Home Page Science Frontiers

No. 116: Mar-Apr 1998

Issue Contents

Other pages

Other Interesting Sites











Ball Lightning Collides With Car

Summer 1991. Southern Bavaria, Germany. R. Urbanek, a teacher from Wasserburg, recalls her encounter with ball lightning.

"I was with a friend in the area of Traunstein. My friend drove a minibus...150-200 meters...ahead of my car. Golf and several other cars were following behind me. It (had been) raining with heavy lightning and thunder. I did not drive at normal speed in such a weather...Then came a straight stretch of road with a bicycle path to the right, and an open wide field...Suddenly I saw a bright green, phosphorescent...ball about the size of a medical training ball, that dropped to the ground behind the minibus...It fell to the road and rolled towards me. I knew immediately it was ball lightning, and from school physics I knew a car acts as a Faraday cage. So I kept my feet to the floor mat and grabbed the wheel with both arms. 3 to 5 seconds passed until the ball reached my car. It came in a straight line, with a slight deviation to the right (as seen from my position). When the ball caught my car at the right front side, it gave the vehicle a strong shock or jerk, as if I had driven against an obstacle. All that was on the right side of me lit up bright green -- the hood, the windscreen, the instrument panel, and even the padding. In the rear-view mirror I could observe that the ball went off the road behind my car. It rolled about 50 meters on the bicycle path, then went into the field and was gone after about 100 meters."

This event was observed by people in the cars behind Urbanek. Later examination of the car found no physical damage, no magnetic anomalies, and no indications of contact with lightning.

(Keul, A.G.; "Ball Lightning-Car Collision near Traunstein, Bavaria," Journal of Meteorology, U.K., 22:284, 1997. Journal address: 54 Frome Road, Bradford-on-Avon, Wiltshire, BA15 1LD, ENGLAND.)

From Science Frontiers #116, MAR-APR 1998. 1998-2000 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