Astronomy Picture of the Day

Discover the cosmos! Each day we feature a different image or photograph of our fascinating universe, along with a brief explanation written by a professional astronomer.

November 10, 1995
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Lightning and the Space Shuttle
Credit: NASA

Explanation: There are many things about lightning that are not understood. Lightning has been seen in the atmospheres of Venus, Earth, Jupiter, and Saturn. A leading theory is that collisions of particles in clouds cause large areas of positive and negative charge. When large oppositely charged areas get close enough together, electrons and/or ions race between them and create a path where more charged particles can follow - lightning. On average, over 100 lightning strikes occur every second over the surface of the Earth. Here lightning strikes near a Space Shuttle before launch. Lightning can be extremely dangerous - stay out of open areas during thunderstorms.

Tomorrow's picture: Red Sprite Lightning

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Authors & editors: Robert Nemiroff (GMU) & Jerry Bonnell (USRA).
NASA Technical Rep.: Sherri Calvo. Specific rights apply.
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