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what causes ball lightning

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Since then, there have been thousands of reported sightings of ball lightning. A parish church in Devonshire, England went up in flames and some of the people inside were killed. Receive mail from us on behalf of our trusted partners or sponsors? Thank you for signing up to Live Science. https://www.britannica.com/science/ball-lightning. What is Ball Lightning? Large clouds of charged water molecules are put into an excited state by electrical activity, briefly causing light amplification by stimulated emission of radiation, or the laser effect. Although lightning balls are…. The current prevailing physical theory for ball lightning is the atmospheric maser theory. Be on the lookout for your Britannica newsletter to get trusted stories delivered right to your inbox. As of this writing ball lightning is not well understood or even accepted as a real phenomenon by many scientists. These mysterious orbs have been seen floating around outdoors, in buildings and even on ships and airplanes. But despite accounts stretching back hundreds of years, scientists still aren't sure what causes this spooky phenomenon or even if it truly exists. But despite accounts stretching back hundreds of years, scientists still aren't sure what causes this spooky phenomenon or even if it truly exists. Perhaps the strongest evidence for ball lightning's existence is that scientists may have recreated it or something very much like it in a lab. Stay up to date on the coronavirus outbreak by signing up to our newsletter today. Ball lightning, also called globe lightning, a rare aerial phenomenon in the form of a luminous sphere that is generally several centimetres in diameter. Lightning strikes! Please refresh the page and try again. Some nineteenth century reports describe balls that eventually explode and leave behind an odor of sulfur. The result gave credence to the theory that ball lightning is the result of a lightning strike on silica-rich soil. Ball lightning has been reported to cause damage by burning or melting but is usually harmless. It usually occurs near the ground during thunderstorms, in close association with cloud-to-ground lightning. Descriptions of ball lightning appear in a variety of accounts over the centuries, and have received much attention from scie… But this theory doesn't explain all reported ball lightning sightings, such as those on airplanes. © Banned in 160 Nations, Why is Ractopamine in U.S. Pork? Out in the real world, these rings of fire remain a mystery best suited for dark and stormy nights. In these cases, the luminosity also persists and the channel may have regions of enhanced luminosity that resemble a string of beads. Though usually associated with thunderstorms, the phenomenon is said to last considerably longer than the split-second flash of a lightning bolt. Encyclopaedia Britannica's editors oversee subject areas in which they have extensive knowledge, whether from years of experience gained by working on that content or via study for an advanced degree.... Fantasy, phenomenon, or weapon? Receive news and offers from our other brands? Ball lightning has been reported to cause damage by burning or melting but is usually harmless. It may be red, orange, yellow, white, or blue in colour and is often accompanied by a hissing sound and distinct odour. The result was blue- or orange-white spheres the size of ping-pong balls that hovered around for as long as eight seconds. 23 April 2010. Future US, Inc. 11 West 42nd Street, 15th Floor, What causes lightning? An associated phenomenon is ball lightning. Its causes and its relation to common lightning are not known, but among the suggested explanations are: air or gas behaving abnormally, high-density plasma phenomena, an air vortex containing luminous gases, and microwave radiation trapped within a plasma bubble. Ball lightning is one of the best-known natural phenomena that few have seen. Researchers from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, have proposed that the bright glow of lightning balls is created when microwaves become trapped inside a … Ball lightning is an unexplained phenomenon described as luminescent, spherical objects that vary from pea-sized to several meters in diameter. Our editors will review what you’ve submitted and determine whether to revise the article. Let us know if you have suggestions to improve this article (requires login). How does lightning form? How ball lightning has eluded our understanding for centuries. When lightning is made the same thing happens, but on a much bigger scale. Its causes and its relation to common lightning are not known, but among the suggested explanations are: air or gas behaving abnormally, high-density plasma phenomena, an air vortex containing luminous gases, and microwave radiation trapped within a plasma bubble. In a study published in the journal Physical Review Letters in 2007, researchers at the Federal University of Pernambuco in Brazil reported using electricity to vaporize tiny wafers of silicon. Black Friday Sale! Other researchers have floated theories for ball lightning ranging from miniature black holes left over from the Big Bang to visual hallucinations caused by epileptic seizures, but the silica theory remains the only lab-tested hypothesis. On contact with an object, these balls release large amounts of energy. Stephanie Pappas - Live Science Contributor It normally lasts only a few seconds, usually moving about and then vanishing suddenly, either silently or explosively. Lightning is an electric current. Contemporary accounts tend to be less dramatic than the parish church tale: In general, the worst damage is some singed clothing or furniture. By Witnesses describe ball lightning as fist-size floating spheres of fire that spin, hover in mid-air and sometimes explode. Bead lightning is most apparent when the current in a cloud-to-ground flash persists for an appreciable fraction of a second. By signing up for this email, you are agreeing to news, offers, and information from Encyclopaedia Britannica. Updates? Please deactivate your ad blocker in order to see our subscription offer. It glows hot as because of a chemical reaction between the silicon and oxygen in the air. There was a problem. Corrections? Live Science is part of Future US Inc, an international media group and leading digital publisher. The ball appeared just after a lightning strike and traveled horizontally for about 10 meters (33 feet). Or seen sparks when you take off your jumper? New York, (Op-Ed), Catch the full moon (and a penumbral eclipse) on Monday, Whodunit solved when 'sword' is found embedded in thresher shark, Wide-eyed prehistoric shark hid its sharpest teeth in nightmare jaws, Megalodon nurseries reveal world’s largest shark had a soft side. Visit our corporate site. Sometimes bead lightning is mistaken for ball lightning. How Stuff Works - Science - Does Ball Lightning Really Exist. what causes ball lightning? Omissions? Ball lightning appears as glowing orbs that seem to occur during thunderstorms, which are then followed by a lightning strike. Premium Membership is now 50% off! Ball lightning - Wikipedia Yes there have been numerous accounts of people being not only injured but also killed. One of the earliest documented reports of ball lightning came from the events of a stormy Sunday in 1638. NY 10036. You will receive a verification email shortly.

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