loading page

Preliminary data on the energy distribution of X- and gamma-rays from natural lightning
  • +5
  • Luis Contreras-Vidal,
  • James Sanchez,
  • Caitano L. da Silva,
  • Richard G. Sonnenfeld,
  • Graydon D. Aulich,
  • Harald E. Edens,
  • Kenneth Bryan Eack,
  • David M. Smith
Luis Contreras-Vidal
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology

Corresponding Author:luis.contrerasvidal@student.nmt.edu

Author Profile
James Sanchez
University of California Santa Cruz
Author Profile
Caitano L. da Silva
New Mexico Institute of Mining & Technology
Author Profile
Richard G. Sonnenfeld
New Mexico Tech
Author Profile
Graydon D. Aulich
New Mexico Institute of Mining and Tech.
Author Profile
Harald E. Edens
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Author Profile
Kenneth Bryan Eack
Los Alamos National Laboratory
Author Profile
David M. Smith
University of California, Santa Cruz
Author Profile


During the 2022 New Mexico monsoon season, we deployed two X-ray scintillation detectors, coupled with a 180 MHz data acquisition system to detect X-rays from natural lightning at the Langmuir Lab mountain-top facility, located at 3.3 km above mean sea level. Data acquisition was triggered by an electric field antenna calibrated to pick up lightning within a few km of the X-ray detectors. We report the energies of over 240 individual photons, ranging between 13 keV and 3.8 MeV, as registered by the LaBr3(Ce) scintillation detector. These detections were associated with four lightning flashes. Particularly, four stepped leaders and seven dart leaders produced energetic radiation. The reported photon energies allowed us to confirm that the X-ray energy distribution of natural stepped and dart leaders follows a power-law distribution with exponent ranging between 1.09 and 1.96, with stepped leaders having a harder spectrum. Characterization of the associated leaders and return strokes was done with four different electric field sensing antennas, which can measure a wide-range of time scales, from the static storm field to the fast change associated with dart leaders.
15 Nov 2023Submitted to ESS Open Archive
16 Nov 2023Published in ESS Open Archive