A rare weather phenomenon known as ball lightning has been observed for the first time in nature by Chinese scientists. Ball lightning is an unexplained electrical phenomenon which occurs during thunderstorm, is unpredictable and is the reason why the researchers do not know much regarding it. It tends to last for more than a second that is considered long lived for lightning but hard to capture and study.
Some reports state that the ball would explode sometimes with fatal consequences and would leave behind the odour of sulphur. Several scientific hypotheses have been proposed down the centuries about the ball lightning. A report published in The Journal of Physical Chemistry, last year, has made researchers at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado, to figure out how to reproduce ball lightning in the lab. Electrodes were used partially submerged in electrolyte solution in order to create high power electric sparks which resulted in bright white plasmoid balls.
According to layman’s term, ball lightning seems to be a big flash of light which looks circular and appears during a storm in the sky. Sometimes it tends to have a blue glow and emanates from objects like lightning rods or ship masts.
Till 1960, several scientists debated that ball lightning was not a real phenomenon inspite of numerous sighting throughout the world and laboratory experiments could produce effects which seemed to be visually similar to the reports of ball lightning.
Many are speculating whether these were related to the natural phenomenon. The scientific data with regards to ball lightning are few due to its infrequency as well as unpredictability. Its existence is presumed on basis of reported public sightings which has produced some inconsistent findings. Based on inconsistencies and the lack of reliable data, the true nature of ball lightning is yet unknown.
The first optical spectrum which appears to be a ball lightning event was published and included a video at high frame rate in January 2014.According to historical account it is considered that the ball lightning to be the source of the legends which describe luminous balls like the Mapuche Anchimayen of mythology and some have claimed that it is harmless and small while others state that it is dangerous and large.
A study done in 1960 shows that 5% of the population of the Earth witnessed ball lightning while another study analysed reports of around 10,000 cases. One such description was reported on 21st October 1638, during the Great Thunderstorm near a church in Widecombe-in-the-Moor, Devon, England, where four people died with around 60 injured during a severe storm when an 8 foot ball of fire struck, entered the church and destroyed it.
The huge stones from the walls of the church were hurled to the ground and through the large wooden beams and the ball of fire smashed the pews as well as several windows filling the church with the odour of sulphur and dark thick smoke. It was reported that the ball of fire had been divided into two parts with one exiting from the window by smashing it open while the other disappeared in some area in the church.
The conclusion at the time was that the ball of fire was the `devil’ or the `flames of hell’ and the fire had sulphur smell. Others blamed it on two people who had been playing cards in the pew during the service which aroused God’s wrath.
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