Ever seen lightning shoot upwards? If not, you're in luck.
Last year, researchers in São José dos Campos, Brazil were able to capture the exact moment that several buildings' lightning rods reached out to meet descending lightning bolts in midair.
In other words: the lightning rod managed to contain lightning — with lightning.
And while the pictures of the event, first published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters back in December, are mesmerizing in their own right, a video that pieces those photos together, as shared today by The New York Times, is truly something to behold.
Benjamin Franklin invented lightning rods in the 18th century, but the details of how lightning rods function are still the subject of scientific research. https://t.co/XhVYzMgSvS
— NYT Science (@NYTScience) March 28, 2023
To capture the incredible imagery, the scientists utilized a high-speed camera that records 40,000 images per second, positioned roughly 150 yards from the strike.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, the goal of the São José dos Campos-based study was to closely examine the efficacy and function of building-mounted lightning rods. Generally speaking, the idea is that a copper or aluminum rod is installed at a building's highest point; that rod is then attached to wires that run to the ground, which work to divert a lightning bolt's intense electric charge around and away from the structure.
Unbeknownst to our human eyes, however, the rod itself isn't passive. Triggered by lightning's negative charge, the metal rod launches a positive charge toward the oncoming electrical thread, as can be witnessed by the incredibly lucky high-speed video captured by the Brazilian team.
But fascinatingly, lightning rods aren't the only objects that launch electrical charges to meet oncoming lightning bolts. Humans do, too.
"Any person standing in an open area can similarly launch an upward connecting discharge from their head or shoulders," Marcelo M.F. Saba, a senior researcher at the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil and an author of the study, told the NYT, "and be injured by lightning even when not directly struck by it."
That said, if you're suddenly in the market for a lightning rod? According to Saba, don't fall for any sales gimmicks — they're all pretty much the same.
"Some salesmen say that their lightning rods are better than the rest," Saba told the paper, "but this is just sales talk. There is no solid research on that."
READ MORE: One of the Luckiest Lightning Strikes Ever Recorded [The New York Times]
More on weather events: Scientists Test System for Controlling Where Lightning Strikes Hit Using Lasers
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