Lightning Captured at 11,000 Frames Per Second
Originally captured back in 2011 the National Geographic show “Naked Science: Lightning Chasers” gave us a never before seen look at the anatomy of a lightning strike in ultra-slow motion. Although the footage is older the video is still amazing, and quite possibly the most detailed of it’s kind (if there are any others). The first actual “bolt” of lightning (called a leader) proceeds in steps that lengthen by about 30 meters at a time. Each step taking about 1 microsecond (one millionth of a second) to complete with about a 50 microsecond pause in between. The whole process of a strike may take a few thousandths of a second, giving us just enough time to perceive motion. Most of the charge of the strike comes after this leader makes contact with the ground, however. In the video you will hear lightning physicist Vladislav Mazur and meteorologist Tom Warner speak about the “return stroke.” This powerful “return stroke” releases much more energy. This is the bit of a lightning strike that can cause the lightning to appear to flicker. To me to coolest part of this video is being able to watch the surge of energy from the return stroke flow back up from the ground.
Of all of the slow-motion videos that we can create with current technology, I think this my be the one that I am the most in awe of.