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Giant Natural Particle Accelerator Above Thunderclouds

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posted on Apr, 14 2010 @ 11:48 AM
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ScienceDaily (Apr. 14, 2010) — A lightning researcher at the University of Bath has discovered that during thunderstorms, giant natural particle accelerators can form 40 kilometers above the surface of the Earth.

On April 14, Dr. Martin Fullekrug presented his new work at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2010) in Glasgow.

When particularly intense lightning discharges in thunderstorms coincide with high-energy particles coming in from space (cosmic rays), nature provides the right conditions to form a giant particle accelerator above the thunderclouds.



The cosmic rays strip off electrons from air molecules and these electrons are accelerated upwards by the electric field of the lightning discharge. The free electrons and the lightning electric field then make up a natural particle accelerator.

The accelerated electrons then develop into a narrow particle beam which can propagate from the lowest level of the atmosphere (the troposphere), through the middle atmosphere and into near-Earth space, where the energetic electrons are trapped in the Earth's radiation belt and can eventually cause problems for orbiting satellites.

These are energetic events and for the blink of an eye, the power of the electron beam can be as large as the power of a small nuclear power plant.


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Dr Fullekrug comments: "It's intriguing to see that nature creates particle accelerators just a few miles above our heads. Once these new missions study them in more detail from space we should get a far better idea of how they actually work. They provide a fascinating example of the interaction between the Earth and the wider Universe."


www.sciencedaily.com...

This was apparently speculated about for almost 80 years, and was recently predicted through computer simulations.

I doubt there are any practical applications for this now. I just thought this was very interesting that this much power can come from a thunderstorm, and that it creates a natural particle accelerator.




posted on Apr, 15 2010 @ 04:07 PM
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A lightning researcher at the University of Bath has discovered that during thunderstorms, giant natural particle accelerators can form 40 km above the surface of the Earth. On Wednesday 14th April Dr. Martin Fullekrug will present his new work at the RAS National Astronomy Meeting (NAM 2010) in Glasgow. The image shows a transient airglow or 'sprite' above a thunderstorm in France in September 2009


www.sciencedaily.com...


If these are natural I can understand why they want to simulate them, but on what scale.



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