High-speed X-ray images of triggered lightning dart leaders

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Abstract

[1] We present the first high-time resolution two-dimensional images of X-ray emissions from lightning. The images were recorded at a rate of 10 million per second using a new pinhole-type camera, located 44 m from rocket-and-wire-triggered lightning. We report observations of two dart leaders, one in each of two lightning flashes triggered during the summer of 2010 in north-central Florida. In both events, as the dart leader approached the ground, the X-ray source was also seen to descend along the previous lightning channel. For the second event, the X-ray source exhibited a downward speed of 4.5 × 107 m/s, in agreement with independent dE/dt time-of-arrival (TOA) measurements of the speed of the dart leader front, demonstrating that the dart leader front was the source of the X-ray emission. The camera also recorded bursts of MeV gamma rays originating from the dart leader and/or the ground attachment process of the leader. Overall, these results provide new insight into the production of energetic radiation and the propagation and attachment of lightning, all of which remain poorly understood.

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