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No. 32: Mar-Apr 1984

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Ball Lightning Splits And Recombines Inside Soviet Airliner

An Ilyushin-18 took off from Sochi, on the Black Sea, in fair weather. Soon after takeoff thunderclouds were noted about 60 miles away.

"Suddenly, at the height of 1,200 yards, a fireball about four inches in diameter appeared on the fuselage in front of the crew's cockpit. It disappeared with a deafening noise, but reemerged several seconds later in the passenger's lounge, after piercing in an uncanny way through the air-tight metal wall. The fireball slowly flew about the heads of the stunned passengers. In the tail section of the airliner it divided into two glowing crescents which then joined together again and left the plane almost noiselessly."

Upon landing back at Sochi, holes were discovered in the fuselage fore and aft.

(Anonymous; "Tass Says Lightning Ball Entered Soviet Airliner," Associated Press Dispatch, Moscow, January 13, 1984. Cr. M.A. Lohr)

Comment. Several examples of ball lightning dividing are on record in the Catalog of Anomalies, but recombination is an extremely rare event. See Chapter GLB in our Catalog: Lightning, Auroras. To order, visit: here.

From Science Frontiers #32, MAR-APR 1984. 1984-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987