You thought you were SO smart! You thought
you KNEW where lightning came from, but you don’t. Because it comes from the SUN. Howdy light bulbs, Trace here comin’ atcha
from DNews with your weekly space update! Lightning is a fairly common way for nature
to showcase its raw power. Molecules in the clouds bump and grind on each other, creating
a buildup of static electricity. As the cloud becomes positively charged, electrons snake
up from the negatively charged ground called step leaders. When the electrons meet SHHHHKKKKK!!
Lightning! Science is awesome. Anyway, that’s what we USED to think, turns
out there’s a bigger, badder baller on the block. The friggin’ SUN. A new study in Environmental Research Letters
found the solar wind may be affecting the amount of lightning we’re seeing on the ground.
The sun is constantly producing a stream of electrons and protons travelling a million
miles an hour flowing in all directions away from it. This is commonly called the solar
wind — because Earth is bathed in the high-speed little buggers constantly, and during periods
of high solar activity, like now, the solar wind “blows” even stronger. Though we think of the sun as a solid ball,
it’s a giant nuclear furnace made of gas that takes 27 days to fully rotate. The particles
it emits are therefore fluctuating in a predictable pattern as well. The scientists describe the
solar wind as waves, because it can vary in density, temperature and charge, based on
where the sun is in its cycle. When these high-energy particles hit Earth’s
magnetic field, we get aurora, and they usually just bounce off and keep going. However, when
a relatively slow wave is overtaken by a relatively fast wave it overwhelms Earth’s magnetic shield
and some of the particles break into the upper atmosphere, charging up the clouds and causing
an increase in either frequency or intensity of lightning. They weren’t exactly clear on
which of those it was… It’s not just our sun causing this static
buildup, when OTHER stars explode millions of light-years away, they ALSO send out these
high-energy particles and some of them do eventually hit us too. Mathematically, this
is mind boggling, right? What are the chances of a star exploding millions of years ago
at JUST the right time to shoot out a particle which after millions of years will hit US
and cause a lightning strike that will FINALLY give me super powers? WHAT ARE THE CHANCES?! Knowing this, the scientists say, might help
improve long-term weather forecasting. Somehow. Are you blown away by this solar wind thing?
Tell us in the comments below and get funky with it. Make sure you subscribe and also,
space friends, NEXT Wednesday we doing a Google Hangout with NASA/JPL and it’s going to rock.
Literally. Because we’re talking about Meteors. Check the description for the link to RSVP
and get your questions ready! I’m super excited about this, it’s going to be every month! Subscribe for more videos every day of the
week and come say hey to us on twitter at-DNews, or me at-TraceDominguez, and thanks for watching,
y’all are the bestest.