How does a strobe light work?

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Incandescent lamps use electricity to heat up a metal wire (filament) until it glows white-hot (black-body radiation). This heating and cooling process is not instantaneous, due to the heat capacity of the filament. In other words, an incandescent lamp is not capable of flashing very rapidly or of making flashes that crisply turn on and off. But there is an alternative: the strobe light. A strobe light is an interesting beast, producing light by a means utterly unlike the hot filament wire in an incandescent light bulb. A strobe light stores up energy in an electrical component called a "capacitor", and then suddenly dumps it all into a lamp bulb filled with xenon gas. The normally insulating gas in the bulb suddenly conducts electricity. This produces a sudden, brief, and intense flash of light. WARNING Strobe light circuits can be very dangerous to work with, because they store up a large amount of energy in a capacitor and can release it all at once. If you purchase any kind of ... more
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