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Mysterious ‘dark lightning’ discovered in thunderstorms

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Posted at 8:54 PM, Apr 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-13 20:54:42-04

It sounds like something out of the Marvel Comics universe.

Researchers have discovered a powerful form of energy being blasted into space by thunder clouds: Dark lightning.

Space telescopes looking for high energy bursts form black holes and supernovas discovered the blasts, but initially had no idea where they originated, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

Normal lightning occurs when clouds pregnant with positive and negative charges build up and create an electric field. When those charges separate, they discharge huge amounts of energy suddenly and cause a hot, bright, incandescent spark.

Dark lightning is another kind of discharge humans can’t see. If our eyes were sensitive enough, we might see a bluish-purple glow emanating from the clouds.

An electric field emerges just as it does for lightning. But under the right conditions, dark lightning produces a kilometer-wide explosion of electrons and their antimatter equivalent, positrons …Those particles collide with air molecules at nearly the speed of light, shooting streams of gamma rays and radio waves into space.

Read more at the Orlando Sentinel.