Cosmic Lightining

Team: 42


Area of Science: Earth and Space science

Interim: Team Number: 042
School Name: Highland High School
Area of Science: Earth and Space Science

Problem definition:
There are over four million lightining strikes every day on Earth, and there is also cosmic rain decending on the planet which is made up of highly energized charged particals. The actual generation of lightining in clouds has not been explained because there just is not enough voltage generated in actual cloud measurements.

We propose to create a model first with Starlogo and then Java that simulates how a lightining strike occurs. We would then introduce a cosmic ray event that produces energy, X-rays in the real world, that would spark a lightining event in our atmosphere.

Problem Solution:
We will attempt to create a program that simulates a possible process of lightning.
Our first model will create a replica of what lightning looks like. Our first models will be using Starlogo and then in January begin to use JAVA. We will have to do research in order to find a realistic parameters
so that the model has some meaning. If there is time we mite model competing theories of the process of lightning.

Progress to date:
A simulation has been constructed to make a graphic design to resemble a lighting strike, We are currently working on a simulation that involves X-rays that produces energy that would "spark" a lighting event in our atmosphere. We are planning to use the simulation that makes a graphic design of a lighting strike and the simulation that involves X-ray's energy that would spark a lighting event and make a simulation of both. Cosmic rays entering the screen will strike a particle at random and create x-rays wich in turn "spark" the lightning.

Cosmic rays or Galactic cosmic rays(GCR) are the hi-energy parts that flow into our solar system from far away galaxy. GCR are mostly pieces of atoms: protons electrons and atom nuclei which have had all of electrons striped during there hi-speed (almost speed of light) passage throught the galaxy.

About 90% of the cosmic ray nuclei are hydrogen (protons), about 9% are helium (alpha particles), and all of the rest of the elements make up only 1%. Even in this one present there are very rare elements and isotopes. Most galactic cosmic rays are probably accelerated in the blast waves of supernova remnants.
Air molecules have energies around 0.03 ev (electron volt). Auroral electrons typically have 1000 to 10000 ev, as do protons in the magnetotail. Ring current protons have more, around 20000-100000 ev while inner belt protons go higher still, typically 10000000-1000000000 ev.

Lightning is what we would commonly call static electricity in the sky. Lightning is formed when a electrons begin to transfer charge. This transfer is what we believe to be caused by cosmic rays, from exploded stars. There are various types of lightning. Some of the types are: forked lightning which are jagged crooked lines an are very common, and sheet lightning which are flashes of light that seem to tight up or illuminate clouds. Heat lightning is just a term of used for lightning that gives off tremendous heat after it strikes. Ball lightning which is very rare (an some scientists say it doesn't exist at all) an forms a ball of lightning usually 3 feet in dimeter. St.Elmo's Fire which is a blue or greenish glow above pointed objects on the ground. High-altitude lightning has been seen in various types of colors such as red, blue, or green lightning that brightly glows. Each of these types of lightning strikes are all very powerful in the meaning that each requires tremendous amounts of voltage to generate each strike. Each strike has yet to be measured in the power it can generate.

The Florida Theory:
Joe Dwyer of the Florida Institute of Technology has been studying lightning for many years now trying to find out why lightning even happens. They haven't found out much until now, what they used to believe happened was that updrafts would cause snowflakes and water droplets hit each other causing the electrons and protons to separate and cause a spark but since their wasn't enough energy to cause a lightning strike they started to try to find what else it could be. What they found now, after they started using small rockets to attract lightning instead of sending up weather balloons, is that cosmic rays from exploding stars in deep space are causing the lightning. With their recent tests they found a pulse of x-rays every time lightning strikes, and this is where they get the idea of cosmic rays causing the lightning.

Team Members: Jimmy Chaleunphonh, Ryan Castillo, Ryan Leonski, and Yendy Velazquez

Spnsoring Teacher: Jeffrey Raloff

Mentor: Timothy L. Thomas Ph.D., University of Minnesota, 1995; Department of Physics and Astronomy, UNM

Research Scientist III

Team Members:

  Yendy Valazquez
  Ryan Leonski
  Ryan Castillo
  Jimmy Chaleunphonh

Sponsoring Teacher: Jeffrey Raloff