No, that glowing orb isn't a UFO. But it just might be an instance of ball lighting.
People have long reported seeing ball lightning during storms, yet no one seems to have managed to capture an up-close view of the strange phenomenon on film -- until now.
In a new paper published in the journal Physical Review Letters, Chinese researchers say they recorded ball lightning during a thunderstorm in Qinghai. Video and spectrographs of the 2012 storm are believed to be the first scientific recordings of ball lightning in nature, New Scientist reported.
The Northwest Normal University scientists were recording a thunderstorm with video equipment and tools to map radiation when luck struck. After a bolt hit the ground, a ball of light rose from the dirt and traveled horizontally about 50 feet before dissipating. Appearing to be about 16 feet wide, the ball appeared for less than two seconds, the researchers said.
And that's not all the team managed to capture.
Using spectrographs to observe the storm, the researchers discovered that elements found in the local soil -- silicon, iron and calcium -- were also present in the radiant ball during its brief existence.
What does that mean, exactly?
Put simply, the ball lightning caught on video was a product of the lightning bolt's interaction with the earth. As the authors explained in the study's abstract, the ball lightning "is generated by a cloud-to-ground lightning strike."
The theory was actually first put forth more than a decade ago, but the new spectral analysis reinforces it.
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