For centuries, ball lightning has captured the imagination of witnesses and defied scientific explanation, but now Chinese scientists have managed, by sheer chance, to capture an example of the mysterious lights on camera.

The image was actually obtained in 2012, in the Qinghai region of China, by researchers observing lightning during a thunderstorm using just a simple video camera in conjunction with a spectrometer, a device that used to measure the components of different types of light in order to identify the substances that may have produced it. The camera recorded a sizeable spark of ball lightning measuring 16 feet wide, which glowed continuously for about 1.6 seconds and floated for a distance of some 50 feet.
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Skeptics have often claimed that ball lightning is responsible for UFO sightings, even though it is extremely rare. Now scientists say it may be linked to spontaneous human combustion.

Ball lightning occurs so rarely that few photographs of it exist and researchers have had to rely on eyewitness accounts, some of them from previous centuries. The term describes small natural fireballs which very occasionally follow ordinary lightning, floating across land or through buildings and aircraft.

Among the new findings are that ball lightning can be powerful enough to boil away water and burn flesh. They also suggest that water droplets, ?polymer threads? and ?metal nanoparticle chains? may form the actual lightning balls.
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