People have consistently witnessed luminous phenomena in the sky and on the ground throughout time. The lights have many names; ball lightning, St. Elmo's fire, earth lights or swamp gas lights, and of course UFOs, aliens and all that other fringe stuff. I'm inclined to believe it is a natural phenomenon, one that science knows very little about. It is a rare in science that a natural process goes unstudied, so here we go.

These questions need answering...

What are those luminous balls of light people sometimes see in storms and around fault areas?
Is the ground-based variety the same phenomena as the storm variety?
What are those plasma balls that jump around when a burning candle is microwaved?
What would create a huge rippling plasma arch in the sky during a storm?
[the crop circle video was apparently a hoax - thought something didn't look right]

This all started when a friend of mine reported seeing a luminous arch in the sky, hard to say how large. Witnessed by several family members, it was said to be like a hollow arch with glowing "energy" ripples inside that would start at one end, spiral around the core of the arch to the other end where it would build up again then go the other way. I asked it was sort of like the ripplings inside defective fluorescent lights, he said sort of like that. Sounds like plasma to me. This happened early fall 1992 during stormy weather as remnents of a hurricane were passing though the middle Tennesse area, around 9 PM.

Another friend and his friend were out in the country next to a hollow and witnessed a blue sphere of light about the size of a softball moving through the air at a speed of about 40 miles per hour and about 30 feet off the ground. It was reported to come from the direction of the hollow and traveled in a slightly arched trajectory, then blinked out. The location was Cheatam county TN, clear weather with distant lightning, time was about two in the morning around the 1st of April 1998. Ok there's another question - what makes them blink? In this sighting it only turned off, perhaps dissipated but no report of flash, however other reports and experiments seem to indicate that plasmoids can exist in a non-luminous state as well.

Glowball links... (see cautions below)

Crop Circle links...

Plasma links...

Caution !!!

This is a Don't Try This At Home warning for those not familiar with electrical safety - some of the links describe experiments which Can Kill You if you try, particularly the one that involved shorting out an electrical outlet with a paper clip - it was an observation made by a lucky youngster who lived to tell the tale (and provides a clue for those of us who know better than to recreate the experience "in the wild" - ouch!). People, please use common sense to protect yourself from injury. If it's high voltage, don't get close to it. Period.

The microwave-oven experiments seem relatively safe, however there is evidence of accumulative damage to the oven's liner in the form of deposits that will eventually carbonize and arc. If you're so inclined I highly recommend that such experiments only be conducted BRIEFLY (before the plasmoids toast the lining), in an EXPENDABLE oven (in case it toasts anyway) and ONLY UNDER ADULT SUPERVISION (in case the fire department needs to be called, to avoid a possibly painful injury to one's lower anatomy, and because I said so... I mean it, kids don't try this at home!). Something strange is going on in there, possibly causing side effects which I'm not aware of, so be careful.

Update 2006

I checked out the net for updated glowball info and was pleased to discover at least some scientific progress on the subject - it appears they consist of a core of positive ions (with weight) with an outer layer of electrons. Separated plasma, kind of like a huge atom. The current flow generates a containing magnetic field, and the weight of the material inside counteracts the tendency to rise, resulting in roughly neutral-boyancy in air but that depends on the size and amount of trapped material. Externally fields applied to vaporized "stuff" can create small glowballs that immediately dissipate when the field is removed, but above a critical current density (approaching that found in lightning) apparently a situation is created where they can sustain themselves for a time. The phenomena is inherently unstable and eventually resistance drops the current below that required for containment and the plasmoid dissipates or explodes. Makes sense... but doesn't quite explain how such things can pop out of the ground unless there are huge currents circulating underfoot. My guess is its more than just current at play, perhaps some kind of resonance or magnetic phenomena gives rise to intense currents at specific points... it's hard to accept that glowballs can travel through the ground more than a few inches without being disrupted, seems more likely to me they are created on or just below the surface in such cases.

The crop circle connection is hard to say... when I went through the previously gathered links all but one was dead, and the available information is less than scientific. Theoretically, given the energy contained in glowballs and their potential interactions with magnetic fields, formations might occur, but with all the artistic expression going on who knows.

Last modified November 2, 2006, before that March 2, 1999
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