WTF Fun Fact 13699 – Temperature of Lightning

The temperature of lightning is far hotter than you might imagine. In fact, it can exceed the temperature of even the surface of the Sun.

The Thermal Dynamics of Lightning

A lightning bolt is a sudden electrostatic discharge during a thunderstorm. This discharge occurs between electrically charged regions of a cloud, between two clouds, or between a cloud and the ground. The rapid heating and cooling of the air near the lightning channel causes a shock wave, resulting in thunder.

The temperature within the lightning channel can soar to approximately 30,000 Kelvin. In contrast, the surface temperature of the Sun is estimated to be around 5,500 Kelvin. The stark difference in temperature underlines the concentrated energy release within the brief lifespan of a lightning strike.

Comparing the Temperature of Lightning and the Sun

The Sun, at its core, reaches temperatures of about 15 million Kelvin, due to nuclear fusion processes that power the star. However, the Sun’s surface, or photosphere, is cooler. When comparing the temperatures of a lightning bolt and the Sun’s surface, it is the localized, intense heat of the lightning that surpasses the Sun’s surface temperature.

This comparison is intriguing because it juxtaposes the vast, nuclear-powered furnace of our star with the transient atmospheric phenomenon on Earth, illustrating the range of natural thermal processes in the universe.

The extreme temperature of lightning has several implications. Firstly, it is responsible for the ionization of the air, which facilitates the electrical discharge that we see as lightning. Secondly, the high temperature is capable of splitting nitrogen molecules in the air, allowing them to react with oxygen to form nitrogen oxides, compounds that play a crucial role in the formation of smog and acid rain but also contribute to the natural fertilization of plant life.

Understanding Atmospheric Electricity

The study of lightning and its temperature contributes to our broader understanding of atmospheric electricity and weather phenomena. By analyzing lightning, scientists can improve predictive models of thunderstorms and better understand the electrical and thermal dynamics of our atmosphere.

Furthermore, insights gained from studying lightning are applied in developing technologies for lightning prediction and protection, minimizing its threat to life and property.

The Fascinating Nature of the Temperature of Lightning

The fact that a lightning bolt is hotter than the surface of the Sun encapsulates the fascinating nature of atmospheric phenomena. It reminds us of the powerful forces at play within our own planet’s weather systems and the dynamic conditions that govern life on Earth.

The study of lightning stands at the intersection of meteorology, physics, and environmental science, offering a window into the complex interactions that define our world.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “How Hot Is Lightning?” — National Weather Service

WTF Fun Fact 13387 – Earth’s Core May Be Hotter Than The Sun

Scientists believe that the Earth’s core, consisting primarily of iron and nickel, may be hotter than the surface of the sun, with temperatures reaching up to 5,500 degrees Celsius (9,932 degrees Fahrenheit).

Why do scientists think the Earth’s core is hotter than the sun’s surface?

The Earth’s core, located approximately 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) beneath the Earth’s surface, remains an elusive and challenging realm for direct exploration. Despite the inability to physically access the core, scientists have employed a combination of sophisticated techniques, including theoretical modeling and seismic studies, to gain insights into its temperature.

Scientists use the analysis of seismic waves generated by earthquakes to study the temperature of the planet’s core. By studying the behavior of these waves as they travel through different layers of the Earth, scientists can infer valuable information about the planet’s internal structure and temperature distribution.

Through seismic studies, scientists have determined that the core’s temperature increases significantly as one ventures deeper into the Earth. The most scorching temperatures are found at the boundary between the outer and inner core, approximately 3,200 miles beneath the Earth’s surface. Here, researchers estimate that the temperature reaches nearly 6,000 degrees Celsius (10,800 degrees Fahrenheit). So, if that’s the case, then the earth’s core is hotter than the sun.

Where’d that heat come from?

Interestingly, the heat in the Earth’s core does not come from the sun. The core’s exceptional temperatures are sustained by two primary heat sources. The first source of heat originates from the residual energy trapped within the Earth since its formation around 4.5 billion years ago. During the Earth’s early stages, countless collisions and mergers between rock fragments produced an immense amount of heat, some of which remains within the core to this day.

The second source of heat within the core arises from the radioactive decay of isotopes present throughout the Earth. Radioactive elements such as potassium-40, thorium-232, uranium-235, and uranium-238 release energy as they undergo decay, contributing to the overall heat budget of the core.

While the core’s temperatures may exceed those of the sun’s surface, it is important to note that the conditions in the core are drastically different. The core’s high pressures prevent its iron-nickel composition from vaporizing into gas despite the extreme temperatures.

This unique combination of heat and pressure creates an environment that sustains the core in a liquid or solid state.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “How has Earth’s core stayed as hot as the sun’s surface for billions of years?” —

WTF Fun Fact 12965 – The New Moon

Have you ever heard that there was a new Moon only to look up at the sky and see no moon at all? Well, that’s because the Moon cycle is starting all over again.

Types of Moons

We obviously only have one Moon, but it goes through lots of phases. A “new” Moon is the opposite of a full Moon. During a full Moon, the sun is fully illuminating one side of the big ball. That’s what makes it glow so brightly in the night sky.

During the time when the Moon is “new,” we are seeing the side that is not illuminated by the sun. The Moon is still up there, but without the sun shining on it, we can’t see it in the night sky.

According to Farmer’s Almanac (cited below) “When the Moon is “new,” it’s located between the Earth and the Sun. In other words, the Moon is in line with the Sun, and the Sun and Earth are on opposite sides of the Moon. (Note that when the Moon is perfectly aligned in front of the Sun, it blocks out the Sun, giving us a solar eclipse.)”

Lunar cycles and the new Moon

The new Moon is the beginning of the lunar cycle. This lasts 29.5 days, and it’s the amount of time it takes for the moon to orbit the Earth.

The Moon cycle used to be used to measure months (each new moon signaled a new month).

Another fun fact: the new Moon always rises close to the time of sunrise.

And according to The Farmer’s Almanac:

“As the new Moon crosses the sky during the day, rising and setting around the same time as the Sun, it’s lost in the solar glare…The new Moon is also lit up from behind, showing us its dark side. It’s doubly invisible. New Moons generally can’t be seen with the naked eye.”

About a day (maybe two) after a new lunar cycle begins, you’ll be able to look up at the night sky and see a slim crescent off to the West after the sun sets. These crescent moons are often very bright.  WTF fun facts

Source: “Learn All About the New Moon” — Almanac

WTF Fun Fact 12963 – The Autumn Equinox

Solstice, equinox – what’s the difference? We know these things meant more to people in agricultural societies, but they still dictate the way we do things today to some extent. The 2022 autumn equinox will begin on September 22 at 9:03 pm.

Why is the autumn equinox so specific?

This is a natural phenomenon that influences culture, not the other way around. So while you might start shopping for your autumn decor in August, fall doesn’t really begin until the solar system says so.

The autumnal equinox occurs when the sun is nearest to the equatorial plane (the imaginary extension of the equator), giving us a day with equal amounts of sunlight and darkness. It lasts a few days, and as soon as it’s over, the days start to get shorter.

Spring also has an equinox. When it’s over, the days start to get longer.

Winter and summer, on the other hand, have solstices.

What’s the difference between an equinox and a solstice?

The summer and winter solstices occur when the sun is farthest from the equatorial plane. They are the day when the daylight is longest (spring) or shortest (winter).

So while the solstices and equinoxes each usher in a new season, each only applies to two seasons and represents a different phenomenon. (And all of the seasons are the opposite in each hemisphere – we’re only talking about the northern hemisphere here!)

What’s so fun about the autumnal solstice?

If you like fall weather (and live in the northern hemisphere), you’re probably pretty excited about its official start.

Historically, the equinox signaled the end of the outdoor working season or harvest season. It was a time to celebrate all of the hard work nature had done for humans and that humans did to reap the benefits and survive through winter. It’s traditionally a time to give thanks and take stock of all of nature’s bounty a community had received.

In many places, it was a time of harvest festivals, feasting (at least on the things that might not be preserved over the winter), and thanking the gods of the harvest.  WTF fun facts

Source: “The Spiritual Meaning of the Autumn Equinox” — Spirituality & Health

WTF Fun Fact 12962 – The Earth’s Rotation Around The Sun

The Earth’s rotation around the sun isn’t an opinion, it’s a fact – and one we learn in elementary school. Of course, we don’t retain all of that information throughout our lives, which is why some people answered a question about it incorrectly.

In need of a revolution

Now, this is disturbing in many ways. However, some people don’t do well when quizzed on the spot. We’d like to think that it’s more of a misunderstanding than a quarter of Americans truly believing that the Earth is the center of the solar system.

Spoiler alert: the Earth revolves around the sun.

Maybe we should all talk to elementary school students taking science classes more often.

Parsing data on the earth’s revolution

Here’s how the survey was done: People were asked a (theoretically simple) question: “Does the Earth go around the Sun, or does the Sun go around the Earth.”

Only 26% answered incorrectly.

According to NPR (cited below): “In the same survey, just 39 percent answered correctly (true) that ‘The universe began with a huge explosion’ and only 48 percent said ‘Human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals.’ Just over half understood that antibiotics are not effective against viruses.”

It’s a bit of an embarrassing science deficit. In fact, that last misunderstanding (about antibiotics) has been downright dangerous.

However, NPR goes on…“As alarming as some of those deficits in science knowledge might appear, Americans fared better on several of the questions than similar, but older surveys of their Chinese and European counterparts. Only 66 percent of people in a 2005 European Union poll answered the basic astronomy question correctly.”

But let’s not celebrate too soon because “both China and the EU fared significantly better (66 percent and 70 percent, respectively) on the question about human evolution.”  WTF fun facts

Source: “1 In 4 Americans Thinks The Sun Goes Around The Earth, Survey Says” — NPR

WTF Fun Fact 12621 – No Two Sunsets Are Ever the Same

It sounds like a cliche, and some people use this fact that way, but it’s true. It would be impossible for any two sunsets to look exactly alike.

Between the tilt of the Earth and changes in the atmosphere, the conditions between us and the sun are slightly different each day and can result in major changes.

If you’ve seen some beautiful sunsets, you probably understand. Heck, even if you’ve seen two amazing, blazing, pink and blue sunsets, you’ve probably noticed that they’re still a bit different. Even the clouds are in different places.

But the biggest difference is the particles and molecules in the air. That’s what gives sunsets their color. After all, the sun doesn’t emit pink, orange, or blue light. It doesn’t even emit yellow light!

In space, the sun’s light is white.

The colors we see are the sun’s rays are just the light refracting off molecules and particles. And sometimes those particles are pollutants that we add to the air (not for sunset purposes, of course).

So if you share a sunset with someone, it’ll be special no matter what, because you’re never going to see the same thing again. While that makes us want to put down the phone and appreciate it, we’d probably be tempted to snap at least one moment real quick as well.

– WTF fun facts

Source: The Weather Channel – via Twitter