Mini lightning and thunder

Lightning strikes around the world about 100 times a second. It also puts out a heat five times hotter than the surface of the sun! But what is lightning, and where does it come from?

Lightning is a spark of electrical discharge caused by a build-up of static electricity. Static electricity is made when you rub certain materials together, creating a build-up of electric charge. In a Van De Graff Generator the revolving belt rubs against the rollers. In a storm cloud, there's movement and rubbing of tiny bits of ice and water droplets inside the cloud. This causes electrical charge to build up in different parts of the cloud, creating static electricity. When the previously static electrical charge flows, we see it as lightning.

Learn more about lightning and our Lightning Room in our FAQs page

If you’re interested in finding out even more about how lightning works, listen to Scienceworks presenter Rosa on the Fact Detectives episode with Kinderling Radio!

Learn more about static electricity and see some experiments you can try out at home in our Getting sticky with static activity!

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