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Ball Lightning Caught On Video and Spectrograph 120

symbolset writes "Ball lightning has been reported for hundreds of years, and experimentally produced, but for the first time a natural will 'o wisp has been captured on video and amazingly, spectrograph, accidentally by researchers studying ordinary lightning."
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Ball Lightning Caught On Video and Spectrograph

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  • Re:link to video? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by c0lo ( 1497653 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @12:42AM (#46021509)

    It's available here: []

    Not much to see though.

    From the link, with my emphasis:

    That is what Ping Yuan and co-workers from Northwest Normal University in Lanzhou, China, now report. They had set up spectrometers on the remote Qinghai Plateau of northwest China to investigate ordinary lightning, which is frequent in this region. During one late-evening thunderstorm in July 2012, they saw ball lightning appear just after a lightning strike about 900 meters from their apparatus and were able to record a spectrum and high-speed video footage of the ball.

    (groan) ... seems there are publications much slower than /. - this was supposed to be news one year and a half ago.

  • Re:link to video? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by slashmydots ( 2189826 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @12:45AM (#46021519)
    Except that you can see it clearly start at high energy level on the spectrograph then drop in energy level to lower wavelengths of light closer to red like a mega-hot star quickly burning out. I thought that was fascinating and obvious proof that it's ball lightning.
  • Re:Error in summary (Score:2, Interesting)

    by VortexCortex ( 1117377 ) <.moc.edargorter- ... . .xetroCxetroV.> on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @12:59AM (#46021577)

    The latter may be responsible for the stories of the former basing fantasy on bits of unexplained fact, as is often the case with ancient legends, e.g., the Christian's god was probably a volcano. []

    What about a Foo Fighter [] or Saint Elmo's Fire []? One thing I find interesting is how many events can have a common cause. As is often the case in science, it's not a stretch to think such disparate things could someday be understood as a variation of "the same thing": A change in static electric charge.

  • Stories (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @01:04AM (#46021591)

    A grandmother of mine told a story about ball lighting that she saw in her kitchen. During a thunderstorm a bolt of lighting struck near her home and a bright hissing ball jumped out the phone, fell to the floor, moved a little ways across the floor leaving small scorch marks and vanished. This would have been the 1940's and the phone was probably a wall mounted rotary.

    She was a sober and modest person with a sound mind throughout her life. I don't doubt the story.

  • Re:Stories (Score:5, Interesting)

    by cusco ( 717999 ) <> on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @01:31AM (#46021745)

    It wasn't until the 1960s that scientists finally admitted that ball lightning actually existed. Since they couldn't explain how it could exist they declared it an 'old wives tale'.

    My grandmother was terrified of lightning storms, and I used to sit with her during them growing up. She said that in the 1940s lightning hit the telephone pole outside and blew the telephone right off the wall, starting a fire in the wall she put out with a pan of water. Another time my dad, who would have been about 5 years old, and my grandfather were in the barn trying to calm the cattle. Looking out the window she saw a ball of lightning roll in one end of the barn and then out the other without lighting the mounds of straw and hay inside on fire. She could never abide thunderstorms after that.

  • Re:Stories (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @05:14AM (#46022479)

    I was video taping with a digital camera and I believe I actually have ball lighting on tape... I viewed it several times trying to see if it wasn't some glare from lighting [obviously it was dark when the storm rolled thru] I am trying to determine where I should send a copy of the video, with details with elapsed time when they appear and then disappear.

    It tough to know how large they are but they had a multi color glow, I would like to have a University or NOVA to have a look to see these things were just from natural glare [at a distance] or if it is possible they are ball lighting, or some other event that occurs during thunder storms.

  • Re:Stories (Score:5, Interesting)

    by jbeaupre ( 752124 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @10:54AM (#46024653)

    I remember reading stories like that as a kid. Never thought I'd see it. Then we moved to a neighborhood where it was common. Yes, common.

    When there were dry thunderstorms, ball lightening would form above a tree down the street. One or two at a time, but dozens during a storm. About 30 to 60 cm in dia, they would drift down from the tree, changing colors until they popped.

    My brother and I would watch it from behind a screen door during at least 3 different storms I can think of. Wild to think it was common enough to recognize the sound and say "The ball lightning is back, let's go watch!"

    The great irony was we were living in family housing at a large research university. The never knew what they had happening on their own campus. I figured they wouldn't believe some kid.

  • Re: Error in summary (Score:4, Interesting)

    by khellendros1984 ( 792761 ) on Tuesday January 21, 2014 @04:06PM (#46028763) Journal
    As a further note, avoid all uses of the words "hooligan", "uppity", "peanut gallery", "hip hip hooray", "vandal", "barbarian", "assassin", "spade", "maroon", or any other word, phrase, figure of speech, or expression that has ever been deemed offensive by anyone at any time.

    Also, take care to avoid using the words "hysteria", "orchid", "seminar", "avocado", "mastodon", "manatee", "fundamental", or other words with similarly sexual etymologies around underage people.

    Words come from places and take meanings and connotations that don't match their origins. Get over it.

"Wish not to seem, but to be, the best." -- Aeschylus