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Interesting Facts About Ball Lightning That'll Intrigue You

Interesting Facts About Ball Lightning
Ball lightning is a phenomenon of atmospheric electrical activity associated with thunderstorms. A few interesting facts about ball lightning and theories associated with it are presented here.
Shashank Nakate
Last Updated: Dec 09, 2017
Graham K. Hubler, a physicist at the US Naval Research Laboratory (NRL), saw ball lightning for the first time when he was 16. The ball lightning as described by Hubler was the size of a tennis ball. It made oscillations and appeared as if it was charged electrically.
The phenomenon of ball lightning can be described as the appearance of mysterious glowing balls accompanied by thunderstorms. There are many interesting theories which explain this atmospheric electrical phenomenon. The atmospheric maser theory is one of them.
Atmospheric Maser Theory
This theory is widely used to explain the phenomenon of ball lightning. However, the theory has not been properly proven yet.

As per this theory, ball lightning is formed as a result of the laser effect. Charged molecules of water present in the clouds are subject to electrical activity. Water molecules in the clouds transition to an excited state when they come into contact with electricity. The result of this interaction is that a stimulated emission of radiation takes place. It causes light to amplify for a short period of time. This amplified light is nothing but ball lightning.
Ball Lightning Facts
There are many different theories which explain what ball lightning is. People across the globe have made different observations about this phenomenon. Some interesting facts about ball lightning and details about the observations made by people are given here.
✤ According to the surveys conducted to ascertain the existence of ball lightning, 1 out of 30 people claim to have seen ball lightning.
✤ Ball lightning is a phenomenon of rare occurrence. Therefore, skeptics often raise doubts about its existence. However, one should note that there are as many as 10,000 written accounts of observations of ball lightning. People from many countries have made their observations about this phenomenon. Also, the properties of ball lightning as described in these accounts have great similarities.
✤ One thing about ball lightning which repeatedly occurs in various eyewitness accounts is that it is a glowing and floating ball-shaped structure. The diameter of this floating ball ranges from 1 to 100 cm.
✤ The power contained in ball lightning is said to be 100 watts. Generally, ball lightning lasts for 10 seconds. However, it may also be as short as 1 second, and at times, extend to an entire minute. In the end, the fireball may explode or just fade away.
✤ In most cases, ball lightning appears along with lightning discharges that extend from the clouds to the ground surface.

✤ Ball lightning is sometimes sighted near metal fences and other objects likes wires. This displays their affinity towards metallic objects.
✤ Reports of people killed by ball lightning are rare. Georg Richmann, an electricity researcher was one of the first people who died due to contact with ball lightning. Richmann died in 1753 in St. Petersburg, Russia, while he was conducting a lightning-rod experiment.
✤ As per Pyotr Kapitsa, a physicist and Nobel laureate from Russia, the 'ball' in ball lightning acts as a resonant microwave cavity. The glow of ball lightning is driven by microwave radiation. The radiation originates from lightning clouds, and flows along paths of ionized air.
✤ Ebenezer Cobham Brewer's records provide some useful and interesting insights on the ball lightning phenomenon. Ball lightning, as per Brewer's description, appears like slow-moving balls. These balls either move along the length of the ground surface or just drop on the ground. He also reported that these glowing balls would sometimes explode or split into smaller ones.
✤ One of the most talked about sighting of the ball lightning phenomenon is in the year 1638. A large ball of fire had entered a church in Devonshire, England. The fireball entered the church after the church building was struck by lightning. During this incident, 4 people died, and around 60 were injured.
✤ In 1809, the crew of a British ship, HMS Warren Hastings, witnessed 3 'balls of fire'. It was reported in an English journal that these 'fireballs' attacked the ship. One person on the deck was killed by the first ball; the ship's mast caught fire. The second ball caused mild burns to one of the crewmen. The third ball killed one person. In all, two people died and one was injured during the incident.
✤ The phenomenon of ball lightning, owing to its popularity, has found place in adventure novels. French playwright and novelist Jules Verne, in his novel A Journey to the Center of the Earth, has mentioned a ball of fire. The ball is seen during a storm; it descends on the protagonist's raft from the sky.
According to Graham K. Hubler, development in the technology of cameras should help lead us to the truth about ball lightning. With increased use of video cameras by people across the globe, it won't be long before the truth about ball lightning will be uncovered, sooner than later.