Using a custom-built camera the size of a refrigerator, Florida researchers have made the world’s first crude pictures of X-rays streaming from a stroke of lightning. Seeing X-rays in relation to the lightning “leader,” the initial spark and the channel it makes through the air, should help researchers build better models of the twisty and still unexplained ways that lightning behaves. The images are beyond blurry. They look like near-abstract blotches of white and green, better deciphered when displayed in a series with a rough sketch of the lightning tip superimposed. “You can see the X-ray source descending,” Joseph Dwyer, a physics professor at the Florida Institute of Technology, told a group of lightning specialists gathered Monday in San Francisco. “You start to see the air glow in X-rays.”
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Sun & Planets roughly to scale. Distances not to scale.