Chinese researchers have captured perhaps the first-ever scientific recordings of ball lightning in a video clip that illustrates a theory first floated more than a decade ago.
The footage, recorded during a 2012 thunderstorm in Qinghai, presents an up-close look at an instance of ball lightning. According to LiveScience.com, the phenomenon
happens when a normal bolt of lightning strikes the ground, vaporizing minerals in the soil and sending a cluster of the charged particles into the air. These "balls" sometimes emit eerie lights, which resemble floating orbs.
The team of Chinese scientists from Northwest Normal University shot the high-speed video clip from about 3,000 feet away and also used a spectrometer to analyze the ball lightning's light components.
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Now, after a year of lab work, the team has presented their official findings in a report published recently in the journal Physical Review Letters.
Through the spectrometer, the researchers noticed the ball lightning's light spectrum change from purple to green to orange to white to red. They also detected minerals like silicon, iron, and calcium — which are all found in the local soil — in the ball lightning's particle cluster. The findings bolster a theory first presented more than a decade ago, which states that the particles in ball lightning are the same ones in the surrounding soil.
"The new results shed light on the ball lightning enigma and provide valuable information about its initiation, evolution, and properties," Eli Jerby, a microwave researcher at Tel Aviv University in Israel, told LiveScience.com.
Here's a slowed-down video clip of the ball lightning's spectrum of light, which indicates what particles are present:
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