By Matthew Abshire, CNN
Just when you thought being struck by lightning couldn’t get any more terrifying, there's this:
Researchers at the Florida Institute of Technology are investigating what is being dubbed “dark lightning,” using computer models. This invisible phenomenon is not some cosmic event happening millions of light years from us, but actually occurs within storm clouds in our atmosphere at altitudes low enough for a commercial airliner to pass through.
CNN’s Chad Myers points out the real danger with “dark lightning” is not from a traditional bolt of energy, but an unleashing of exponentially high amounts of X-rays and gamma rays.
If an airplane accidentally ends up in a storm with this dark lightning, the radiation doses for passengers would be equivalent to about 10 chest X-rays if the plane flies at the top of the storm, researchers calculated.
But, researcher Joseph Dwyer said in a statement, "near the middle of the storms, the radiation dose could be about 10 times larger, comparable to some of the largest doses received during medical procedures and roughly equal to a full-body CT scan."
Researchers do not yet know how often, if ever, this situation would happen, but scientists are investigating the issue. Dwyer and colleagues presented their findings at a press conference at the European Geosciences Union in Vienna, Austria, this week.
Bottom line: “dark lightning” is nothing to fear. You can only be struck by it if you are flying directly through a thunderstorm, a situation pilots usually try to avoid.
Watch the video above for more.