Ball lightning is thought to be a small glowing ball of gas. It has been publicly sighted for centuries, though infrequently and unpredictability. First descriptions go back ancient Greece, with serious scientific explorations of the phenomena starting in the middle of the 19th century. Only about 5% of people living in the U.S. have observed something similar to ball lightning. Ball lightning frequently appears after lightning strikes the ground and is spherical or pear-shaped. The balls have fuzzy edges and have been described in a wide range of colors. Most sizes are reported to range between that of a baseball to that of a basketball. They appear to float in the air, and have been observed to move towards open windows of pass through closed doors. Ball lightning disappears quickly, either in a silent manner or explosively. Observers who are close to the ball also report an ‘electrical’ smell.
Scientists have attempted to produce ball lightning in the lab with limited results. Because of the lack or production in the lab and conflicting public descriptions, we still don’t fully understand what causes ball lightning. As a result, there is no widely-accepted explanation for the occurrence of ball lightning; however, there are some consistencies in many reports that lead to the following description.
Ball lightning is so fascinating, puzzling, and mystifying that there is an International Committee on Ball Lightning that hold meetings to share research and observations of this illusive phenomena. Recent research suggests that some observations may result from luminous visions generated by repetitive lightning strikes.