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Environment

Chemistry in Pictures: Thunder stone

January 18, 2018

Credit: Ji-Elle/Wikimedia Commons

A lightning strike in the Mauritanian desert left behind these fulgurites. Despite the way they look, they’re not so different from the sand they’re sitting on. Fulgurites are a mineraloid—a mostly noncrystalline mineral-like substance—made when lightning discharges into sand or soil. The lightning melts and fuses the silicon dioxide that makes up the sand, forming the fulgurites, which are similar to glass. The lightning hits the sand with so much energy that it can create certain silicon dioxide structures that are otherwise seen only in meteorites.

Credit: Ji-Elle/Wikimedia Commons


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