What is the physics of a lighting ball?

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I've heard of fire balls caused by lighting that float around for a while and can pass through a window. what are these?
 

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  • #2
Danger
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Ball lightning has been a bit of an enigma in the past. A lot of people still don't believe that it really exists. As nearly as I can determine, it appears to be a 'plasmoid'; ie. a semi-coherent mass of low-temperature plasma that can mimic the actions of a physical entity. All of the buzzing, humming, colour effects, etc.. seem to be associated with the intense EM field.
(My great aunt, sometime in the late 1880's, had one come down her chimney, blow open the door of her pot-belly stove, then bounce across the floor and pop out of existence just before hitting the far wall.)
It has been artificially created in labs, but never seems to stick around long enough to be properly studied.
This is as of my last exposure to the subject, but it's pretty old. Better experiments have probably taken place since.
 
  • #3
wolram
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The last i read the plasma therory did not fit, "ball lightning", as AFAIK it
does not emit heat, i think it was proposed that negatively charged nitrates
and positively charged hydrogen could produce the BL effect.
But it could be that there is more than one type of BL, as reports of the
activity of these, "orbs", very wildly.
Ivan seeking, may be up to date on BL and the best one to ask.
 
  • #4
Danger
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wolram said:
The last i read the plasma therory did not fit, "ball lightning", as AFAIK it does not emit heat
I did specifically refer to it as a low temperature plasma. We might not be using the same definition of 'plasma', though. I just mean group of positively ionized atoms sharing a bunch of free-lance electrons.
 
  • #5
wolram
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Danger said:
I did specifically refer to it as a low temperature plasma. We might not be using the same definition of 'plasma', though. I just mean group of positively ionized atoms sharing a bunch of free-lance electrons.

No disagreement, Danger, i did have a link for all the reported actions, colours
etc of BL sightings, it seems very unlikely that any one thing can fit all.
i will try to find it if it is of interest.
 
  • #6
Danger
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wolram said:
i will try to find it if it is of interest.
Please. This is one of those things that I really never think about until someone else mentions it, then I get fascinated for a while, then drift away again. Now that I'm living in PF, anything that I can learn about this will not only satisfy my own curiosity, but will likely help with other matters of physics and electricity.
 
  • #7
wolram
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  • #8
Ivan Seeking
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We have many links for information about ball lightning in the Credible Anomalies sticky thread in the S&D forum.
https://www.physicsforums.com/showthread.php?t=58374

For example:
Ball lightning caused by oxidation of nanoparticle networks from normal lightning strikes on soil Observations of ball lightning have been reported for centuries, but the origin of this phenomenon remains an enigma. The 'average' ball lightning appears as a sphere with a diameter of 300 mm, a lifetime of about 10 s, and a luminosity similar to a 100-W lamp. It floats freely in the air, and ends either in an explosion, or by simply fading from view. It almost invariably occurs during stormy weather. Several energy sources have been proposed to explain the light, but none of these models has succeeded in explaining all of the observed characteristics. Here we report a model that potentially accounts for all of those properties, and which has some experimental support. [continued]
http://www.nature.com/cgi-taf/DynaP...abs/403519a0_fs.html&dynoptions=doi1104708867

and

Another form of lightning that is considered rare but has even been observed moving down aisles within an airplane is ball lightning.
http://www.erh.noaa.gov/car/WCM/Maine-Ly Weather/Spring 2004/convectiveamateurs.htm

It is now generally accepted by meteorologists [atmospheric scientists] that ball lightning is real.
 
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  • #9
Ivan Seeking
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I should add that there are other forms of fireballs not considered to be ball lightning. Also from the Credible Anomalies thread:

NAGA FIREBALLS OF NONG KHAI
Every now and again, reddish-pink elliptical balls of light with an eerie glow rise silently into the pitch-black night sky, without a flare, smoke or sound.

Known as the "Bung Fai Phaya Naga", the King of Naga fire-balls is a natural phenomenon that generally takes place on the full moon night of the 11th lunar month, the last night of the Buddhist Lent.

The balls of light, with uniform reddish-pink or rich crimson-burgundy hues of the Siamese Ruby, rise vertically into the night sky to heights ranging from 50 metres to 300 metres before they simply fade into thin air without a trace. The fireballs are visible for approximately 3 to 8 seconds at a time, before they vanish completely. [continued]
http://www.tatnews.org/emagazine/1611.asp [Broken]

Earthquake Lights Observed In Canada
"Fireballs a few metres in diameter often popped out of the ground in a repetitive manner at distances of up to only a few metres away from the observers. Others were seen several hundred metres up in the sky, stationary or moving. Some observers described dripping luminescent droplets, rapidly disappearing a few metres under the stationary fireballs. Only two fire-tongues on the ground were reported, one on snow and the other on a paved parking space without any apparent surface fissure. The colours most often identified were orange, yellow, white and green. Some luminosities lasted up to 12 min."
(Ouellet, Marcel; "Earthquake Lights and Seismicity," Nature, 348:492, 1990.)
http://www.science-frontiers.com/sf074/sf074g14.htm

There is also a class of objects reported call superbolides
TWO PUZZLING SUPERBOLIDES
The following account of unusual phenomena was received March 10, at the Hydrographic office, Washington, from the branch office in San Francisco. The bark Innerwich, Capt. Waters, has just arrived at Victoria from Yokohama. At midnight of Feb. 24, in latitude 37d north, longitude 170d 15m east, the captain was aroused by the mate, and went on deck to find the sky changing to a fiery red. All at once a large mass of fire appeared over the vessel, completly blinding the spectators; and, as it fell into the sea some fifty yards to leeward, it caused a hissing sound, which was heard above the blast, and made the vessel quiver from stem to stern. Hardly had this disappeared, when a lowering mass of white foam was seen rapidly approaching the vessel...[continued]
http://www.lpi.usra.edu/meetings/metsoc2001/pdf/5002.pdf
 
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  • #10
Danger
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Thanks, guys. This is going to keep me busy for a while.
 
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