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Sprites, Jets, and Glowing Balls: The Science of Lightning

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Ever wonder how lightning works? Scientists are still figuring it out, but what we do know is fascinating. Learn about positive and negative lightning, red sprites, blue jets, and ball lightning in this episode of SciShow! Hosted by: Michael Aranda ---------- Support SciShow by becoming a patron on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/scishow ---------- Dooblydoo thanks go to the following Patreon supporters -- we couldn't make SciShow without them! Shout out to Justin Ove, Andreas Heydeck, Justin Lentz, Will and Sonja Marple, Benny, Chris Peters, Tim Curwick, Philippe von Bergen, Patrick, Fatima Iqbal, Lucy McGlasson, Mark Terrio-Cameron, Accalia Elementia, Kathy & Tim Philip, charles george, Kevin Bealer, Thomas J., and Patrick D. Ashmore. ---------- Like SciShow? Want to help support us, and also get things to put on your walls, cover your torso and hold your liquids? Check out our awesome products over at DFTBA Records: http://dftba.com/scishow ---------- Looking for SciShow elsewhere on the internet? Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/scishow Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/scishow Tumblr: http://scishow.tumblr.com Instagram: http://instagram.com/thescishow ---------- Sources: Basics about lightning (types and positive/negative) http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/electric/elefie.html http://www.colorado.edu/physics/phys1120/phys1120_fa09/LectureNotes/ChargesElectricFields.pdf http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/lightning/types/ https://www.ec.gc.ca/foudre-lightning/default.asp?lang=En&n=9353715C-1 http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/electric/lightning.html http://hyperphysics.phy-astr.gsu.edu/hbase/electric/ligseq.html https://www.loc.gov/rr/scitech/mysteries/thunder.html http://www.srh.noaa.gov/srh/jetstream/lightning/positive.html http://news.discovery.com/earth/is-lightning-hotter-than-the-sun.htm http://www.srh.noaa.gov/jetstream/lightning/lightning_max.html https://www.unz.org/Pub/SaturdayRev-1972may13-00036 http://www.srh.noaa.gov/srh/jetstream/lightning/thunder.html http://science.howstuffworks.com/nature/natural-disasters/lightning2.htm Red Sprites and Blue Jets http://www.ee.psu.edu/directory/facultyinfo/pasko/Publications/PaskoPSST07.pdf http://www.popsci.com/what-red-sprite http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/scientists-capture-rare-photographs-of-red-lightning-544670/?no-ist https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/03/080328102738.htm http://elf.gi.alaska.edu/ Ball lightning https://www.newscientist.com/article/dn9293-physicists-create-great-balls-of-fire/ http://www.ipp.mpg.de/ippcms/eng/presse/archiv/05_06_pi http://phys.org/news/2012-10-mystery-ball-lightning.html http://physics.aps.org/articles/v7/5 http://phys.org/news/2014-01-instance-ball-lightning-captured-video.html http://news.discovery.com/earth/weather-extreme-events/ball-lightning-121012.htm Image sources: http://www.publicdomainpictures.net/view-image.php?image=94592&picture=desert-lightning https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:FoggDam-NT.jpg https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/Lightning#/media/File:Lightning_slow_motion.gif https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:The_Sun_by_the_Atmospheric_Imaging_Assembly_of_NASA%27s_Solar_Dynamics_Observatory_-_20100819.jpg?fastcci_from=17827&c1=17827&d1=15&s=200&a=fqv https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Anvil-to-ground_lightning.jpg https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:ISS-44_Red_Sprites,_northwest_Mexico.jpg https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:BigRed-Sprite.jpg https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dY5F_gEexAY&feature=youtu.be https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Ball_lightning_spectrum.svg
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Text Comments (662)
Malakai Mao (2 days ago)
I hit so close it scared the shot out of me
Malakai Mao (2 days ago)
While I was watching this where I was there was a lightning storm
How does positive charge move?
Jehziel Miralles (11 days ago)
This guy sounds like he could be philip defrancos son
Kadie Galewaler (25 days ago)
What about rainbows??
Wesley Morgan (1 month ago)
Doesn't all lightning ionize the air? This video makes it seem like only the red sprites ionize it.
Gabriela Silva (1 month ago)
This guy talks really fast
MicrowaveGamer (2 months ago)
What about St. Elmo's Fire???
BestPersonEver (2 months ago)
WypmanGames (2 months ago)
U can get blind by looking at the lightning flashes to much Especially the bright flashes are blinding ( most time its up to 15 seconds temporary blindness ) I got blinded for 8 seconds myself
badr wfm25 (3 months ago)
just theories and thoughts.
Backwards. Einstien
F M (4 months ago)
Can you guys do another video about red sprites? I've read and seen evidence that they're caused by electrons instead of photons
JoesWife Smith (4 months ago)
Thanks SciShow! Great job!
The HoSS (4 months ago)
Pyro Sapien (4 months ago)
So its like when you apply to much voltage to a capacitor and it explodes
phoenix21studios (5 months ago)
so the lightning is pure electrons? or .... air molecules getting the electrons transferred?
Erin Mizumoto (8 months ago)
the earth is flat
Donavan Caudle (8 months ago)
Let’s Go Lightning!
Jonny Lopez (9 months ago)
All I heard was a bunch of theories and no actual facts
Shubham Gurav (10 months ago)
1:35 direction of current + to - , not from both sides
TheUnknown Myth (10 months ago)
at 0:45 wouldnt the heavy positive ions sink to the bottom of the cloud making it more positive charged while electrons that rise to the top area of tge cloud will make the top area of the cloud negative charged
Damien Thobe (10 months ago)
is lightning AC, DC, or it's own special thing?
phoenix21studios (5 months ago)
DC because its a linear transfer from one molecule to the other.
RandomCatDude (8 months ago)
... Both?
Nick12391 (10 months ago)
Why no ball lightning video?
Wisdom Afoolweakness (11 months ago)
lightening have nothing to do with the clouds I saw lightening with my own eyes strike the ground with no clouds
Mike Creed (1 year ago)
You guys could easily do these videos 10 minutes plus, there is so much more information to be provided on lightning let alone footage you could show, under 4 minutes is silly bearing in mind the intellect that goes into these, step up your game please.
Bruce Miller (1 year ago)
It starts as charge cluster like Ken Shoulders experimented with.
lukeskywalker (1 year ago)
Thanks for this. I'm still pretty sure I saw a ball of lighting in my room once. It came from the window and floated to the light switch right above my head. As it touched the switch it made a pop! This was during an intense thunderstorm, which woke me up as the lightning zapped. For years I thought I was just dreaming this... This is the first video that gives a credible explanation. Other explanations were just spiritual hogwash! I feel a little sane again about this.
devilsadvocate (1 year ago)
Yay! I'd been waiting to see something about sprites on here. :-D
Joslyn S (1 year ago)
Anthony Gonsalves (1 year ago)
This was my favorite subject in junior high, 15 years ago
Drake5153 (1 year ago)
you missed one thats still being mulled over, lightning caused by earthquakes. sweet channel btw, you can find more info here than you can searching google lol or at least find it quicker
R603 Burakkusuta (1 year ago)
I have seen red, green, blue, yellow, white, and purple lightning all in Florida.
That ball lighting come around my neighborhood I kill it! Damn nature you scary!
World Theory (1 year ago)
An early capacitor was made using glass, right? Maybe the soil/sand particles in the air are acting like a capacitor, to slow build-up and/or slow-down, the electrical charge. Has anyone tried bringing a tesla coil to the desert, powering it up, and aiming an industrial fan at the ground near-by, to kick up some dust? Or just throw some dirt at a tesla coil… Field trips are more fun though.
Lone Wolf (1 year ago)
Jupiter has Lightning that is even stronger and hotter than anything you could ever see on our planet. That lightning could only be possible on our planet in a Hollywood made Film.
HAPPYplace (1 year ago)
lightning has always fascinated me 😄
geonerd (1 year ago)
Not bad, but - Like most of your efforts - this really should have been 10 minutes long. That would be enough time to start to explain the 'WHYs,' rather than just spouting semi-random factoids on such a complex subject.
akash babu (1 year ago)
thats bullshit lightning happens because thor strikes his hammer.......duhhh
RSE 167 (1 year ago)
Nuclear fusion cause lightening
Brian Perkins (1 year ago)
Meh. Ball Lightning. 3 red, trample, no summoning sickness. I win.
BobEckert56 (1 year ago)
Other grapefruit sized balls of gas result from too many Brussels Sprouts!
Tigatron08 (1 year ago)
I bet he's a tiger in the sack.
Maxon Wolf (1 year ago)
there was ball lightning at WDW epcot yesterday (6/30/16) and it appeared about twice, about 10-20 seconds from each other
Al Al (1 year ago)
Ball fucking lightning
Fluffypear (1 year ago)
Does volcanic lighting work in the same way? Do we even know how volcanic lightning works? Can there be a video for this alone?
Ryeera (1 year ago)
Are you even serious? I always wanted to see a ball lightning and you even tell us that there is a video of it AND YOU DON'T SHOW IT? I AM DONE! DISLIKE! UNSUBSCRIBE! Just kidding xD
ArtisanReloadzzz (1 year ago)
Is it strange that I can shoot lightning out of my hands?
RandomCatDude (8 months ago)
Video proof pls.
TheRadarBlip (1 year ago)
I always wanted to know can a lightning strike an airplane, like a big passenger plane, and if it will are there any countermeasures? Thanks!
yeet h (1 year ago)
You know what a horse wants from its presidents? A stable economy.
EnragedSephiroth (1 year ago)
wait... We don't even get a still image of ball lightning?
Tanasij Penko (1 year ago)
"beautiful lightning" yea i thought so too..for a long time..until it hit my house and fried everything i had..made holes in the walls where the wiring was...not to mention the bang....loudest bang you could ever hear
Dr. DoK (1 year ago)
About a week ago, when my family and I were coming home from a restaurant, a lightning bolt hit one of my neighbor's yards. Thing is, it stayed there for about 2-3 seconds before disappearing, and then the about a second or two later, the thunder came. what exactly WAS that?
Sprites, Jets and Glowing Balls... the name of a new night club perhaps? 😉
Broken Wave (1 year ago)
A lot of physics behind it? Everything has 100% physics behind it, not a lot or a little.
Raymond K Petry (1 year ago)
Ball Lightning was researched by Russian scientists decades ago, who concluded that it formed by lightning strikes on trees—the vaporized carbon, nitrogen, and oxygen, formed nanoparticle-batteries which while individually weak a fraction of a volt each would span their short particle size and arc over... and in total amounted to quadrillions of volts...
Frank Malenfant (1 year ago)
How can an electric charge move from positive to negative since electrons are negatively charged? Shouldn't electrons from the negatively charged cloud flow down to the positively charged ground since a positive charge is a lack of electrons? How can a lack of electrons move?
basti329 (1 year ago)
I was in hospital last year and i was sitting at the window at night , watching the lightningstorm. I could see the whole city from above and it was really beautiful and all of a sudden lots of lightning strikes at the same time but all of them where orange. The whole skyline in a bright orange light ... one of the most beautiful things ive ever seen :) It also made my time in hospital a lot more enjoyable :DD
Ken O (1 year ago)
What's the statistics of lightening safety measures and are they worth it? From installing lightening rods (thank you Ben Franklin) to keeping away from plumbing and skipping a shower because there's a lighting storm outside, to avoiding standing under trees in a downpour even though you'd get drenched, etc.
dimebag5884 (1 year ago)
:D I did one of my final year uni projects on ball lightning. The other popular theory you didn't mention, first coined by Kapitza involves the creation of meta stable balls of plasma contained between nodes in the electric field. The main reason it's so poorly understood currently is because of how rare it is. This leads to most reports being non scientific eye witness accounts. Even with advanced statistical handling of observer errors no one theory is able to explain all forms of ball lightning: Some has been said to move through walls and glass (not consistent with and theory that relies upon particles) Some are said to have created explosions or evaporated large amounts of water which require more energy than anyone can work out how to self contain in plasma or to explain with the photon model. Basically either there are multiple different phenomenon that we label as ball lightning or we have to discount some accounts as people being mistaken.
Jonathan Ramos (1 year ago)
You couldn't have showed us the ball lighting ??
.Z Sexton (1 year ago)
where do we find the video of ball lightning?
Phil Bear (1 year ago)
Colored lightning is racist.
lmriana (1 year ago)
I thought this video would contain the ball lightning video by the Chinese scientists. Sadly it didn't.
Giver Of Zero Phux (1 year ago)
that ball lightening sounds scary. The last thing I want is to get struck in the balls with 1.21 gigawatts of electricity.
Narendra Singh (1 year ago)
during thunderstorms i sleep better than i do on a regular day
Miguel Mota (1 year ago)
If a lightning bolt hits the ground, how far a person must be to be safe?
Greenlightning (1 year ago)
Just Josh (1 year ago)
That was the shortest 3min 30 sec video I've ever seen. There is so much about lightning that is incredibly cool!
The Ceej (1 year ago)
What about ground to cloud lightning that strikes upward from the ground to the cloud? What causes that?
Andrew Bulman (1 year ago)
I haven't seen fork lightning in years. I only ever see the white flash.
Frank22lol (1 year ago)
does the lighting pas through the air equally or it prefers certain molecules in it's path?
Charles D (1 year ago)
2:56 Roll the damn clip!
Jinzo Okami (1 year ago)
red sprite? blue jet? i hope captain jack's crew doesn't attack again, Jimenez just went AWOL.
chimneyface (1 year ago)
0:36 YODA?
Pavr (1 year ago)
or aliens
SmurfsAndRaspberries (1 year ago)
Convincingly this video where uploaded when a heavy lightning storm occurred where I live... As well as the southern part of my country.
Nilguiri (1 year ago)
Wow, I didn't know that "positive lightning" even existed, much less that it caused sprites.
Erfan Huq (1 year ago)
How can there be positive streams? How do protons move?
phantasm1234 (1 year ago)
Can you do one on cerebral aneurysms? I had one rupture at 19 and would love to learn more.
Stig Cruise (1 year ago)
... really :-( you showed us all of the examples of lightning except ball
Abhyuday Skywalker (1 year ago)
you guys forgot force lightning
Steve W (1 year ago)
I always thought that ball lightning may be some form of st elmo's fire.
Rebekah Lanee (1 year ago)
Lightning bow in real life confirmed
Jose Campos (1 year ago)
Lightning gets me all hot and bothered. .....
Scott Mantooth (1 year ago)
lightning is my muse...
R MH (1 year ago)
Aw, how could you not show ball lighting? Not even an animation?
Eric Bourque (1 year ago)
What if ball lighting is a mini fusion ball? Look at the spectrum!
Anison Abba (1 year ago)
Theories everywhere but no hard facts. Scientists are idiots who knew
cellogirl11RW (1 year ago)
I actually had some ball lightning float through one of the windows in my living room about 2 years ago. It was a beautiful little blue, sparkling ball about the size of a tennis ball, which aimlessly floated around the room for about 30 seconds before disappearing into thin air. I was mesmerized by it, but, if I had known what I know now about ball lightning then, I probably would've been terrified of it. Ball lightning has been known to start fires, short out electrical systems, and strike people, as well as animals.
cellogirl11RW (1 year ago)
I actually had some ball lightning float through one of the windows in my living room about 2 years ago. It was a beautiful little blue, sparkling ball about the size of a tennis ball, which aimlessly floated around the room for about 30 seconds before disappearing into thin air. I was mesmerized by it, but, if I had known what I know now about ball lightning then, I probably would've been terrified of it. Ball lightning has been known to start fires, short out electrical systems, and strike people, as well as animals.
Dakota Sims (1 year ago)
video idea if it hasnt been done. "what happens when we forget something"
BlankBrain (1 year ago)
When my mom was a girl, ball lightning came into the house on the phone line. It stayed in the room for several seconds. That was at a time when all phone lines were above ground. I read an article in Scientific American a long time ago that speculated that ball lightning is a sphere of layers of positive and negative charges (like an onion). I don't remember what they said might keep the charges separated (photon emission?).
TheTomBevis (1 year ago)
I have heard anecdotal stories that I think are reliable of lightning strikes on a fence line causing ball lighting to travel down the fence. I've seen some strange things, but not that.
Sōsuke Aizen (1 year ago)
Your science is quite accurate, as those were the parameter with which I designed your universe.
The Mad Hatter (1 year ago)
So you show us 2 videos/pictures of things that last fractions of a second but don't show us ball lightning that lasts 20 seconds?!? That makes so much sense.
amommamust (1 year ago)
Electric Universe. You left out the sun, and without that piece of the puzzle you will never explain lightning.
positron underVolt (1 month ago)
Calm down, Wal. Calm down.
S. F. G. (1 year ago)
My mother tells me about a ball of light that would go really slowly from one point of the ranch always towards a specific mountain. Apparentely it happend quite often and was called "mother of gold", because people believed there was gold underground where it hit.

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