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Science Saturday, January 18th 2014 at 1:30 pm

Ball Lightning Observed In Nature For The First Time, There’s Even Fuzzy Video Evidence

Even though the headline has the words "fuzzy" and "ball" in it, it's still science.

Ball of light

Stories of mysterious lightning balls appearing during storms go back hundreds of years. Mostly people just chalked this up to “yeah, and I’ve seen a UFO too, bro”; but now, for the first time ever, Chinese scientists have actually observed ball lightning in the wild.

Though scientists have been able to replicate a similar phenomenon in a lab environment, no one had ever managed to find proof that this ball lightning occurred naturally. Out to observe a thunderstorm outside of Qinghai, three scientists set up spectrographs and videocameras to record, you know, the stuff you usually want to record in a storm, I guess, when all of a sudden: ball lightning.

It went down like this: lightning struck the ground, a sixteen-foot-wide ball of light shot out of the ground, floated about fifty feet, and then disappeared – all in less than two seconds. Here’s video evidence of the event (it’s not amazing, but they were half a mile away). The ball is on the far left, and the spectrum it creates is across the right:

The standing theory is that lightning zaps all its energy into silicon nanoparticles in the ground when it strikes, and the force of the strike shoots those particles into the air. The particles then oxidize, and release that energy as heat and light, creating the little glow-ball.

No word as to whether or not there were electric-type Pokémon nearby, but I’m pretty sure we can thank an Electabuzz for this one.

(via Medium, image by Phil and Pam Gradwell)

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