Lightning is crazy. It is a supercharged electricity beam that extends from the sky to the ground and can kill people. But it can also produce nuclear reactions, according to new research.
Scientists have known for a long time that lightning storms can produce high-energy radiation, like this December 2015 that erupted in a Japanese coastal city with some gamma radiation. But now, another team of researchers in Japan report conclusive evidence that these gamma rays cause reactions that alter atoms, such as those in a nuclear reactor.
Basically, we previously wrote that scientists " think that high-energy gamma rays interacted with nitrogen in the atmosphere, which led to the production of neutrons," the emphasis added. With this new document, published today in Nature a team says that now they know that this is happening.
Electric storm transforms into a nuclear reactor and explosions Radiation everywhere
Stormy clouds rolled into the Japanese coastal city of Uchinada one morning in December 2015. …
Read more Read  Winter storms are common on the coast of the Sea of Japan, making it a mature place to study them. These measurements come from a pair of rays on February 6, 2017, according to the new document published in Nature that left a large amount of radiation in four detectors between 0.5 and 1.7 kilometers away, about a third from one mile to one mile. After the flash came a radiance glow for up to a minute. After badyzing the data and the energies of the particles that came out, the researchers felt that they had conclusively observed the results of the gamma rays that expel the neutrons from the nitrogen atoms.
This is great for many reasons. In particular, you can remember that atoms such as carbon and nitrogen get their identity from their number of protons, but they can have different flavors according to their number of neutrons. This result could "provide a previously unknown channel to generate" rarer "carbon, nitrogen and oxygen isotopes naturally on Earth," according to the document.
At least other researchers found the results convincing. The observations are a "conclusive indication of electron-positron annihilation," an expected byproduct of some of these radioactive decays, "and it represents unequivocal evidence that lightning storms can trigger photon-nuclear reactions," wrote Leonid Babich, a researcher at the Federal Nuclear Center. Russian. – The entire Russian Research Institute for Experimental Research, in a comment of Nature .
As expected, there is more work to be done to determine how many of these isotopes a lightning bolt creates and what else could create a beam. .
But it's pretty crazy that when a thunderstorm happens, it's as if Earth is operating as a temporary nuclear reactor.