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Un­til now, no one could pre­dict where light­ning would strike. This has made it dif­fi­cult to re­search, es­pe­cially since light­ning pro­duced in a lab has to­tally dif­fer­ent prop­er­ties. Martin Uman and his team at the Uni­ver­sity of Florida’s In­ter­na­tional Cen­ter for Light­ning Re­search and Test­ing de­vel­oped a de­vice that can cap­ture light­ning. They wait for a storm and then shoot a rocket at­tached to a cord into the air… The ba­sic re­quire­ment for nat­u­ral light­ning is a charge sep­a­ra­tion, which is why there are such things as neg­a­tive light­ning and the much rarer pos­i­tive light­ning. To trig­ger the light­ning, one end of a spool of cop­per wire is at­tached to a 6-foot model rocket and the other end is at­tached to a rod on the ground. The rocket is launched into the storm and con­trib­utes a pos­i­tive charge. In re­sponse a neg­a­tive charge fol­lows the same path down to the rod. A charge then shoots up, and a bolt is born. This means the re­searchers can pre­cisely con­trol the strike point and can even de­ter­mine which ob­jects will be hit. And they can an­a­lyze the light­ning: A mea­sur­ing sta­tion on the ground col­lects strike data. The whole pro­cess is recorded by a high-speed cam­era that pro­vides 1 mil­lion frames per sec­ond.

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