Live Presentation

Lightning!

This show is temporarily on hiatus in accordance with the Massachusetts Reopening Guidelines. Please check back regularly for updates.

Explore lightning and storm safety as the world's largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator hurls indoor bolts.

In this exciting and popular live presentation, our educators explore the science behind the storm. With the help of our Van de Graaff generator, they explain what lightning is (as well as its ever-present sidekick, thunder), how to stay safe in a storm (and why your car is such a good place to be), and how magnetism and electricity are related. In the Theater of Electricity, when the lights go down, the lightning comes up.

Explore lightning and storm safety as the world's largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator hurls indoor bolts.

In this exciting and popular live presentation, our educators explore the science behind the storm. With the help of our Van de Graaff generator, they explain what lightning is (as well as its ever-present sidekick, thunder), how to stay safe in a storm (and why your car is such a good place to be), and how magnetism and electricity are related. In the Theater of Electricity, when the lights go down, the lightning comes up.

Ticketing

Included with Exhibit Halls admission

Member Benefits

Free Exhibit Halls Entry

General Information

  • Theater of Electricity, Museum Map

  • Recommended for: Grades 3 – 12 and adults

  • Show length: 20 minutes

Point and Click Item 1
Van de Graaff Generator
Watch lightning being made. Our Van de Graaff generator separates, moves, and collects negative charges, which collect on the two hollow aluminum spheres. The result? 5 – 20 foot sparks that jump through the air!
Point and Click Item 2
Cage
What’s the real reason it’s safe inside a car during a lightning storm? Find out when our educators raise the 9 foot, 1500-pound metal cage so we can strike it with lightning bolts.
Point and Click Item 3
Spark Gap Tesla
You might want to cover your ears. Big and loud, this 8-foot-tall Tesla coil is really an air-cored transformer that converts electricity into a high frequency, high voltage form and pumps into the air as 5 – 8-foot sparks.
Point and Click Item 4
Solid State Tesla Coils
It’s music to your ears! These Tesla coils also produce high frequency and high voltage but have a very fast on/off switch to vary the number of sparks per second. By varying the spark rate, the sparks make music!

Theater of Electricity

Part science lab and part performance space, this fascinating theater contains the world's largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator, capable of producing massive indoor lightning bolts for explorations of lightning, conductors, insulators, storm safety, and electromagnetic force.

Tesla Coils

In the Theater of Electricity there are Telsa coils that produce about half a million volts. Invented Nikola Tesla 1891 to study high-voltage, high frequency alternating current electricity, Tesla coils have no moving parts. They rely on moving charges and changing magnetic forces. Educators used them to create awesome displays of high voltage.

Van de Graaff Generator

Those two ball-topped columns in the Theater of Electricity are the world’s largest air-insulated Van de Graaff generator. It routinely generates charges of a million volts, which are discharged as bolts of lightning. Originally built in 1932 as an atom smasher by Dr. Robert Van de Graaff, today it puts on a powerful display under the guidance of our intrepid educators.

“No matter how many times I see Lightning! I want to see it again. It’s electric!”

Phil K., Malden

Accessibility Information for This Show

  • Wheelchair Accessible
  • Assistive Listening Devices Available at Information Desk
  • American Sign Language Interpretation Available By Advanced Request

For questions or accommodation requests:


Accessibility at the Museum

Educator Resources for This Show

Need more information for an upcoming field trip? Want to see how this exhibit can complement your curriculum? Check out our additional resources to help plan your visit.


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