Infrared images of bidirectional leaders produced by the cloud of charged water droplets
Detailed infrared (2.7–5.5 μm) images of bidirectional leaders produced by the cloud of small (typical radius of 0.5 μm), positively charged water droplets are presented. The leader was composed of the downward extending positive part and the upward extending negative part, these two parts (both branched, although in different ways) being connected by the single-channel middle part. The downward extending part included the tortuous positive leader channel (similar to its upward extending counterpart observed when the cloud polarity was negative) that was often accompanied by much less tortuous but often equally bright downward extending plasma formations of unknown nature. Very faint positive streamer zone was also observed. Either the positive leader channel or the unusual plasma formation (UPF) can come in contact with the grounded plane. The upward extending part is associated with a large network of faint channels, mostly fanning out of the upper part of the usually much brighter leader channel and apparently pervading the entire upper part of the cloud. Some of those faint channels could be unusually long and bright negative streamers, while others could be similar to UPFs. The IR luminosity along the brightest part of the bidirectional leader channel is often nonuniform. Some variations in channel brightness are localized and suggest the involvement of space leader-type processes at multiple positions along the channel, changes in channel orientation, or variations in channel radius.