1500 Pound Camera Takes 10-million images…per second!

Lightning X-Ray

National Geographic. Photo Courtesy Dustin Hill.

Scientists in Florida wanted to measure X-rays coming off a lightning bolt so they decided to take an x-ray image of one. Now, I’ve seen experiments where they fire a rocket into the air; a wire trails from the rocket which produces a static charge and…ZAP!

That’s what they did here (I suspect that greenish trail in the image above is the rocket exhaust), but to photograph it, they had to build a camera. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“You can’t just go buy a camera and point it at lightning,” he said. “We had to make it.”

The resulting 1,500-pound camera consists of an x-ray detector housed in a box about the size and shape of a refrigerator. The box is lined with lead to shield the x-ray detector from stray radiation.

X-rays enter the box through a small hole that in turn focuses them, like an old-fashioned pinhole camera.

Because lightning moves blindingly fast, the camera was required to take ten million images per second.  One challenge in taking such fast pictures is storing the data. To do so, the x-ray detector had to take pictures at a relatively low resolution of 30 pixels…

Click the image for the full Nat Geo article.

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