Lightning is one of the most powerful natural forces — it rarely strikes people, but it’s beautiful, deadly, and incredible to behold. Lightning is the end result of a whole shitload of energy popping off at one time, and when it does, it’s pretty dramatic.
Professor Ningyu Liu at the Florida Institute of Technology’s Geospace Physics Laboratory waded out into the midst (or more likely stood under a nice roof) of a huge lightning storm in Florida recently to capture a storm at 7,000 frames per second. At that speed, lightning is still too fast to capture moving smoothly — it seems to jump across the screen in short bursts (the video’s playback is only in 700 frames per second, however). We’ve seen lightning storms from space before, but an up-close look at one of these camera speeds isn’t common. It’s pretty cool to watch the chaotic tendrils of energy splinter and fork toward the ground.
Some of the most spectacular displays of the phenomenon come from exploding volcanoes, where tiny particles of ash and rock create massive amounts of static electricity very quickly and release it in dramatic ways.
Check out professor Liu’s video below.