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Author Topic: What is ball lightning?  (Read 2903 times)

Offline ScientificSorcerer

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What is ball lightning?
« on: 12/12/2013 08:41:36 »
I have heard of a naturally occurring weather anomaly called ball lightning. the whole concept is strange but scientist have seen them and measured them so they know they are real but it's still quite mysterious. Nobody really knows how it works. and it's really rare.

Ball lightning has also been called swam gas orbs. (an excuse for UFOs)

And in history these thing have been seen. they were called Will o' wisps and people thought they were spirits. A famous ball of lightning occurrence was the saint Elmo's fire.

these lightning orbs appear randomly, though only in certain places. They just fly around without much direction. They manifest in size anywhere from the size of a golf ball to the size of of a basketball or bigger. they appear to be gaseous and only last for about 1 to 3 minutes. many scientist set out to study them but came up with very little. It's because they are so freaken rare, it makes it as hard to study as UFOs because they are both rare and appear randomly.

I wonder how can this be, how can plasma be made into a ball like that? Physically it makes little sense. I can't wrap my brain around it.

But maybe one of you guys could give some insight into this mystery of science.


 

Offline alancalverd

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Re: What is ball lightning?
« Reply #1 on: 12/12/2013 11:45:43 »
I've seen ball lightning, just twice,  and flown the Met Office's Rare Phenomena expert into a thundercloud in the hope of filming it (no luck, but what an adventure!) and AFAIK it remains a mystery.

St Elmo's Fire is much more common - it's a discharge around sharp objects, usually depicted on ships' rigging and masts but sometimes seen on aircraft. Rarely seen on land because of the proximity of other grounded objects and usually plenty of ambient light, but there are some classic accounts of it appearing on the horns of cattle.

Willo'wisp was, I thought, spontaneously combusting marsh gas.   
 

Offline ScientificSorcerer

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Re: What is ball lightning?
« Reply #2 on: 13/12/2013 10:14:55 »
I was under the impression that ball lightning and the st. elmo fire were the same thing, But still, If you were to try to come up with a logical explanation what would it be? It could be something other then lightning, maybe it's something totally different who knows.

But I think that it could be a result of some water molecules getting highly electrically charged by a lightning strike and it starts to evaporate and discharge but as it dose so more water molecules are attracted to the charge and they sort of cling together and glob up, it dose this to try to quickly disperse its charge but it only holds the charge by doing so.

IDK it's not really a good theory but still its a mystery.
 

Offline dlorde

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Re: What is ball lightning?
« Reply #3 on: 14/12/2013 19:39:05 »
As alancalverd says, St.Elmo's Fire is a coronal plasma discharge around spiky objects when there's a strong electric field, e.g. thunderstorms, and will-o'-the-wisp is probably marsh gas (methane) ignited by phosphine and/or diphosphane sometimes produced by plant decomposition.

Quite what ball lightning is, is unclear; there have been attempts to create it or simulate it with limited success - last I heard, only very small short-lived balls had been produced. There are various theories as to what it could be, but I wasn't aware that it has been measured scientifically - do you have a reference for that?
 

Offline evan_au

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Re: What is ball lightning?
« Reply #4 on: 14/12/2013 21:43:49 »
Lightning heats up due to the current discharging from cloud to ground (or cloud-to-cloud). Lightning radiates energy in the form of light, heat and sound, which causes its temperature to drop to the point where it is no longer ionised, and it goes out.

You can create ball lightning in your microwave*. In a microwave, the plasma has a continuous input of 700-1000W to keep the plasma ball ionised for seconds at a time.

However, if ball lightning appeared in a storm, the ball does not form a path between different charges, so it it is not being continuously heated by the current. Assuming it is a real phenomenon, the mystery is - what is the source of energy that keeps it glowing for several seconds? Eg chemical, electrical, biological or nuclear?

*Don't do this in a microwave that you really need for food. Your mother will not be happy if the microwave breaks (or makes everything smell burnt).
 

Offline rrows

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Re: What is ball lightning?
« Reply #5 on: 12/03/2014 13:09:33 »
Hello,

I came on here to account my ball lightning experience.

I was probably 7 years old, at my grandmothers house.  There was a bad thunderstorm above us.

She was making me a tuna sandwhich.  She walked into the parlor, which had a large bay window that spanned the size of at least half of the wall.

There was a crack of thunder, and what looked like a bowling ball size, black ball, with fire surrounding it, come through the window.

It was enough that my grandma ducked.  I can't remember alot of my childhood memories, but this one I remember clearly, even down to the kind of sandwhich she made.

We smelled burning, and upon investigation a tree in the back yard had been split in half by the strike.

I have, to this day (almost 30/yo) wondered what it was I saw.  I suppose not too many people have seen lightening up close, but I know this was special.  Upon googling "bowling ball lightening" i came across this phenomena.

I found a picture which almost shows clearly what it appeared as.
newbielink:http://www.skepdic.com/graphics/BLengraving.gif [nonactive]

One of my fondest childhood memories, "burned" into my brain!
 

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Re: What is ball lightning?
« Reply #5 on: 12/03/2014 13:09:33 »

 

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