Ball lightning is a natural phenomenon wherein electrical discharges from rain clouds manifest as floating objects rather than the more typical arcing circuit completions seen in more common lightning.
Ball lightning discharges are an extremely rare occurrence and witness accounts can range widely. For a long time the phenomenon was treated as myth. However, there is consensus that the discharges tend to float or hover in the air, and take on a ball-like or near-ball-like appearance. Sometimes the discharge is reported to be attracted to a certain object, others claim the discharge moves with its own volition or just randomly. Eventually the discharge either leaves, disperses, or is absorbed into something.
There is some debate as to the physical nature of the discharge. Most scientists would expect it to be some sort of electrified plasma, an extreme atmospheric ionization effect, an electrically induced matter phase change in the air such as heated oxygen, or perhaps a temporary visible disruption of Earth's magnetic field caused by ordinary lightning. No known attempts to create ball lightning in the lab have succeeded, suggesting the phenomenon requires extraordinary power and other conditions. There are claims of ball lightning-like effects created by microwave ovens.
Some UFO skeptics have suggested that many apparent close encounters are actually observations of ball lightning. UFO enthusiasts report seeing ball lightning often at crop circle sites and believe them to be some kind of intelligence or come from some kind of intelligence while not denying that it is indeed ball lightning.
Many people also believe the ball lightning phenomenon to be spirits. References can be seen in the will o' the wisp and other spirits that take the guise of orbs of light.
See also: St Elmo's fire
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