A new hypothesis on the origin of Ball lightning


Sometimes, under certain conditions, a small and relatively spherical slice of the atmosphere which surrounds us, for a short while lights up.

These balls of fire are called wandering lights, St. Elmo’s fire, Ghost lights or ball lightning. First it was thought that they hang out us graves, dancing along the banks of rivers, signaled the approach of the earthquake and penetrate the cabin. Even today we have no clear explanation of how they arise and what they do. But this does not mean that scientists have given up trying to figure it out. In June, the Chinese scholar Hui-Chun Wu (Hui-Chun Wu) proposed a new, convincing explanation of this phenomenon by publishing an article in the journal Scientific Reports.

Some fireballs are the product of vital activity of living organisms. For example, the decomposition of living matter in a swampy area (or even mass graves in the forests of Poland) leads to the release of methane and phosphorous-containing gases such as posterolateral that can suddenly ignite when exposed to oxygen, resulting in a shimmering light spot hovering in the air. Other fireballs are electrical in nature, flaring up inside the earth during earthquakes, when the collision of the boulders is released the flow of electrons that rise to the surface where they interact with the air, creating flashes of light. But some fire balls formed in the atmosphere, usually during severe thunderstorms, and they are called fireballs.

Ball lightning can be any color of the rainbow and all different sizes — from a regular glass toy ball to large exercise balls on which people sometimes sit. They can build up inside enclosed spaces, down the chimney pipes and even penetrate through closed Windows. Besides the fact that they produce light, ball lightning can generate discharges and often emit a hiss or buzz, and a strong odor. Usually ball lightning exists in only a few seconds and burns with the intensity of a bright household light bulb. The unpredictable and volatile nature of ball lightning’s stopping to formulate a compelling theory to explain its nature, but reports of its strangeness has been for many centuries and continue to do today.

For example, in the spring of 1963, the late astronomer Roger Jennison (Jennison Roger) flew a night flight through storm clouds and noticed a burning ball the size of a basketball shortly after the lightning hit the plane. According to him, this Orb appeared from the cockpit and flew down the aisle between the seats, maintaining a constant altitude and course all the way until he could see it.” Another time a resident of the United Kingdom said that she was home, “when a huge orange ball like a grapefruit, but more orange and loose at the edges, flew in through the window that was closed and on which the curtains were also drawn. He was flying horizontally at about shoulder height for about 10 seconds, then right over my head there was a clap of thunder, so strong that I fell of my chair”.

The penetration of ball lightning in houses and their ability to form inside of the aircraft was extremely difficult to explain. Explain how they are formed, even more diverse than their physical characteristics. For example, according to different theories, ball lightning may be a cloud of red-hot silicon particles, the natural nuclear reaction, an epileptic hallucination resulting from the effects of lightning, a miniature black hole, a compound of cellulose and other natural polymer filled with microwave bubble plasma.

Hypothesis microwave bubbles formed the basis of the work, a scientist from Zhejiang University in Hangzhou, China. Before, scientists assumed that such bubbles can form under the influence of microwave radiation storm clouds or atmospheric masers, however, Have put forward the hypothesis that these microwaves emanate from the electron beam that are accelerated to almost the speed of light when lightning strikes into the ground. These electrons are accelerated to speeds under the influence of the electric field that occurs when the flow of electrons moves in steps from the base of the cloud to the ground just before a bright flash of lightning. “The tip of the lightning flashes of the age of the earth, — writes, — can be formed a beam of electrons moving at relativistic speeds, which in turn generates intense microwave radiation”.

Regardless of the source, atmospheric microwave generate plasma, charging the surrounding air. This radiation has sufficient pressure to form from the diffuse plasma bubble, which we call ball lightning. Microwaves, which are inside the bubble, continues to generate a plasma and, thus, to maintain the bubble during his short life. In the end, the fireball fades, because the radiation inside the bubble dissipates. Sometimes the bubble breaks, the microwaves emerge, leading to the explosion.

The presence of microwaves and plasma as components of ball lightning may explain some of its properties. For example, microwaves can penetrate through window glass, so closed Windows do not interfere with the appearance of ball lightning in the room. Microwaves can also produce a noticeable sound at the time of their contact with the inner ear of a human, and the plasma, they generate, in turn, can produce oxygen from atmospheric ozone, having a pungent odor.

From other theories theory about the origin of the microwave ball lightning is different in that it explains how they appear inside the aircraft. Electrons, which are tiny relatives of atoms, capable of passing through the metal paneling of the body of the aircraft after they reached near-light speeds beyond, thanks to a flash of lightning. Then the electrons are trapped inside the plane, radiate microwaves which form a fireball. The sequence of the electron-microwave-plasma also explains the size of ball lightning, since the length of the electron beam, speeding under the influence of a lightning strike, with the typical diameter of the resulting microwave bubble is about 20-50 centimeters.

As is always the case with a new scientific hypothesis, you now need to do a lot of work to confirm the assumption the us will Need to conduct many experiments to test the mechanism of electron-microwave-plasma, resulting in the formation of ball lightning. It will be necessary to develop a method to generate ball lightning on demand, and then to study the characteristics of electrons and microwaves.

According to Wu, if the hypothesis is confirmed, his theory would put a few important issues related to threats generated by fast electrons and microwave radiation arising close to the people caught in the storm.

That’s what happened last year in South Dakota. In the video, filmed by a witness to the incident, you can see how during a thunderstorm from the sky down is rapidly falling ball of light.

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