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Electronic Imaging & Signal Processing

Camera captures first x-ray images of lightning

LiveScience
18 December 2010

If Superman and Lois Lane watched lightning strike the tallest buildings of Metropolis, the superhero might puzzle his lady friend by describing a glow as seen through his X-ray vision. Now scientists have spotted the same by building a camera that captured the world's first X-ray images of lightning.

The fridge-sized camera snapped 10 million frames per second in order to capture lightning processes that last just millionths of a second. Florida researchers pointed the camera at a launch tower where they sent rockets soaring with trailing copper wire - a modern-day Ben Franklin experiment to trigger lightning.

The X-ray glow follows a so-called lightning leader -- a channel in the air that forms a path for the lightning. The leader's charged tip creates an electric field that accelerates electrons almost to the speed of light and causes the X-ray emissions.

Full story from LiveScience