What’s Lightning?

fluorescent light bulb
rubber balloon

Turn all of the lights off in the room. (The darker the better!)

Rub the balloon on your hair for several seconds.

Then hold the statically charged balloon near the end of the light bulb. This will illuminate the bulb.

Repeat the demonstration as many times as desired.

When you rub the balloon on your hair, the balloon builds up an electrical charge (static electricity). Touching the charged balloon to the end of the fluorescent light bulb causes the electrical charge to jump from the balloon to the bulb. This is what illuminates the light bulb.

Lightning is an electrical discharge within a thunderstorm. As the storm develops, the clouds become charged with electricity. Scientists are still not sure exactly what causes this, but they do know that when the voltage becomes high enough for the electricity to leap across the air from one place to another, lightning flashes! Lightning can spark within a cloud, from one cloud to another, from a cloud to the ground, or from the ground to a cloud.