At­mo­spheric short cir­cuit causes light­ning and lu­mi­nous balls

Science Illustrated - - NATURE -

In 2012, the world saw the fi­nal proof of the ex­is­tence of ball light­ning, when sci­en­tists recorded ball light­ning and ob­served, how it was born by light­ning. But not un­til now, sci­en­tists have con­firmed an about 20-year-old the­ory abut how the balls are kept­stable by mag­netic lines in plasma – by recre­at­ing the process in plasma’s freez­ing con­trast.

1 In large clouds, charged pre­cip­i­ta­tion par­ti­cles are sep­a­rated, as the pos­i­tive ones are light and rise, whereas the neg­a­tive ones are heavy and fall. The ground is pos­i­tively charged, as the bot­tom of the cloud re­pels neg­a­tive charges, caus­ing a volt­age dif­fer­ence.

2 The neg­a­tive cloud and the pos­i­tive ground at­tract. A thin chan­nel of highly ion­ized air stretches from the cloud to the ground and vice versa. When they meet, the re­sult is a short cir­cuit, which causes an elec­tric con­nec­tion be­tween cloud and ground.

3 The short cir­cuit means that the cloud is no longer in­su­lated from the ground, and the re­sult is a huge spark – what we call light­ning – be­tween the two. Where light­ning strikes, the ground is heated to about 30,000 de­grees for a few mil­lisec­onds.

5 In the air, oxy­gen is added to the sil­i­con bub­ble. The process gen­er­ates en­ergy (heat and light) – ball light­ning. Ac­cord­ing to sci­en­tists, the ball is sta­ble due to mag­netic rings in the bub­ble.

4 The heat makes car­bon in the ground steal oxy­gen from sil­i­con ox­ide, which makes up the ma­jor­ity of sand in the ground. The process re­sults in sil­i­con, which rises as an ex­tremely hot bub­ble.

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