What’s ball lightning? | BBC Science Focus Journal

What’s ball lightning? | BBC Science Focus Journal

Ball lightning is a mysterious and unexplained type of lightning which has confused climate watchers all through historical past and continues to intrigue researchers in the present day. The phenomenon is mostly described as a ball of sunshine that seems throughout thunderstorms.

The scale of the ball varies, from a golf ball to bigger than a soccer, and it tends to hover over the bottom. Its lifetime varies too, from a couple of seconds to a couple minutes, with bigger and dimmer balls tending to last more.

Observations go far again in historical past. Luminous balls characteristic within the legends of the Argentinean and Chilean Mapuche tradition, however the earliest identified written reference comes from an English monk in 1195. He described “a dense and darkish cloud, emitting a white substance which grew right into a spherical form beneath the cloud, from which a fiery globe fell in direction of the river”. Tsar Nicholas II even reported witnessing the phenomenon in a church in St Petersburg as a younger little one.

A research performed within the Sixties for the US Atomic Vitality Fee discovered that ball lightning has been seen by 5 per cent of the world’s inhabitants – about the identical proportion as those that have seen a bolt of regular lightning strike up shut.

Scientists suppose that ball lightning is actual, however the way it occurs is an open query. In 2014, Chinese language scientists captured a video of ball lightning whereas attempting to document regular lightning. Their readings present a mix of silicon, iron and calcium atoms within the ball, all frequent parts of soil.

This lends weight to the speculation that when lightning strikes soil, it creates a vapour of silicon nanoparticles. These particles react with air to generate gentle and warmth at comparatively low temperatures. Nonetheless, it doesn’t clarify observations of ball lightning passing by way of partitions, or plane cockpits. Additional analysis can be wanted to lastly unravel this thriller.

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Requested by: Oscar Brown, through e mail

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