What is lightning?

What is lightning?

You can make your own lightning!

What you need:

  • Fluorescent light bulb
  • Rubber balloon

How to:

Make sure you ask an adult for help with this - electricity can be dangerous!

  1. Blow up the balloon.
  2. Turn off the lights in the room - the darker the better.
  3. Hold the balloon near the end of the light bulb.

Can you see the light bulb light up?

Light bulb fluorescent_92044523

What's happening?

When you rub the balloon on your hair, the balloon builds up an electrical charge. This is called static electricity. When you touch the charged balloon to the end of the fluorescent light bulb, it causes the electrical charge to jump from the balloon to the bulb. The electrical charges causes the light bulb to illuminate.

When a thunderstorm happens, the clouds become charged with electricity, just like the balloon. Scientists still don't know why this happens! What they do know is that when the electrical charge builds up, it can leap across the air from one place to another. This is a lightning flash. Lightning can spark within a cloud or from the cloud to the ground. It can even spark from the ground to the cloud!

Have a look at Weather Labs for lots more weather experiments.

Curriculum information

  • Summary

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