Ball Lightning: Radiation trapped in a plasma bubble?

Here’s an article that says the longstanding mystery of ball lightning is solved. Based on witness testimonies, however, some think there’s more to some of these phenomenon. Some, for example, appear to be under intelligent control.

Ball lightning, also known as fireballs and ghost lights, have spooked sky-watchers for hundreds of years.

The strange phenomenon can appear in the sky from the size of a golf ball to several metres across and can last between one second and tens of seconds.

The orbs mostly appear during thunderstorms, but can also form inside aircraft and closed rooms.

And the globe-like structures can decay silently or explode loudly, producing rancid odours in their wake.

These strange and varying characteristics have presented a ‘riddle’ to scientists trying to work out their origins.

But now researchers have come up with a theory to explain how the mysterious fireballs form.

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.

‘At the tip of a lightning stroke reaching the ground, a relativistic electron bunch can be produced, which in turn excites intense microwave radiation,’ the scientists said in a research paper published in Scientific Reports.

‘The latter ionizes the local air and the radiation pressure evacuates the resulting plasma, forming a spherical plasma bubble that stably traps the radiation.’


Imagine guiding balls of radiation trapped in plasma. Is it possible? There has been some consideration of making ball lightning into a weapon.

Two hundred years ago this week, the warship HMS Warren Hastings was struck by a weird phenomenon: “Three distinct balls of fire” fell from the heavens, striking the ship and killing two crewmen, leaving behind “a nauseous, sulfurous smell,” according to the Times of London.

Ball lightning has been the subject of much scientific scrutiny over the years. And, as with many powerful natural phenomena, the question arises: “Can we turn it into a weapon?” Peculiar as it may seem, that’s exactly what some researchers are working on — even though it hasn’t even been properly replicated in the laboratory yet.

The exact cause and nature of ball lighting has yet to be determined; there may be several different types, confusing matters further. But generally it manifests as a grapefruit-sized sphere of light moving slowly through the air which may end by fizzling out or exploding.

In the mid-’60s, the U.S. military started exploring ways that the phenomenon might be weaponized. Take this 1965 Defense Technical Information Center report on Survey of Kugelblitz Theories For Electromagnetic Incendiaries, (Kugelblitz is German for ball lighting). The document summarizes and evaluates the ball lightning theories then prevalent, and recommends “a theoretical and experimental Kugelblitz program… as a means of developing the theory into a weapons application.” This led to an Air Force program called Harness Cavalier, which seems to have ended without producing anything conclusive.

However, some years later scientist Dr. Paul Koloc was looking at methods of containing high-temperature plasma during nuclear fusion. There are many schemes for containing plasma in donut-shaped magnetic fields using a device called a Tokomak. Koloc’s insight was that, under the right conditions, a donut-shaped mass of moving plasma would generate the required fields for containment itself. No Tokomak would be required for this “plasmoid,” which would be completely stable and self-sustaining. It is a very close equivalent of the smoke ring — another type of dynamic “vortex ring,” which remains stable over a period of time, unlike an unstructured cloud of smoke.

Guided fireballs, coming to a military near you? What do you make of these sightings?

In January 1984, ball lightning measuring about 4 inches in diameter entered a Russian passenger aircraft and, according to the Russian news release, “flew above the heads of the stunned passengers. In the tail section of the airliner, it divided into two glowing crescents which then joined together again and left the plane almost noiselessly.” The ball lightning left two holes in the plane.

A “ball of sparks” about the size of a basketball entered a commercial aircraft, apparently through an engine airtake, moved into the fuselage, and proceeded to chase a flight attendant up and down the aisle. She was screaming as she tried to outrun the ball lightning. It dissipated quickly before striking her.

Via ThoughtCo

Some think some ball lighting is all in the mind:

Ball lightning is a rare circular light phenomenon occurring during thunderstorms. Scientists have been puzzled by the nature of these apparent fire balls for a long time. Now physicists have calculated that the magnetic field of long lightning strokes may produce the image of luminous shapes, also known as phosphenes, in the brain. This finding may offer an explanation for many ball lightning observations.


One assumes this explanation would not be used for cases were ball lightning caused holes in an airplane, chased a stewardess, or sterilized soil.

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