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lightning strikes building in las vegas
Credit: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

In an unprecedented feat, a team of Brazilian researchers has managed to capture high-speed video of lightning striking a building. We know, we know — this sounds infinitely less cool than a lightning bolt that resembles David Bowie. However, the filming of this meteorological event constitutes so much more than a fascinating light show.

Two high speed cameras recorded a total of three strikes. The rate at which the researchers filmed the lightning bolts hitting the buildings — 20,000 and 10,000 frames per second — allows us to see the entire process in extraordinary detail.

Filmed by physicist Marcelo Saba and a team of colleagues from Brazil’s National Institute for Space Research, the intense footage of lightning striking a building in São Paolo has been slowed down to reveal very eye-opening details.

Saba and his team published their findings in the journal Geophysical Research Letters in a report titled “Lightning attachment process to common buildings.”

The opening frames show a massive, branched lightning bolt descending from the sky, immediately followed by two bolts that come from the respective lightning rods. At that point, the blinding flash from the electrical interaction covers the entire screen before scaling back to reveal a single bolt.

Obviously, science has come a long way since Benjamin Franklin’s famous lightning rod experiment, but as Atlas Obscura reports, the footage will allow researchers to gain deeper insight into how lightning rods protect buildings and other structures. It will also help engineers to position lightning rods in a way that provides better coverage for the areas they protect.