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Tesla’s Thoughts on Ball Lightning Production

Tesla became familiar with the destructive characteristics of fireballs in his experiments at Colorado Springs in 1899. He produced them quite by accident and saw them, more than once, explode and shatter his tall mast and also destroy apparatus within his laboratory. The destructive action accompanying the disintegration of a fireball, he declared, takes place with inconceivable violence.

He studied the process by which they were produced, not because he wanted to produce them but in order to eliminate the conditions in which they were created. It is not pleasant, he related, to have fireballs explode in your vicinity for they will destroy anything they come in contact with.

At Colorado Springs..... I never saw fireballs, but as a compensation for my disappointment I succeeded later in determining the mode of their formation and producing them artificially.

Parasitic oscillations, or circuits, within the main circuit were a source of danger from this cause [of ball lightning]. Points of resistance in the main circuit could result in minor oscillating circuits between terminals or between two points of resistance and these minor circuits would have a very much higher period of oscillation than the main circuit and could be set into oscillation by the main current of lower frequency.

Even when the principle oscillating circuit was adjusted for the greatest efficiency of operation by the diminution of all sources of losses, the fireballs continued to occur, but these were due to stray high frequency charges from random earth currents.

From theses experiences it became apparent that the fire balls resulted from the interaction of two frequencies, a stray higher frequency wave imposed on the lower frequency free oscillation of the main circuit.

As the free oscillation of the circuit builds up from the zero point to the quarter wave length node it passes through various rates of change. In a current of shorter wavelength the rates of change will be steeper. When the two currents react on each other the resultant complex will contain a wave in which there is an extremely steep rate of change, and for the briefest instant currents may move at a tremendous rate, at the rate of millions of horsepower.

This condition acts as a trigger which may cause the total energy of the powerful longer wave to be discharged in an infinitesimally small interval of time and at a proportionately tremendously great rate of energy movement which cannot confine itself to the metal circuit and is released into surrounding space with inconceivable violence.

It is but a step, from learning how a high frequency current can explosively discharge a lower frequency current, to using the principle to design a system in which these explosions can be produced by intent.

The following process appears a possible one but no evidence is available that it is the one Tesla evolved: An oscillator, such as he used to send power wirelessly around the earth at Colorado Springs, is set in operation at a frequency to which a given warship is resonant. The complex structure of a ship would provide a great number of spots in which electrical oscillations will be set up of a much higher frequency than those coursing through the ship as a whole.


These parasite currents will react on the main current causing the production of fireballs which by their explosions will destroy the ship, even more effectively than the explosion of the magazine which would also take place. A second oscillator may be used to transmit the shorter wavelength current.

In the highly resonant transformer secondary comprising the magnifying transmitter, the entire energy accumulated in the excited circuit, instead of requiring a quarter period for transformation from static to kinetic, could spend itself in less time, at hundreds of thousands of horsepower. Thus for example, producing artificial fireballs by suddenly causing the impressed oscillations to be more rapid than free ones of the secondary. This shifted the point of maximum electrical pressure below the elevated terminal capacity and a ball of fire would leap great distances.

...if the points of maximum pressure should be shifted below the terminal, along the coil, a ball of fire might break out and destroy the support or anything else in the way. For the better appreciation of the nature of this danger it should be stated, that the destructive action may take place with inconceivable violence. This will cease to be surprising when it is borne in mind, that the entire energy accumulated in the excited circuit, instead of requiring, as under normal working conditions, one quarter of the period or more for its transformation from static to kinetic form, may spend itself in an incomparably smaller interval of time, at the rate of many millions of horsepower.

The accident is apt to occur when, the transmitting circuit is being strongly excited, the impressed oscillations upon it are caused, in any manner more or less sudden, to be more rapid than the free oscillations. [also thought that stray high frequency earth currents were also interacting with lower frequency transmitter currents]

When the action is very energetic, owing to the power of the streamer and other causes, the luminous portion of the same becomes a veritable fireball. This observation which, to my greatest astonishment, I have frequently observed in experiments with this apparatus, shows now clearly how fireballs are produced in lightning discharges and their nature is now quite plain.

With the present experiences I am satisfied that the phenomenon of the fireball is produced by the sudden heating. to high incandescence, of a mass of air or other gas as the case may be, by the passage of a powerful discharge. There are many ways or less plausible in which a mass of air might be thus affected by the spark discharge, but I hold the following explanation of the mode of production of the ball as being, most likely of all others which I have considered, the true one.


When sudden and very powerful discharges pass through the air, the tremendous expansion of some portions of the latter and subsequent rapid cooling and condensation gives rise to the creation of partial vacua in the places of greatest development of heat. These vacuous spaces, owing to the properties of the gas, are most likely to assume the shape of hollow spheres when, upon cooling, the air from all around rushes in to fill the cavity created by the explosive dilatation and subsequent contraction.


Suppose now that this result would have been produced by one spark or streamer discharge and that now a second discharge, and possible many more, follows in the path of the first. What will happen? Before answering the question we must remember that, contrary to existing popular notions, the currents passing through the air have the strength of many hundreds and even thousands of amperes.

A single powerful streamer, breaking out from a well insulated terminal, may easily convey a current of several hundred amperes!

No wonder then, that a small mass of air is exploded with an effect similar to that of a bombshell, as noted in many lightning discharges.

But to return now to the explanation of the fireball, let us now assume that such a powerful streamer or spark discharge, in its passage through the air, happens to come upon a vacuous sphere or space formed in the manner described. This space, containing gas highly rarefied, may be just in the act of contracting, at any rate, the intense current, passing through the rarefied gas suddenly raises the same to an extremely high temperature, all the higher as the mass of the gas is very small.


But although the gas may have been brought to vivid incandescence, yet its pressure may not be very great. If, upon the sudden passage of the discharge, the pressure of the heated air exceeds that of the air around, the luminous ball or space will expand, but most generally it may not do so.


For assume, for instance, that the air in the vacuous space was at one hundredth say, of its normal pressure, which might well be the case, then, since the pressure in the space would be as the absolute temperature of the gas within, it would require a temperature which seems scarcely realizable, to raise the pressure of the rarefied gas to the normal air pressure. It is therefore reasonable to expect that, despite the high incandescence of the rarefied air, the space filled with the same will continue to contract, and here an important consideration presents itself.


When, as before explained, the vacuous space was formed, the spark or streamer passed through the air disruptively, therefore the path was necessarily very thin, threadlike, and the minute quantity of the air which served as a conductor for the current was expanded with explosive violence to many thousand times its original volume.


Owing to the fact, however, that the quantity of mailer (??) through which the current was conveyed was small, a great facility was offered for giving off the heat so that the highly expanded gas-owing to its expansion arid (??) to radiation and convection of heat-cooled instantly. But how is it when the second discharge and possibly many subsequent ones pass through the rarefied gas?


These discharges find the gas already expanded and in a condition to take up much more energy by reason of the properties it acquires through rarefaction. Evidently, the energy consumption in any given part of the path of the streamer or spark discharge is, under otherwise the same conditions, proportionate to the resistance of that part of the path; and since, after the gas has once broken down, the resistance of other parts of the path of the discharge is much smaller than that including the vacuous space, a comparatively very great energy consumption must necessarily take place in this portion of the current path.


Here, then, is a mass of gas heated to high incandescence suddenly but not, as before, in a condition to give up heat rapidly. It can not cool down rapidly by expansion, as when the vacuous space was being formed, nor can it give off much heat by convection. To some extent even radiation is diminished.


On the contrary, despite the high temperature, it is compelled to confinement in a limited space which is continuously shrinking instead of expanding. All these causes cooperate in maintaining, for a comparatively long period of time, the gas confined in this space at an elevated temperature, in a state of high incandescence, in the case under consideration. Thus it is that the phenomenon of the ball is produced and the same made to persist for a perceptible fraction or interval of time.


As might be expected, the incandescent mass of gas in a medium violently agitated, could not possibly remain in the same place but will be, as a rule, carried, in some direction or other, by the currents of the air. Upon little reflection, however, we are led to the conclusion that the ball or incandescent mass, of whatever shape it be, will always move from the place where an explosion occurred first, to some place where such an explosion occurred later.

In fact, all observers concur in the opinion that such a fireball moves slowly. If we interpret the nature of this wonderful phenomenon in this manner, we shall find it quite natural that when such a ball encounters in its course an object, as a piece of organic matter for instance, it will raise the same to a high temperature, thus liberating suddenly a great quantity of gas by evaporating or volatilizing the substance with the result of being itself dissipated or exploded.


Obviously, also, it may be expected that the conducting mass of the ball originated as described, and moving through a highly insulating medium, will be likely to be highly electrified, which accords with many of the observations made. A better knowledge of this phenomenon will be obtained by following up experiments with still more powerful apparatus which is in a large measure already settled upon and will be constructed as soon as time and means will permit. There may be a way, however, of intensifying in this respect, the action of the present machine.

He mentions the splitting of streamers near the floor, splitting and reuniting, the phenomenon of luminous parts on the streamers (which he then refers to as sparks), and the breaking up of sparks into streamers and fireballs. His remarks concerning the genesis of fireballs are particularly noteworthy.

A fireball is a luminous sphere occurring during a thunderstorm. Fireballs are usually red, but other colors have also been observed: yellow, green, white and blue. Their dimensions vary, a mean diameter being about 25 cm. Unlike ordinary lightning, fireballs move slowly, almost parallel to the ground. They sometimes stop and change their direction of motion. They can last for up to 5 seconds.


Their properties vary greatly from case to case, so that it is believed that there are various types. Tesla mentions phenomena of this type several times as the result of sparks or streamers striking wooden objects.

It has been found that to maintain, a lump of plasma in air requires a power of the electromagnetic field of about 500 W, which is much less than power which can be produced by an electrical discharge. However, too little is known about natural electromagnetic waves to allow any reliable conclusions to be drawn.

Tesla’s hypothesis on the origin and maintenance of fireballs includes some points which are also to be found in the most recent theories, but it also bears the stamp of the time. For instance, Tesla considers that the initial energy of the nucleus is not sufficient to maintain the fireball, but that there must be an external source of energy.


According to Tesla this energy comes from other lightnings passing through the nucleus, and the concentration of energy occurs because of the resistance of the nucleus, i.e. the greater energy-absorbing capacity of the rarefied gas than the surrounding gas through which the discharge passes.



  • FBI’s Freedom of Information Act Web Page.. - Look for Tesla in the Alpha Listings...Page 113

  • US Patent #1,119,732 - Nikola Tesla, Apparatus for Transmitting Electrical Energy

  • Colorado Springs Notes, N.Tesla - pages 368-372, 431-432 (purported to have 20 pages worth of ball lightning info??)

  • "PRODIGAL GENIUS The Life of Nikola Tesla", John J. O’Neill - page 183, and unpublished chapter 34

  • "Tesla: Man Out of Time", Margaret Cheney - pages 3-4, 281-282

  • "The New Wizard of the West", Chauncey McGovern, Pearson’s Magazine, London, May 1899

  • "LIGHTNING IN HIS HAND", Inez Hunt & W.W. Draper

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Tesla’s Production Of Electrical Fireballs

by Kenneth L. Corum and James F. Corum

Corum & Associates, Inc. 8551 State Troute 534 Windsor, Ohio 44099

(Extract from TCBA NEWS, volume 8, #3, 1989)

"I have succeeded in determining the mode of their formation and producing them artificially."

Nikola Tesla




Although there have been numerous articles, publications, and seminars on the phenomenon of ball lightning and fireballs, only a very few have ever reported on the actual production of fireballs. Yet even fewer of these handful have ever actually produced fireballs under conditions that, even remotely, could be considered similar to nature. As with General Relativity, the number of theoretical publications exceeds the number of experimental papers by several orders of magnitude.


Our laboratory in Ohio (which is noted for slow wave helical antenna research) has developed equipment that will produce electric fireballs that will last after the external power is removed. We have been able to produce electric fireballs that will fit the conditions and circumstances that are frequently seen in nature (i.e., fireballs passing though windows, inside airplanes, traveling along fences, etc.).


Last summer, during the 3rd International Tesla Symposium at Colorado Springs, while walking around Tesla’s Laboratory site and Prospect Lake in nearby Memorial Park, Leland Anderson made the comment,

"I don’t understand why we don’t all see fireballs. The way Tesla described them, they just seemed to bubble from his machine." (See image below).

We had been discussing the "missing" chapter 34 that Harry Goldman had just published in TCBA NEWS (Volume 7, #3, 1988 pp. 13-15). Its import may be gotten form this brief quote attributed to Tesla:

" became apparent that the fireballs resulted form the interaction of two frequencies, a stray higher frequency wave imposed on the lower frequency oscillations of the main circuit.... This condition acts as a trigger which may cause the total energy of the powerful longer wave to be discharged in a infinitesimally small interval of time and the proportionately tremendously great rate of energy movement which cannot confine itself to the metal circuit and is released into surrounding space with inconceivable violence. It is but a step, from the learning how a high frequency current can explosively discharge a lower frequency current, to using the principle to design a system in which these explosions can be produced by intent."

-N. Tesla

It was a puzzle to us.


While flying back to Cleveland, we continued to compare Chapter 34 with the photographs in Tesla’s published notes. And then it struck us. We just weren’t using the circuit configuration which Tesla shows to us. When we got back, we arranged our apparatus as shown in Figure 1.

figure 1.




Following Tesla’s instructions, we rewired our apparatus as two synchronously pulsed high power RF oscillators, the first at a frequency of 67 KHz and the second at 156 KHz (The exact frequencies aren’t critical).


The basis for the apparatus was first conceived and patented in 1897 by Nikola Tesla. The idea of using two oscillators in synchronism was also used by Tesla at the turn of the century in a patented primitive spread spectrum communication system. The apparatus can be seen in dozens of photographs and circuit diagrams in Tesla’s Colorado Springs Notes (referred to as CSN below). There have been many descriptions and analyses of Tesla’s oscillators.


The classic being the Oberbeck in 1895. However, all of these scientific and engineering descriptions fall short of a true description. It wasn’t until we applied slow wave transmission line theory and partial coherence to Tesla’s oscillator that we were able to accurately predict the operation of the oscillator and the subsequent production of fireballs. The apparatus consists primarily of two one-quarter wavelength, slow wave helical resonators above a conducting ground plane. Both of the resonators were magnetically coupled by a common link to a spark gap oscillator, of high peak power (approximately 70 KW), operating at a frequency of 67 KHz.


The actual average power being delivered to the high voltage electrode was on the order of 3.2 KW (2.4 megavolts RF). Tesla, of course, was running about 100 items the power which we could produce with our rather modest equipment.




The spark gap oscillator was set to 800 pulses per second and the duration was 100 microseconds. The low frequency coil had a coherence time of 72 microseconds.


This means that the induced incoherent oscillations on the resonator took 72 microseconds to build up a standing wave (or interference pattern), and show up as a high voltage on the top end of the resonator: Vmax = S V min (where S is the VSWR) [The theory is developed in great detail in References 5,6,7. Reference 8 even provides a computer assisted tutorial.]


The high frequency coil had a coherence time of 30 microseconds.

1. Using the high frequency coil to arc to the low frequency coil, the low frequency coil would then release its energy rapidly, in a burst. The burst of energy released manifests itself in the shape of a ball or "bubble." Due to the faster voltage rise on the high frequency coil and the subsequent short duration arc to the low frequency coil, the low frequency now sees a a low impedance where it would normally see a high impedance. the energy trapped in the coil when the oscillator was on must now be dissipated very quickly at this lower impedance point, hence the burst.


(See CSN page 114, bottom paragraph. Tesla’s use of lumped circuit Q is somewhat misleading, but his physics is substantially correct. Circuit 4 on page 115 and the one on the top of page 174 are virtually the same as Figure 1.)


2. A second method of fireball production includes the use of microscopic vaporized metal or carbon particles. We used the low frequency coil alone and deposited a thin film of carbon particles on the high voltage electrode. When the voltage began to rise on the end of the resonator, streamers began to form on the electrode. The current passing through the carbon film tended to rapidly heat the carbon particles.


This dissipation of power also tends to quickly reduce the impedance and subsequently release all the power rapidly into this heated micron size "resistor." The same results may be gotten by using "the tip of rubber covered cable or sire #10" to "facilitate the pumping of the spark." (CSN page 173-174) Old fashioned rubber is loaded with soot.

Experimentally, we have determined the ideal set of conditions for producing electric fireballs. They are:

1. Generate a lot of carbon or vaporized metal particles in a small region of space.

2. Create large electric fields in the same vicinity (on the order of 1 to 2 MV/m).

3. Rapidly elevate the temperature of the particles.

Video tape easily documents the results of meeting these three conditions. From this, fireball lifetimes are deduced to be 1 to 2 seconds and dimensions are 1 to 3 centimeters in diameter. Also, these are in agreement with Tesla’s observations and conclusions.


For example, in one place he attributes fireballs to the presence of resistively heated material in the air. (CSN page 333) This mechanism is consistent with Zaitsev’s relatively recent theory in which the resistive heating of particles creates a glowing region or fire ball:

"the current of the preleader stages of the discharge from the seed [cloud of fine particles (metal, soot, or ash)] flowing through the structure drives it to thermal explosion." (ref. 1)

The fire balls disappear either when the particles burn up or when a thermal explosion occurs. we have observed both.




Using these methods for producing the fireballs, we then set about creating conditions as described by observers of ball lightning. By having the streamers, produced by the two resonators operating together, strike a windowpane surrounded by a wooden frame, we produced conditions normally found in nature. (see refs 2 &3)


What was observed by the operator of our apparatus was astounding!

"the streamers went from the high voltage terminal and struck the windowpane. There were many fire balls present between the electrode and the window. But where the streamers hit the glass, there were many fireballs emanating from the opposite side of the glass. The fireballs would then travel slowly horizontally 12 inches or so and flare up. Some would travel out a bit farther and explode."

What was captured on video tape can be seen in the sequence of photos 1, 2, and 3. These results are reproducible on demand. Try it! Powell and Finkelstein have described a mechanism for how fire balls may appear to pass through a glass window intact.

"initially electric lines of force pass freely through glass. Positive ions from the ball follow force lines and pile up on one side of the glass while electrons from the room accumulate on the other. When the ball approaches, the glass is heated or broken down enough to become slightly conducting. It then becomes an electrode, and a ball is formed inside the room; the ball then floats away from the window." (Ref. 3)

The actual physics may be somewhat different, but the sequence of photographs 1, 2, and 3 support the general idea. The relative ease of electric fireball generation by high voltage discharges in the presence of carbon films, smoke, ash, and dust is consistent with its frequent natural observation in and around chimneys, where carbon is deposited in great profusion.

[Readers familiar with Michael Faraday’s famous Christmas Lecture, "The Chemical history of a Candle" - "There is not a law under which any part of this universe is governed which does not come into play." -, will recall his glowing remarks about the presence of smoke and solid carbon particles in a brilliant candle flame. They give us glorious colors and beautiful light.


Imagine what would have resulted if Faraday and Tesla had met! If you can’t get the 1 or 2 MV that Zaitsev requires as necessary and which we observed under condition 2 above, you can place a wire wrapped plumber’s candle on the side of your small Tesla coil and get an idea of what can be seen on a larger machine.


Again, video taping the experiment, adjusting the power levels and reviewing the tape, frame by frame, will be quite a revealing experience. Faraday noted that if you put a strainer or a glass tube down in a candle flame, you will see an incredible amount of soot particles bubbling up. This is what gives candle flame is color and luminosity.]

We were able to produce other interesting features. Often we had pulsating fireballs. These would appear and then shrink. When they were hit by streamers, they would grow in size then shrink again.


This would occur a number of times and then they would fade away. Another feature was that some had the appearance of a doughnut; bright circles with darkened centers. Others appeared to the observer as white, red, green, yellow, blue-white, and purple. See photo 4. Many other color photographs and a historical discussion are given in Reference 9.




We believe the phenomenon that manifests itself when the coherence time is cut short could indeed be the same phenomenon that occurs in nature. Instead of having a short helical resonator being the transmission line, the natural lightning stroke could be a full quarter-wave transmission line with its own coherence time shortened by small streamers at one end of the lightning stroke.


According to lightning specialists, most of these small streamers occur at the top end of the lightning stroke. This would account for the infrequency of ball lightning on the ground side of the stroke. Dust, soot, ashes, and other pollutants in the air near lightning strikes would, or course, produce similar results. Our conclusion is that these fireballs are primarily RF in origin, and not nuclear phenomena.


Consistent with Tesla’s observations, they can be produced either by high current dump into hot air,

["I am satisfied that the phenomenon of the fireball is produced by the sudden heating, to a high incandescence of a mass of air or other gas as the case may be, by the passage of a powerful discharge." CSN page 368]

...or by the presence of resistively heated material particles.

["I attribute them (fire balls) to the presence of material in the air at that particular spot which is of such nature, that when heated, it increases the luminosity." CSN page 333]

The latter would account for the "engine room" fire balls' produced by high current switches and relays. Finkelstein and Rubenstein once made a remarkable statement:

"If this model is appropriate, then ball lightning has no relevance to controlled-fusion plasma research." (Ref. 4)

If should now be apparent that this position can be experimentally supported. In our literature research on the topic over the past 26 years, we have read through hundreds of technical articles, papers, reports, and books. It would be impossible to cite and discuss all of them in this communication.


But we believe that Tesla’s is the only apparatus that has been developed that can address and reproduce on demand the many descriptions of ball lightning in nature. Now a host of experimenters may carry out fire ball generation and experimentation under their own controlled conditions. Best of all, the required apparatus is not only inexpensive, it is readily available in thousands of homes and existing laboratories around the world.


What would have transpired if Faraday and Tesla had met? Why, high power RF oscillators and candle chemistry would have combined to reign brilliant electric fireballs - of course!




1. "New theory of ball lightning" by A.V Zaitsev, Soviet Physics-Technical Physics, Vol. 17, #1, July, 1972, pp. 173-175.

2. Ball lightning and Bead Lightning, by J.D. Barry, Plenum Press, 1980, pp 114-115.

3. "Ball lightning," by JR Powell and D. Finkelstein, American Scientist, Vol. 58, 1970, pp 262-280, See page 279.

4. ""Ball Lightning," by D. Finkelstein and J. Rubenstein, Physical Review, Vol 135, #2A, July 20, 1964, pp A390-A396.

5. "A Technical Analysis of the Extra Coil as a Slow Wave Helical Resonator," with Kenneth L. Corum, Proceedings of the 2nd International Tesla Symposium, Colorado Springs, Colorado, 1986, chapter 2, pp 1-24.

6. "The Application of Transmission Line Resonators to High Voltage RF Power Processing: History, Analysis, and Experiment.

7. Vacuum Tube Tesla Coils, by J.F. Corum and K.L. Corum, Published by Corum & Associates, Inc., 1988, [100 page text, $55]

8. TCTUTOR - A personal Computer Analysis of Spark Gap Tesla Coils, BY J.F. Corum, D.J. Edwards, and L.L. Corum, Published by Corum & Associates, Inc., 1988, [110 page text & disk, $75]

9. Fire Balls - A Collection of Laboratory Experiment Photographs, (text plus 36 photographs and commentary), by K.L. Corum, J.D. Edwards, and J.F. Corum, Published by Corum & Associates, Inc., 1988, [50 pages, $55].

10. The Chemical History of a Candle, by Michael Faraday, (last given in 1860), transcribed by Sir William Crookes, Edited by W.R. Fielding, E.P. Dutton & Co., 1920, pp. 52-58

11. Colorado Springs Notes, by Nikola Tesla, edited by Aleksander Marincic, Nolit, Beograd, Yugoslavia, 1978, pp.111, 330-333, 368-370, 372, 379-384, 431-433, (CSN above) By Y.C. Shimatsu Esoteric Info on Electromagnetic Weapons

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Ball Lightning In A Tornado Vortex
[Source: Nando News / By Philip Cohen - May 26 1999]

The last place most people would try to start a fire is inside a tornado. But two researchers who have pulled off a similar trick in a lab in New Zealand say their experiment may explain enigmatic weather phenomena such as ball lightning.

At first glance, tornadoes don’t appear fire-friendly. Even at the calm centre of the whirlwind, there is enough of an updraft to make any flame tenuous, and the fast winds at its edge would blow out any blaze.

Yet fireballs have been reported in some tornadoes, such as the twister that struck Dorset in Britain in 1989. Vortices have also been associated with floating spheres of ball lightning, which sometimes disappear with a loud explosion, suggesting they, too, contain combustible material.

So John Abrahamson, a chemical engineer at Canterbury University in Christ-church, was intrigued when his former student Peter Coleman proposed trying to create a fireball in a mini tornado. They reckoned one might form in the vortex breakdown region, where air moves relatively slowly.

"If it was coloured, you’d see this doughnut of air," says Abrahamson.

Intriguingly, the vortex breakdown region is used in "vortex burners", in which a flame burns in a closed, horizontal cylinder. A horizontal vortex mixes and contains hot gases so that the fuel burns efficiently. But it was unclear if the combustion would be stable in a free-standing, vertical vortex.

To find out, Abrahamson and Coleman built a circular chamber about a meter wide. Slats at the base allowed air to enter at various angles and an extraction fan pulled air upwards from above. This created a vortex 10 centimeters wide. Liquefied petroleum gas was introduced into the breakdown region through a pipe and was ignited with a spark plug.

The vortex produced a stable fireball if the air entered at an angle of 66 degrees. Whether the fuel pipe was above, below or to the side of the vortex breakdown region, the fuel was drawn into the doughnut of air and burnt as a sphere.

Abrahamson concludes that if a natural vortex swept up fuel from the ground, and if something like a lightning strike or power line ignited it, this could form a stable fireball. His experiment will be described next month at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Boston.

"There are many theories about ball lightning, but not many of them can be studied so thoroughly in a lab as this one," notes Stanley Singer, president of the International Committee on Ball Lightning in Pasadena, California.

However, he adds that some reports suggest ball lightning can pass through solid objects--something that is hard to reconcile with a combustion theory.

Abrahamson points out that many of those reports have been called into question. Even if his experiment fails to explain meteorological mysteries, he believes it may find uses in industry.

"I don’t think anyone has ever created a vortex to control an open flame before. It could be useful."

The experiment could even explain some UFOs, adds Coleman.

"Some pictures of supposed UFOs I’ve seen look like classic fireballs."

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Foo Fighters??? Ball Lightning???

One theory may have had confirmation in 1943, when Allied bombers over Germany started spotting strange lights that would approach and track them. No larger than a basketball, the lights sometimes appeared to interfere with the aircraft’s electrical system but were otherwise harmless. Some have tried to claim that these lights, nicknamed “foo fighters”, were some form of Nazi secret weapon.

However, the descriptions of foo fighters match ball lightning very closely.

The timing is also significant, as they seem to have started appearing when the English/Germans deployed radar, and it is quite likely that they were caused by the interaction between German systems, or the combination of the German radar and the airborne H2S radars carried by allied aircraft.

General Electric E821 glass cavity magnetron used in England which worked on 10cm (~3GHz) wavelength and became available for aircraft interception. The magnetron became the heart of the H2S radar which was installed in British bombers.
The Freya FuMG 39G was the first German operational early warning radar defense system in 1938, along the German border.


These sets operated on a 1.8-2.0 meter wave length (180-200 cm). For gun laying, a more accurate radar with a more concentrated beam, than the Freya was developed by Telefunken. This radar, called the Wuerzburg FuMG 39 operated on 50cm (600MHz) wave length. A rotating dipole antenna and a pulsed radar was used. By the end of the war, over 5,000 units of this and upgraded models (Wuerzburg D) had been in deployed in Europe. The Wuerzburg-D (FuMG 39 T/D) was one of the most advanced radar units to be used during WWII.

Initial German airbore radar was the “Lichtenstein B/C” operated on 50cm (600MHz) wave length, and fitted on the Luftwaffe’s primary night-fighter, the Messerschmitt Me-110 twin-engine fighter. Then Germany fitted newer radar to their night fighters which were also directed to the bomber formations by ground radar. The “Lichtenstein SN2” with a band of 2 meters (200cm, ~180MHz) mounted on the Ju-88G night fighters.

England/Allies used 10cm radar, Germany/Axis used 50cm and 200cm wavelengths... Aircraft resonance from ground radar creating localized standing waves/ionization, static charges building up on aircraft and propeller surfaces causing high voltage corona brush discharges, fuel fumes and carbon exhaust byproducts from engines, metal and paint ions from aircraft skin, interference and ionization from onboard airborne radar transmitters causing intense energy discharge in very short time periods causing plasma ball formations to occur in standing wave areas around aircraft.


Plasma ball motion could be due to standing wave nodes dynamically moving around aircraft from flight profile and formation position changes, in relation to ground radar and other aircraft...

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