Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

B Ball lightning and stars

  1. Sep 1, 2017 #1
    Has the spectrum of a ball lightning ever been photographed?
    If so, does the spectrum look like the spectrum of any star?
    Could one say: the ball lightning is the smallest existing star?
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 1, 2017 #2
  4. Sep 1, 2017 #3
    Great images.
    I guess the spectral lines correspond to the atmospherical gasses. Right?
    (The gasses have not been mentioned.)

    Please tell me the essential difference apart from the location.
  5. Sep 1, 2017 #4


    User Avatar
    Science Advisor
    Gold Member

    You can see the elements in the spectrum in Fig 4 b) & c). Shows iron, silicon, calcium, nitrogen and oxygen.

    A star is a ball of nearly pure hydrogen and helium plasma held together by self-gravity, with fusion reactions occurring in its core. The latter requirement means that it has to be at least as massive as 10 Jupiters.
    A ball lighting is not as massive as 10+ Jupiters, hence can't maintain fusion. It's not held together by self-gravity. It's not made of helium and hydrogen plasma.
    It is a ball, though.
  6. Sep 2, 2017 #5
    No, because typically a star is mostly hydrogen, and that is fusing into helium, because of gravity.
    Ball lightening (if it really exists), is a plasma state of matter generated by strong electromagnetism, as is normal lightening.
    Many weird tales and pictures of ball lightening exist, some of which are known to be fake.
    I think this so called phenomena is in the same category as crop circles.
  7. Sep 2, 2017 #6
    Are you saying that articles published in scientific journals containing pictures and data of ball lightning are being faked by the scientists?

    Although I think a few people have occasionally investigated crop circles, no one has ever seen one made by natural processes. Ball lightning has been directly observed descending from thunderstorm clouds.
  8. Sep 2, 2017 #7

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    Please. Keep this civil and responsible. Thanks! And yes, depending on the journal it is possible for really bad science to be published. That journal is a good peer reviewed journal.
  9. Sep 2, 2017 #8

    Vanadium 50

    User Avatar
    Staff Emeritus
    Science Advisor
    Education Advisor
    2017 Award

    I hope you're talking to rootone and not NFuller, who provided a reference. Rootone has essentially accused the authors of scientific misconduct: he needs to either retract that or back it up.

    Getting back on topic, another difference is that a star produces its own energy. Ball lightning has only the energy it was created with.
  10. Sep 2, 2017 #9
    I will retract from the implication that ball lightening is always some kind of photographic prank, although it is sometimes.
    What I don't like is the amount of hype and 'spiritual' woo associated with the subject,
    and clearly made up anecdotes about it floating through somebodies house.
  11. Sep 2, 2017 #10

    jim mcnamara

    User Avatar

    Staff: Mentor

    I think we are back on track. NFuller's citation and response was fine. rootone retracted.
  12. Oct 4, 2017 #11
    I think it is possible for ball lightning to go into a house or building. My father told me a story of how my grandpa was in the barn with a hired hand during a thunderstorm in the 1930s in Iowa. A ball of lightning came into the barn through an opening and travelled along the top of a horizontal metal bar that held a litter cart, about 10 feet in the air. It travelled down the bar for a bit, then fell to the ground and exploded into sparks. The hired hand, my grandpa, and the cow next to them were absolutely terrified. Experience is believing. It wasn't my experience, but my father and grandpa are credible people. I don't think ball lightning is sustained by the same phenomena as conventional stars but they might share some characteristics.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 4, 2017
  13. Oct 4, 2017 #12
    Check out the above cited article, in post #2. here- I'll make it easy:


    It deals with the question of what ball lightning is and might be as well as the spectrum issues.

    Interesting quick read.

  14. Oct 5, 2017 #13


    Staff: Mentor

    Thank you. That was an interesting quick read. That's the first time I've seen speculation on that topic coupled with actual data.

    I was once associated with triggered lightning experiments. It's relatively easy to get soil of any composition bombarded by lightning. Perhaps that could be used to create man-made ball lightning outside of the laboratory and capture it on camera.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook

Have something to add?
Draft saved Draft deleted