have puzzled researchers for some time, but now there may be an explanation

Physics 26 May 2022

Lightning storm

Lightning over Blackpool, UK

Stephen Cheatley/Alamy

Lightning storms produce powerful flashes of gamma rays, and now we may know why, after researchers captured one using cameras across multiple wavelengths.

Gamma rays are normally seen coming from objects in space, such as neutron stars or pulsars, but they can also be produced by lightning storms on Earth. These terrestrial gamma ray flashes (TGFs) can damage nearby electronics, such as those in aircraft, but we still don’t know exactly why they occur – only a very small fraction of lightning events seem to produce them. …

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