You Haven't Seen Lightning Until You've Seen This Slow-motion Lightning

Lightning's the kind of thing that inspires so many human emotions: fear, confusion, awe, dread, excitement. But by the time we see it happen, it's already gone. Thank Al Gore for the internet, then, where we can view (and re-view, and re-view) amazing videos of the world around us, increasing our knowledge without having to fly a kite in an electrical storm.

Scientists at the Florida Institute of Technology recently used a super-slo-mo camera to capture lightning flashes about 6 miles (9.7 kilometers) from the Melbourne, Florida, campus. The camera, a Phantom v1210 that can cost as much as a house, is the first part of a spectrograph the research team is building.

This footage of a lightning storm was shot at 7000 frames per second (fps), but the video above was sped up to 700 fps. For comparison, a standard movie is filmed at 24 fps, meaning the camera captured footage almost 300 times slower than what the lightning strike looked like in real life — and this video's about 30 times slower.

The scientists from the Geospace Physics Lab and the university's College of Science plan to build the spectrograph to film and study transient luminous events (TLEs), the weird electrical discharges that can sometimes shoot up into the atmosphere above thunderclouds.