Invisible ’Dark Lighting’ Blasts Airline Passengers With Radiation
By Charles Q. Choi | Business Insider
"Dark lightning" that is almost invisible within clouds may regularly blast airline passengers with large numbers of gamma rays, scientists find.
However, these outbursts do not seem to reach truly dangerous levels, researchers added.
More than a decade ago, researchers unexpectedly discovered thunderstorms could generate brief but powerful bursts of gamma rays, the highest-energy form of light. These so-called terrestrial gamma-ray flashes are so bright that they are able to blind sensors on satellites many hundreds of miles away.
Artist impression of a terrestrial gamma-ray flash, called "dark lightning," originating from a thunderstorm. The gamma rays (pink), in turn, generate electrons and positrons (yellow and green), their antimatter counterparts, which get blasted into space.
Worryingly, terrestrial gamma-ray flashes can occur near the same altitudes at which commercial aircraft regularly fly. Attempts to discover whether these flashes pose a radiation hazard to airline passengers have been hampered by a poor understanding of the cause of these flashes. Past research has also found these flashes hurl beams of antimatter into space.
"We know in detail how black holes work at the centers of distant galaxies, but we don’t really understand what is going on inside thunderclouds just a few miles over our heads," said researcher Joseph Dwyer, a physicist at the Florida Institute of Technology.
Now computer models suggest the flashes are caused by an extreme form of lightning. Although they may blast out large numbers of gamma rays, they generate very little visible light, leading scientists to call the phenomenon "dark lightning."
"I find it amazing that it took us two-and-a half centuries after Ben Franklin to find out that there is another kind of lightning inside thunderstorms," Dwyer told LiveScience.
Normal lightning involves slow electrons that carry electric current to the ground or within clouds. In contrast, dark lightning involves high-energy electrons. These electrons slam into air molecules, producing gamma rays. In turn, these gamma rays generate electrons and their antimatter counterparts, known as positrons. These high-energy particles collide into still more air molecules, generating more gamma rays, ultimately explaining many of the properties of the gamma-ray flashes that scientists have detected from thunderstorms.
Ordinary lightning arcs from one spot to another to reduce the voltage growing within clouds. Dark lightning does so as well, and since much higher energy particles are involved, it reduces voltage far more quickly, so the electric fields within them "can collapse in a few tens of microseconds," Dwyer said.
Dark lightning and radiation
Armed with a model that potentially explains these gamma-ray flashes, Dwyer and his colleagues analyzed how much radiation airline passengers might receive from them. Near the tops of thunderstorms, at about 40,000 feet (12,200 meters) in altitude, the scientists calculated that radiation doses are comparable to about 10 chest X-rays, or about the same dose people receive from natural background sources of radiation over the course of a year.
However, near the middle of the storms, at about 16,000 feet (4,900 meters) in altitude, "the radiation dose could be about 10 times larger, comparable to some of the largest doses received during medical procedures and roughly equal to a full-body CT scan," Dwyer said.
Read the full article at: businessinsider.com
Tune into Red Ice Radio:
David Talbott - Lightning Scarred Planet Mars & The Electric Sun
Wallace Thornhill - The Electric Universe
Donald E. Scott - The Electric Sky
Rens van der Sluijs - Plasma Mythology & The Axis Mundi
Susan Joy Rennison - A New Cosmic Age, Space Weather & Cosmic Radiation
Matthew Stein - Hour 1 - When Technology Fails & Six Civilization Busters
Matthew Stein - Hour 2 - 400 Chernobyls, Super Solar Storms & EMPs
Will Hart - Solar Flare Apocalypse, Accelerated Natural Disasters & Evolution
Will Hart - Accelerated Natural Disasters, Aftermath & Evolution
Latest News from our Front Page
Pressure from the United Patriots Front Stops Mosque Plan
Pressure from the United Patriots Front appears to have killed off a mosque development in Narre Warren North.
The City of Casey council now looks likely to withhold planning approval for the development in a special meeting set for Tuesday night.
A council report, to be considered by councillors on Tuesday, recommends that the approval be blocked.
The mosque opponents’ cause has been helped by councillor ...
Police face questions over the influence of the Freemasons
South Yorkshire Police today face questions over whether powerful 'secret society' the Freemasons held sway over the force at the time of Hillsborough.
Families of victims say that officers who were Masons were promoted into powerful positions despite being ill-equipped, including match commander David Duckenfield.
Duckenfield told the fresh inquests he had been a Freemason since 1975 and became head of his ...
England Bans its Own Flag to Avoid Offending Muslims
St. George's Cross "racist" towards immigrants
Government officials said their city was ‘too multicultural’ to celebrate St George’s Day, England’s version of the 4th of July.
The council said that displaying the English flag may have been seen as “racist” towards immigrants.
Half of Western European men descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’
Half of Western European men are descended from one Bronze Age ‘king’ who sired a dynasty of elite nobles which spread throughout Europe, a new study has shown.
The monarch, who lived around 4,000 years ago, is likely to have been one of the earliest chieftains to take power in the continent.
He was part of a new order which emerged in ...
"Local Residents" Are Filmed Stealing Dozens of Bottles of Water at London Marathon Stop
Editor's Comment: "Local" residents? Why bother blurring their faces? We know who they are.
London marathon runners were robbed of dozens of bottled waters when thieves raided a refreshment area armed with trolleys during today's race.
Nearby residents - including parents with children - were captured on camera piling up crates of free water handed out by volunteers during the 26-mile event.
|More News » |