Lightning like you have never seen before

Free Talk

Thu 5 Mar 2020


Museum of the Goldfields

Caption: Lightning strike

Professor Richard Sonnenfeld is visiting Kalgoorlie to further his research into lightning and its effects on tall structures. Richard is visiting from New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology where he is an Experimental Physicist.

Richard will be presenting a talk showing their research to share some of the amazing things that lightning does when you capture it at high speed. For example, you can see it wander around the sky until it decides to come to ground. You can also sometimes see it "striking the same place" 10 times in a second. He will share results from New Mexico, and, if we can finally get some thunderstorms, will show us some of our Kalgoorlie lightning up-close, slowed-down, and personal!

Richard is using some interesting technology including a high-speed video camera which allows him to record at 20,000 frames or more per second (slowing down time roughly 1000 times)  He is using the observation deck  on the headframe at the Museum of the Goldfield as a platform to record lightning strikes. He has also brought two other instruments, a modified large salad bowl with electronics to allow it to capture the signals of all lightning flashes with 800 km of Kalgoorlie and a very fast radio telescope made from cake pans (and other bits) which can slow down time by a factor of 5000. The radio-telescope looks through clouds to show what is actually happening when you see bright clouds in a thunderstorm.

Accompanying Richard is Dan Jensen who is working on his doctorate in physics instrumentation and has also worked on improving the radio-telescope used in this research.


Date: Thursday 5 March
Time: 5.30pm - 7.30pm
Cost: Free
Bookings: Register your interest by calling 9021 8533 or by using the below link

Register your interest

Dr. Sonnenfeld's work in Kalgoorlie is sponsored by Curtin University, WA School of Mines (WASM), the Australian-American Fulbright Commission, and the American Geophysical Union.

The Fulbright Program seeks to promote lasting international connections; The American Geophysical Union is committed to advancing Earth science and promoting the value of science through public engagement of its member scientists.

Caption: Lightning strike

Credit: Dr. Harald Edens, 2020