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Lightning is a powerful electrical discharge made during a thunderstorm. The electric current is very hot and causes the air around it to expand very quickly, which in turn makes thunder. Sometimes it happens between clouds. Sometimes (in the rain) it goes from cloud to ground. If it goes from cloud to ground, it can strike a person. Around 2000 people are struck by lightning each year. About 50 to 100 lightning bolts strike the Earth every second. Lightning has hit the Empire State Building as many as 500 times a year.
Benjamin Franklin was interested in lightning. He discovered many things about it, and in 1772, he was the first to show that a thunderstorm lets out electricity. In his book he suggested an experiment to test it. Franklin did not really go out in a thunder storm and fly a kite in an attempt to prove the presence of electricity in the storm. If that had happened Franklin may have been killed, though it is possible to conduct electricity through the kite, and down the string. 
When lightning strikes, the surface rubs electrons from the lightning, and a spark of electricity shoots from the lightning to the surface. In a thunderstorm, the lower cloud has as many as 100 million volts of electricity. This electricity is given out either within the cloud, to the ground, to another cloud, or into the air. Lightning has been known to travel from the ground upwards to the cloud. In 1993, scientists discovered lightning bolts that shot upward from the top of a cumulonimbus cloud.
A Tesla coil is one way that people can make lightning to study electricity.
- Oard, Michael (1997). The Weather Book. P.O. Box 126, Green Forest, AR 72638: Master Books. .
- Central Florida's "Lightning Stalker" photography
- How Lightning Works at HowStuffWorks
- Positive lightning photography from Florida