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No. 113: Sep-Oct 1997

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Ball of Light Clocked At 1,800 Miles/second!

August 21, 1996. Sarpy County, NE.

1,800 miles/second! That's 6,480,000 miles/hour! This speedy phenomenon was captured on video tape by D. Morss and P. McCrone. These researchers were monitoring the top of a thunderstorm with low-light, high-speed video equipment, when the ball of light "popped out" of the top of a thundercloud and flashed across their instrument's field of view in 1/10 of a second. Nevertheless, it was caught on six video frames. Morss commented as follows:

"It's something that you're going to have to scratch your head and think, 'What kind of phenomenon could form this kind of light?'


"It's got to be some kind of trapped charge that popped out of the top of a thunderstorm."

(Anderson, Julie; "Ball of Light Leaves Scientists in the Dark," Omaha Morning Herald, December 18, 1996. Cr. L. Farish.)

Comment. Perhaps 1,800 miles per second should really be 1,800 miles per hour. This velocity would be comparable with that of another very speedy "ball of light."

May 25, 1997. Near Loco, Oklahoma.

In what might be called a "video replay" of the above phenomenon, L. Lamphere caught a similar fast-moving "object" near a tornado-spawning storm. He and his team had a digital video camera trained on the storm and were taking time-lapse still photos. Lamphere reported:

"The ceiling was maybe 900 feet. We were about four or five miles from the storm, which was tracking southeast. The object was well-defined and well-lit, but was obscured briefly by scud clouds. It dipped and bobbled in its trajectory before it flew into a storm known to contain hail the size of baseballs and then reemerged, apparently undamged.
"Scientists at the Astrophysics Department at the University of Oklahoma believe the object was solid and may have been traveling between 9,000 and 20,000 mph."

(Anonymous; "Image on Storm Video Raises Questions," Dallas Morning News, June 21, 1997. AP item. Cr. D. Phelps.)

Comment. Just one high-speed "object" might be dismissed as, say, a photographic artifact. But, when two are caught by cameras imaging violent meteorological events, we must conclude that something unusual is going on.

From Science Frontiers #113, SEP-OCT 1997. � 1997-2000 William R. Corliss