The ball had left a red spot on Richmann's forehead, his shoes were blown open, and his clothing was singed. [54][55], Many modern experiments involve using a microwave oven to produce small rising glowing balls, often referred to as plasma balls. Descriptions of ball lightning appear in a variety of accounts over the centuries and have received much attention from scientists. Julio Rubinstein,[75] David Finkelstein, and James R. Powell proposed that ball lightning is a detached St. Elmo's fire (1964–1970). Instances of ball lightning—glowing, electric orbs in the sky—have captivated and mystified us for centuries. Another study, published in 2016, suggests that microwave radiation produced when lightning strikes the ground could become encapsulated in a plasma bubble, resulting in ball lightning. The visibility of the ball lightning can be associated with electroluminescence, a direct result of the triboelectric effect from materials within the area of the reaction. Whatever ball lightning happens to be, though, history isn't short on eyewitness reports. The ball serves as a resonant microwave cavity, automatically adjusting its radius to the wavelength of the microwave radiation so that resonance is maintained. 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[35][85] Lightning strikes perpendicular to the ground, and thunder follows immediately at supersonic speed in the form of shock waves[37] that form an invisible aerodynamic turbulence ring horizontal to the ground. The crew watched one ball descend, killing a man on deck and setting the main mast on fire. [100] It is similar to a liquid or solid state of matter with extremely low (gas-like) density. [49], The International Committee on Ball Lightning (ICBL) held regular symposia on the subject. Scientists have long attempted to produce ball lightning in laboratory experiments. Physics of Plasmas. Richmann was attending a meeting of the Academy of Sciences when he heard thunder and ran home with his engraver to capture the event for posterity. During the service there was a powerful thunderstorm, streaks of lightning flashed one after the other, and it seemed as if the peals of thunder would shake even the church and the whole world to its foundations. The Lanzhou researchers' paper supports the theory that ball lightning results from a ground strike that creates a reaction between oxygen and vaporized elements from the soil. He was sheltered in a small cottage when he, in his own words, ...noticed, with what I can only describe as calm amazement, that a dazzling globe of electric fire, apparently between six and twelve inches [15 and 30 cm] in diameter, was stationary about six inches [15 cm] below and to the right of my right knee. The pilots saw small balls of light moving in strange trajectories, which came to be referred to as. The ball lightning has the same rotational axis as the rotating cylinder. [93], Seward proposes that ball lightning is a spinning plasma toroid or ring. An attempt later to duplicate those balls with a surplus submarine battery resulted in several failures and an explosion. As the vortex has a much smaller vector of energy compared to the overall energy of the reactant sonic shock wave, its vector is likely fractional to the overall reaction. In 2017, Researchers from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China, have proposed that the bright glow of lightning balls is created when microwaves become trapped inside a plasma bubble. If the vortex's expansion is obstructed, and symmetry is broken, the vortex breaks into cyclical form. Chen, C., Pakter, R., Seward, D. C. "Equilibrium and Stability Properties of Self-Organized Electron Spiral Toroids." [4][47] At a distance of 900 m (3,000 ft), a total of 1.64 seconds of digital video of the ball lightning and its spectrum was made, from the formation of the ball lightning after the ordinary lightning struck the ground, up to the optical decay of the phenomenon. Seward, Clint. Several hypotheses have been advanced since the phenomenon was brought into the scientific realm by the English physician and electrical researcher William Snow Harris in 1843,[61] and French Academy scientist François Arago in 1855. In December, 1726, a number of British newspapers printed an extract of a letter from John Howell of the sloop Catherine and Mary: As we were coming thro' the Gulf of Florida on 29th of August, a large ball of fire fell from the Element and split our mast in Ten Thousand Pieces, if it were possible; split our Main Beam, also Three Planks of the Side, Under Water, and Three of the Deck; killed one man, another had his Hand carried of [sic], and had it not been for the violent rains, our Sails would have been of a Blast of Fire.[12][13]. While the experiment was under way, ball lightning appeared, travelled down the string, struck Richmann's forehead and killed him. Lightning in general is an electrical discharge caused by positive and negative imbalances within clouds themselves, or between storm clouds and the ground. In front of, above and around the new Hall of Engineering of the School of Mines, balls of fire played tag for half an hour, to the wonder and amazement of all who saw the display. British occultist Aleister Crowley reported witnessing what he referred to as "globular electricity" during a thunderstorm on Lake Pasquaney[21] in New Hampshire, United States, in 1916. Unlike a children's balloon, a BL moves at a certain distance from the surface of the Earth. The burnt portion of the object flares up into a large ball of fire, while "plasma balls" float near the oven chamber ceiling. [79] These oscillations were described in both classical[77][78] and quantum[76][80] approaches. That and other early accounts suggest that ball lightning can be deadly. One suggestion is that meteors breaking up in the atmosphere and forming charged plasmas as opposed to burning completely or impacting as meteorites could explain some instances of the phenomena, in addition to other unknown atmospheric events.[89]. They immediately lowered their topsails, but it came up so fast upon them, that, before they could raise the main tack, they observed the ball rise almost perpendicularly, and not above forty or fifty yards [35 or 45 m] from the main chains when it went off with an explosion, as great as if a hundred cannons had been discharged at the same time, leaving behind it a strong sulphurous smell. It has been described as moving up and down, sideways or in unpredictable trajectories, hovering and moving with or against the wind; attracted to,[42] unaffected by, or repelled from buildings, people, cars and other objects. [26], Descriptions of ball lightning vary widely. Its appearance has also been linked to power lines,[24][43] altitudes of 300 m (1,000 feet) and higher, and during thunderstorms[24] and calm weather. All rights reserved.