“Ball lightning” is our name for luminous balls of unexplainable energy that appear in the strangest of places.
They’re notorious for damaging buildings and scaring the living daylights out of people. Tens of thousands of cases around the globe have been documented over the last few centuries. Often, ball lightning accompanies thunderstorms and can leave behind a sulfurous smell.
Scientists have yet to explain the orbs, which over 5% of the population claims to have seen. Follow us down one of the weirdest rabbit holes in science as we explore what experts think might be the cause of ball lightning.
1. That Wasn’t The Last Time Ball Lightning Would Tear Up A Chimney
Ball lightning is a phenomenon that usually occurs during thunderstorms. This was the case during one of the strangest documented sightings in Paris on July 5, 1852. In the picture above, historical scientist Wily Ley discusses the event with colleagues. There was a thunderstorm that evening in Paris. A ball of light entered the chimney of a house next to the Church of the Val-de-Grace. It flew around the room before shooting back out the chimney.
The following theory may explain why ball lightning is more common during thunderstorms.
2. The Vaporized Silicon Hypothesis And An Ancient Indian Temple
Scientists hypothesize that ball lightning happens when lightning strikes Earth’s soil and vaporizes the silica in the ground. This causes the oxygen to separate from the silicon dioxide. As the silicon vapor cools, it condenses into a floating aerosol. This could explain what happened on April 30, 1877 at the Golden Temple in Amritsar, India. Several people saw a ball of light enter the temple and fly around before leaving through a side door.
Not all ball lightning events come and go so quickly. Sometimes, they last longer than an episode of your favorite TV show.
3. The Folks Of Golden, Colorado Got Quite The Treat November Of 1894
That Monday night, the air seemed alive with electricity. The light show happened right in front of the new Hall of Engineering at the School of Mines, pictured above. According to spectators, balls of light danced around each other for a full half hour.
One theory that could explain the light show is the electrically charged solid-core model. According to the theory, ball lightning has a positively charged core. A vacuum sits between the core and the thin outer electron layer. This vacuum creates an intense electromagnetic field that creates the orb. This theory could explain what happened in Oral, Kazakhstan on May 22, 1901.
4. A Dazzling Ball Of Fire Descended Gradually From The Sky
The ball entered a house where 21 people had taken refuge from the storm. It entered through the window. The ball lightning then smashed through a wall and into the next room. It only left after slamming into a stove pipe, sending it flying across the room. The orb finally exited through the broken window.
The legend of ball lightning has even made it into a famous historical fiction series.