This simple circuit will enable you to visualize distant thunder lightning through a correspondingly choreographed LED flashes, exactly in accordance with the lightning that may be taking place somewhere in the distant sky, the response will be simultaneous and thus much prior to the sound that may reach your ears after a few seconds.
RF from Thunder Lightening
Thunder lightnings are basically like huge electric arcs, and thus generate a proportionate amounts of huge RF signals in the ether every time these flash in the sky.
The tiny RF detector circuit which was initially developed for catching cell phone RF waves, could be as effectively used for the proposed lightning detector design as well.
Parts List R1 = 2M2,R2 = 100K,R3 = 1K,C1 = 0.01uFA1, A2 = IC 324
Referring to the above simple thunder lightning detector circuit, the configuration is basically a couple of opamps from the IC LM324 wired up as a high gain amplifier circuit.
The antenna could be a meter long flexible wire used here for receiving the RF disturbances from the thunder lightning arcs.
Since the circuit is a high gain amplifier, it could become easily upset and give wrong results if certain things are not taken care of.
All the interconnections must be as small as possible, and the PCB must be thoroughly cleaned with thinner in order to remove any sort of flux residue which could otherwise create malfunctioning of the circuit.
How to Test the Setup
After constructing the above design, initially do not connect any wire to the antenna terminals.
Make sure the LED stays shut off after the circuit is powered, and use a 9V PP3 battery for powering the circuit, an AC/DC adapter will not work as you will see the LED always ON if a mains adapter is used.
Next, take a gas lighter and click the device with its tip held close to the antenna point of the circuit.
You should find the LED illuminating and flashing in response to every clicking of the gas lighter.
This would confirm a correctly built detector circuit.
Connecting the Antenna
Finally, you can attach the 1 meter long antenna wire to the shown position and wait for a possible thunder lightning strikes in the vicinity.
You will be surprised to see the LED dance and flash exactly in tandem with the lightning illumination sequences.
You could amplify the Led response by adding an opto coupler and a corresponding high watt lamp with the circuit, such that the whole room gets dazzled each time the lightning flashes in the sky..