Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Andrea. Andrea Wonders, “What is fulgurite?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Andrea!
Does your family take a summer vacation each year? Many families like to pack up the family vehicle for a cross-country road trip to visit several national parks. Others might opt for a "staycation" close to home.
For many families, though, a summer vacation means a trip to the beach. There's nothing like hours and hours of floating in the ocean waves and soaking up the Sun's rays to relax the body, mind, and soul.
Beach vacations are a lot of fun as long as the weather is . It can be when storms come and force you to stay inside when you just want to feel the sand under your toes.
Storms that blow in from the ocean can be fierce at times. The sounds of thunder and the awesome lightning displays should only be experienced from a distance, as it can be very dangerous to be near a large body of water during a lightning storm.
For example, if lightning strikes sand that's rich in silica or quartz and heats it to a temperature above 3,272˚ F, it will melt the sand into silica glass below the surface. This creates hollow, glass-lined tubes that are rough and sandy on the outside.
Scientists call these creations fulgurites. The word comes from the Latin word for "thunderbolt." They're also sometimes known as petrified lightning.
Fulgurites can be found all over the world, but they're not very common. Since they're created underground, you either have to dig for them or stumble across one that happens to have been unearthed by erosion.
Unfortunately, fulgurites are brittle and delicate, so they're easily broken if you dig for them. They're usually one to two inches in diameter and only a few inches long, although some fulgurites can reach two feet or more in length.
If you look for fulgurites, don't expect to find something resembling a transparent tube. They often resemble sticks, since the outside usually looks like tree bark because it's made of partially-melted sand. If you pay attention on your next vacation, though, you just might be lucky enough to find a piece of petrified lightning!