Do you get lightning on the sun?

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Offline thedoc

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Do you get lightning on the sun?
« on: 12/05/2015 18:50:01 »
"glentoranmark asked the Naked Scientists:
I'm wondering can lightning strike on the Sun? And come to think of it, what exactly is lightning?
Mark C

What do you think?
« Last Edit: 12/05/2015 18:50:01 by _system »


Offline evan_au

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Re: Do you get lightning on the sun?
« Reply #1 on: 12/05/2015 19:13:08 »
I'm wondering can lightning strike on the Sun?
Lightning is a sudden release of electric charge, when the voltage gets too high, and the insulation of the air breaks down. This usually happens at a voltage of around 1 million volts per meter. The lightning bolt consists of superheated air, which forms an electrically-conductive plasma, which carries the electric charge. Lightning is seen on Earth, and other planets like Jupiter and Saturn which have a vigorous atmospheric circulation.

The Sun's visible disk is already an electrically-conductive plasma so there cannot be a big buildup of electric charge which is suddenly released through insulation breakdown.

However, there are very strong electrical currents and magnetic fields moving through the plasma of the Sun, and these can lead to some really spectacular events, like Coronal Mass Ejections, in which a volume of the Sun's surface (many times the size of the Earth) turns into a flash of light, and blasts huge masses of plasma out into the Solar System.