Dark Lightning :
Dark Lightning, first reported in the year 1994, NASA described this invisible burst of energy as the most energetic radiation produced naturally on the planet. This intense burst of gamma radiation, known as terrestrial gamma-ray flashes or dark lightning takes birth in powerful lightning storms.
According to a research report published at the American Geophysical Union meeting on December 13, this invisible burst of energy could strike a cruising airplane, and the jolt could expose the flying passengers to dangerous levels of gamma radiation.
Researchers estimated that Dark Lightning could strike up to a thousand times every day throughout the world.
The clouds of electric fields in the thunderstorms and lightning bolts generate dark lightning.
The researchers stated that these supercharged electric fields spin electrons at a speed close to the speed of light, dispersing waves of electrons around. And when these flash particles collide into airborne atoms, intense gamma radiation (Dark Lightning) is released.
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These powerful bursts of energy occur at around 10-15 kilometers in the air, which is the usual cruising altitude of the airlines.
The study combined the observations of dark lightning and air routes revealed that these bursts occur close to an airplane around once every 1 – 4 years.
“However, that’s probably an upper limit of the real probability or even 10 times the actual rate largely because the calculations didn’t factor in pilots’ avoidance of thunderstorms,” said atmospheric scientist Melody Pallu in a report.
According to the researchers’ computer simulations, the passengers flying within 200 meters of the flash-point of a strong terrestrial gamma-ray could be exposed to radiation levels exceeding 0.3 sieverts which surpasses the occupational safety level of 0.02 sieverts per year as per the international commission on Radiological Protections’ Safety guidelines.
However, the researchers only have little understanding of their phenomena and further studies could reveal more about it.