Ball lightning is a debated and controversial atmospheric electrical phenomenon. The term refers to reports of luminous, usually spherical objects which vary from pea-sized to several meters in diameter. It is sometimes associated with thunderstorms, but lasts considerably longer than the split-second flash of a lightning bolt.
Laboratory experiments have produced effects that are visually similar to reports of ball lightning, but it is presently unknown whether these are actually related to any naturally occurring phenomenon. Scientific data on natural ball lightning are scarce owing to its infrequency and unpredictability. The presumption of its existence is based on reported public sightings, and has therefore produced somewhat inconsistent findings. Given inconsistencies and the lack of reliable data, the true nature of ball lightning is still unknown. Until recently, ball lightning was often regarded as a fantasy or a hoax, but some serious scientific discussions and theories have attempted to explain it.
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