Ball lightning observed in nature for the first time

Continuing on from my last post about wind turbines firing lightning into storm clouds, here’s another awesome story about lightning: for the first time ever, scientists have observed ball lightning – otherwise known as the mysterious St Elmo’s fire – happening outside the lab.

This weird, otherworldly light ball hangs in the air for nearly 2 seconds before disappearing. The theory goes that when there’s a lot of silicon, iron and calcium particles present in the soil, the blast of lightning shoots a cloud of them into the air, filling them with electric energy which they then emit with that characteristic light.

The scientists took a spectrometer with them when they made the observations, confirming that the light emitted from the ball was characteristic of these elements.

To be honest, whatever it’s made of, this is still a truly stunning phenomenon: but one I think I’d prefer to see from indoors!

[Source: Gizmodo, image: StormWlf (Flickr)]

 

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