What Is Ball Lightning?


Nature never ceases to amaze us. There is always something to rake up your curiosity. It is a wonder how so many natural phenomena are still unexplained even after centuries of scientific research. There is always something in nature that is wonderful to look at but so complex that it’s stupefying.

Here, you are going to read about one such strange and unexplained phenomenon happening in the world – ball lightening. As the name suggests, it is known as a form of lightening that appears in the shape of a ball. Different people have different views about it, however nothing is scientifically proved. Let’s discuss about ball lightening in detail below!

What is ball lightning?

Ball lightning is an unexplained natural phenomenon that happens during a thunderstorm. It is one of many shapes of lightning that falls off the sky. In this process, the balls of electricity are formed that hang in the air momentarily, up to 10 seconds or so. Their sizes vary from 1 to 25 diameters. Whereas, the speed of these globes of light is around 3 meters per second and it moves against air current. They disappear after a short period with a loud sound and give out a lot of energy. There is a hissing sound after it dies and leaves an acrid smell. The lightning globes differ in shades as well. They have been seen in various colors, including yellow, red, blue, orange and white. 

How often this type of lightning is observed?

This natural phenomenon is not very common. However, it is also not so rare that one should doubt its existence. Many people have seen it happening in front of their eyes. Several videos of the scenery are captured and uploaded online. These videos have been recorded from various parts of the world, proving the existence of ball lightning. However, this particular form has not yet been captured in a scientific facility ever.

Where and when is ball lightning seen mostly?

lighting ball

It is seen during a thunderstorm. However, there have been times when it was seen before or after a thunderstorm. Luminous balls are produced sometimes outdoors during a thunderstorm. However, many people have reported having these light balls inside of their houses as well. They have been reported in airplanes, homes, and submarines too.

Are they harmful?

No case of harm or injury has been recorded during indoor ball lightning. Scientifically, absence of damage is because of the low charge of particles forming bright balls of light indoors. However, these light balls can be quite destructive outdoors. They disappear with a loud bang and a considerable amount of energy.

Do the electric orbs remain high and for long in the air?

These electric balls are not very big in size. They are generally described to be the size of a child’s head or a grape fruit. These balls do not live long either. If you happen to witness them, you will most probably see them traveling a little distance parallel to the earth. It does not mean that these balls are not capable of verticle jumps. They usually burst within 10 seconds, and end up with a loud sound, when outdoors. The rapid death of these leaves the viewer in curiosity and amazement. 

What does science say about it?

There are many theories and almost all are debunked. None explains the phenomenon completely. Scientists have tried to find a plausible definition of the phenomenon for a long time.

  • One explanation says it is hot air. However, hot air rises and these balls do not rise. They go just a meter from the ground mostly. 
  • Another study says that these balls are made up of nuclear particles. However, this does not explain how they can happen inside the houses. 
  • The “Maser-Soliton theory”

explains why these orbs occur mostly on plain grounds, and are not harmful, if happen indoors.

  • Latest researches have revealed that these balls are caused by electromagnetic radiation.
  • Some say they are caused by microwave radiation. 
  • For others, it is the nano batteries that are formed by aerosol particle.
  • According to one study, these light balls are not caused by lightning at all. These are basically simple lights trapped in the air.

The mystery of these luminous spheres goes on endlessly. Despite the lack of explanation, there is no doubt about the existence of this phenomenon. 

How many people have seen this weather phenomenon?

Approximately 5% of the total population on earth has seen this happening. Approximately the same number have experienced common bolt lightning happening. Any speculations that consider it to be people’s imagination only are debunked by this huge number. However, a lot of claimed sightings are just hallucinations that are caused by magnetic field disturbances. The first recorded account of light balls happened back in 1638, which shows that it an age old phenomenon. 

Ball lightning and cultural stories


Owing to the magical appearance of these lightning globes; they have inspired various stories in cultures all over the world. 

  • In Australia, they are called Min-Min Lights which means unusual lights that follow people at night 
  • In Japan, they are souls that are separated from their bodies after death. They are supposed to be from another World and not earthly lights.
  • The English version is quite famous: they are called will-o’- the- wsips. These lights mislead travellers out of pure mischief. 

The cultural stories have come into existence because of lack of scientific knowledge. They have persisted till now because there has been no solid answer to this mystery. 


Science has developed a lot with time and has been able to question most of our concerns and doubts. However, there are still a few things that are out of reach of scientific studies, and they have failed to put forward a logical explanation regarding them. Ball Lightning is one such phenomenon.

This form of lightning happens for such a small duration and so unexpectedly that it is hard to record or capture it intentionally. Maybe, this is the reason that the ball lightning appearance is still a mystery. However, its existence can’t be denied as a lot of people from different parts of the world have seen it with their eyes. You can also find a few videos on ball lightening online, in case you are interested in watching it happen.

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