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No. 102: Nov-Dec 1995

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Long-lived bubble in the atmosphere

Luminous bubbles that floated among observers at Ringstead Bay
Artist's concept of the many luminous bubbles that floated among observers at Ringstead Bay.
August 4, 1984. Winchester, England. H. Curtis gives us a firsthand account of another one of those strange bubble-like phenomena usually associated with electrical atmospheric disturbances.

"In August 1984 I had just left work at 5.30 p.m. and was walking along an unfrequented side street as a short cut to get to my bus. The weather was cloudy and sultry, but there had been no reports of thunder in the area that day. I came to a junction in the pavement which led only to car-parking for buildings lying farther back when a bubble about the size of a tennis ball sailed out of this side-way, in a straight line, about the level with my shoulders, at a distance of some five or six feet. I stared at it in amazement, for where could a bubble have come from at such a place and time?"
"I was further amazed that it did not disintegrate...While gazing at the bubble it seemed to me that there was a dark band round it, which I interpreted as being a reflection of the tarmac road, although subsequently when experimenting with childrens' bubble mixture I discovered that bubbles never reflect anything so discernible."
"The bubble proceeded at its original speed, curving around me, and drifting down the centre of the road in the direction from which I had come. It then curved further round and descended towards a grass verge (which I had just passed). Here, I expected it to burst, but when it was about to land it ascended again and proceeded upwards, drifting, as it were, with various air currents, up over a six-foot wall on the other side of the road to the height, approximately, of the buildings. It then drifted out of sight into what is a public park. I could not believe how it could remain intact for so long."

The percipient was interviewed, and further facts suggested that this may have been a form of ball lightning. (Curtis, Mira; "LongLived Bubble in the Atmosphere, August 1984," Journal of Meteorology, U.K., 20:214, 1995.)

Comment. In category GLD7, in Lightning, Auroras,* etc., we have collected 13 other cases of similar bubblelike phenomena. The most famous of these occurred on August 17, 1876, at Ringstead Bay, England, when numerous luminous bubbles floated amidst observers.

*For details on this book, see here.

From Science Frontiers #102 Nov-Dec 1995. 1995-2000 William R. Corliss