Mysterious radiation that could hit flight passengers in mid-air

Typically when we fly high, we are exposed to low levels of cosmic radiation in the atmosphere. But scientists now believe passengers flying through a storm can be detonated by powerful gamma-ray flashes, also known as the more ominous “dark lightning.”

Unlike visible lightning, dark lightning—the release of high-energy gamma radiation during a storm—is nearly invisible among clouds, which is one reason why this phenomenon was first reported about 30 years ago, in 1994, about two and a half years ago. – Half a century after Benjamin Franklin discovered the connection between lightning and electricity.

Just like visible lightning, black lightning lasts only a few thousandths of a second, which is hardly enough to give scientists a chance to properly observe the phenomenon.

Experts estimate that black lightning strikes about a thousand times a day around the world and is often unseen and unnoticed by the public.

But while invisible to the human eye, these explosions are far from insignificant: they can carry a million times more energy than the radiation contained in visible lightning, according to experts.

While it’s unclear how dark lightning is born, most scientists agree that the phenomenon is somehow triggered by the collision of high-energy electrons with surrounding air molecules during thunderstorms.

This release of terrestrial gamma-ray flashes (TGF) during the mysterious phenomenon occurs 10 to 15 km high in the sky, the altitude at which most commercial aircraft fly.

Scientists have suspected for some time that black lightning could strike travelers flying through thunderstorms, but the effect of gamma-ray flashes on those affected is not yet clear.

Unlike visible lightning, someone struck by dark lightning is not immediately injured.

A new study by researcher Melody Pallu, presented Dec. 13 in Chicago, USA, combining observations of black lightning with airline routes, has revealed that the mysterious phenomenon likely strikes near an airplane every one to four years.

This means that the odds of a dark lightning strike when flying through a storm are actually very low – especially since pilots often try to avoid getting their noses into a storm.

Previous studies had estimated that at an altitude of 12,000 m (39,000 ft), a black lightning strike would contain a radiation dose equivalent to ten chest X-rays.

At about 4,900 m (about 16,000 ft), in the middle of a storm, the dose is estimated to be ten times stronger than that, equivalent to a full-body CT scan.

The average cruising altitude of a passenger jet is between 9,150 and 12,200 m (or 30,000 to 40,000 ft).

While danger lurking in the dark always arouses more fear than danger we can see, you are statistically more likely to be hit by visible lightning than dark lightning, so this is not a reason to avoid flying.

But scientists agree that more research is needed to explore the full impact of black lightning on human health.

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