Rare ‘dark lightning’, also known as terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGFs), is a type of intense gamma radiation that is created by thunderstorms. These powerful bursts of radiation are the most energetic natural discharges on Earth, and they can be caused by the acceleration of high-energy electrons in the atmosphere. TGFs have been observed in thunderstorms all over the world, and they typically last for less than a millisecond.
The process that creates TGFs is still not fully understood, but scientists believe that it involves a combination of lightning and energetic particles that are present in thunderstorms. Some theories suggest that TGFs are created when a lightning strike accelerates electrons to very high energies, which in turn produce gamma rays. Other theories propose that TGFs are created by the interaction of energetic particles in thunderstorms with the Earth’s magnetic field.
TGFs are incredibly powerful, with energy levels that can reach up to 10^20 electron volts. This is around a billion times more energy than the typical energy of a lightning strike, and it is equivalent to the energy of a tennis ball traveling at 300 miles per hour.
Although TGFs are rare, they have been observed in thunderstorms all over the world. They have been detected by a number of different instruments, including ground-based detectors, balloon-borne detectors, and satellite-based detectors. Scientists have also been able to study TGFs in more detail by using a technique called spectroscopy, which allows them to analyze the energy and direction of gamma rays that are produced by TGFs.
While TGFs are rare and typically last less than a millisecond, they do raise safety concerns, On rare occasions, TGFs might even strike a passing airplane and that could briefly expose passengers to unsafe levels of radiation. However, scientists emphasize that TGFs are not a significant threat to air travel. The probability of an airplane being hit by a TGF is extremely low, and if it did occur, the exposure to radiation would likely be brief and not result in harm.
In conclusion, TGFs or Dark lightning, is a rare but real phenomenon of powerful bursts of gamma radiation, caused by thunderstorms, the process that creates TGFs is still not fully understood, but scientists believe that it involves a combination of lightning and energetic particles that are present in thunderstorms. Even though it has some safety concerns and rare chances of hitting airplanes, it’s not significant enough to affect air travel.