Meter-scale spark X-ray spectrum statistics

B.E. Carlson, N. Østgaard, P. Kochkin, O. Grondahl, R.S. Nisi, K.M. Weber, Z. Scherrer, K. Lecaptain

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14 Citations (Scopus)
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X-ray emission by sparks implies bremsstrahlung from a population of energetic electrons, but the details of this process remain a mystery. We present detailed statistical analysis of X-ray spectra detected by multiple detectors during sparks produced by 1 MV negative high-voltage pulses with 1 μs risetime. With over 900 shots, we statistically analyze the signals, assuming that the distribution of spark X-ray fluence behaves as a power law and that the energy spectrum of X-rays detectable after traversing ∼2 m of air and a thin aluminum shield is exponential. We then determine the parameters of those distributions by fitting cumulative distribution functions to the observations. The fit results match the observations very well if the mean of the exponential X-ray energy distribution is 86 ± 7 keV and the spark X-ray fluence power law distribution has index -1.29 ± 0.04 and spans at least 3 orders of magnitude in fluence. Key Points We describe the statistics of X-ray production by sparks with a data set of over 900 sparks The results are well described by roughly 85 keV mean X-ray energy X-ray fluence is power law distributed and spans 3 orders of magnitude in fluence.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)11191-11202
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of Geophysical Research. D, Atmospheres
Issue number21
Publication statusPublished - 16 Nov 2015


  • bremsstrahlung
  • lightning
  • spark
  • spectrum
  • X-ray


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