Certainly, lightning strikes can be a breathtaking sight, but have you ever seen lightning shoot upwards?
Last year, researchers in São José dos Campos, Brazil, were fortunate enough to capture the moment that several buildings’ lightning rods reached out to meet descending lightning bolts in midair.
This incredible event was recorded using a high-speed camera that captured 40,000 images per second from a distance of about 150 yards. The researchers’ goal was to study the effectiveness of building-mounted lightning rods. These rods, typically made of copper or aluminum, are installed at a building’s highest point and are connected to wires that run to the ground. They function by diverting a lightning bolt’s intense electric charge around and away from the structure.
However, what is fascinating is that the rod itself is not passive. Triggered by lightning’s negative charge, the metal rod launches a positive charge toward the oncoming electrical thread. This was captured in the lucky high-speed video captured by the Brazilian team.
Interestingly, humans can also launch electrical charges to meet oncoming lightning bolts.
As Marcelo M.F. Saba, a senior researcher at the National Institute for Space Research in Brazil and an author of the study, explained, “Any person standing in an open area can similarly launch an upward connecting discharge from their head or shoulders and be injured by lightning even when not directly struck by it.”
Saba also cautioned that there are no lightning rod models that are superior to others.
“Some salesmen say that their lightning rods are better than the rest,” Saba told the paper, “but this is just sales talk. There is no solid research on that.”