Ball lightning is a mysterious phenomenon that occurs during a thunderstorm, and is an electrical discharge that lasts longer than regular lightning. However, it’s quite rare and very few recorded instances of it are available. In July 2012, scientists from Northwest Normal University in Lanzhou, China, recorded the spectrum of ball lightning, and published their results in January 2014.
5 Interesting Facts
1. The ball lightning observed in China was seen from 900 metres away, and 1.64 seconds of video of the lightning was recorded. The ball lightning traveled horizontally at a speed of 8.6 m/s. Source is here.
2. The spectrum revealed that it contained neutral silicon, calcium, iron, nitrogen, and oxygen. Regular lightning’s spectrum reveals ionized nitrogen.
3. Ball lightning is mysterious. Although it has been observed, it’s rarely been observed naturally in a setting where scientists can take readings. However, there are many hypotheses about the cause of ball lightning. There is no consensus yet.
4. The characteristics of observed ball lightning is quite varied. There are different colours, shapes, and sizes. Many are observed to be rotating, but few are observed to give off heat. They tend to be attracted to conducting metals. They often appear at the same time as cloud-to-ground lightning. They’ve also been known to appear in buildings, aircraft, and pass through walls with no damage. Read all about it here in a New Scientist article.
5. R. C. Jennison of the Electronics Laboratory at the University of Kent observed ball lightning traveling through the aircraft he was in. During a storm, the aircraft was struck by lightning, and a few seconds later, a 20cm diameter sphere of ball lightning floated down the aircraft and passed within 50cm of him. Read his account here.
For more information, check the Wikipedia article.