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.


Friday Photo News Roundup: Breathtaking Images

I haven’t done a round-up in a little while. Not that I haven’t found anything interesting,  just that I fall into the habit of posting items piecemeal on my Facebook Fan Page.

So let’s start with an amazing composite image of lightning strikes captured over the course of half-an-hour.

Lightning Strikes

Chris Kotsiopoulos

You can see more of the photographer’s work here. He’s got some pretty cool galleries of celestial events.

You might also remember a past blog post where I mention a photographer who captured lightning hitting the Statue of Liberty.

Next, check out the “World’s Best Underwater Photographs of 2010”

'Hitting sailfish' - Sailfish attacking schooling fish in Port St Johns, South Africa

Photograph: Alexander Safonov /Barcroft Media


Keeping with the theme, Reuters has a 55 photo slideshow of its best photos of 2010. What I really like about this gallery is that the photographers give extended descriptions in the captions along with the gear and settings they used. Warning: some of the photos are graphic.

Lastly, is this 360-degree, 80 gigapixel (that’s 80 billion pixels) panoramic image of London. The page is a little slow to load, so be patient. Then click “cancel” on the window that explains how to pan and zoom. I love how you can zoom in to see people on the street and inside buildings. In fact, this article gives you more details behind the work and says the photographer had to censor some naughty activity.

If you like gigapixel images, I posted this 1.2 gigapixel image a month ago from game one of the National League Series.  Again, use the tools to pan and zoom. If you see yourself or someone you know in the stands, you can actually tag them!

Thanks for stopping by. Have a great weekend!