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No. 26: Mar-Apr 1983

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Slithering Patch Of Light

September 8, 1981. Te Ngaere, New Zealand. Inside a house during a thunderstorm.

"The next lightning seemed directly overhead and very bright and was accompanied by a simultaneous very loud clap of thunder. I looked up as the whole house shook and then looked down and saw a flow of light come in under the door. It settled in a blob near the edge of the area where the tools were laid out. It was not in any true shape but about 3 or 4 inches long and 2 inches wide, moving along the floor, less than half an inch thick, seemingly fluid in shape and texture. It reminded me of quicksilver, being a bluish-silver colour and it had rounded sides like a blob of mercury. It was brighter at the edges than in the middle, but it did not seem, especially in the light of the room, to glow, nor did it give out sparks. From the central body arms flowed out like runs of oil among the tools. The trails weaved through the tools -- not actually over them but round them -- moving back into the main body of the blob and then going out doing the same kind of movement over again. There was no sound or smell. The arms finally all went back into the blob which disappeared again suddenly out under the door. There was no bang and when I ventured to touch the tools there was no charge on them."

A subsequent magnetic survey of the area showed a weak correlation between the patch's motion and regions of intense magnetic field. Such a correlation would be expected if the patch contained free magnetic dipoles or current loops.

(Burbidge, P.W., and Robertson, D.J.; "A Lightning-Associated Phenomenon and Related Geomagnetic Measurements," Nature, 300:623, 1982.)

Reference. Phenomena like this are cataloged in Section GLB in Lightning, Auroras. For ordering information, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #26, MAR-APR 1983. 1983-2000 William R. Corliss