was the ufo ball lightning?

There have been a lot of articles in the news lately about video footage of a ufo captured by a Navy pilot. None mention the possibility that it was ball lightning. I haven’t seen any comments on those articles talking about it either. So I suggest that it was ball lightning. What the pilot describes, and what I have read about ball lightning seem like the same thing to me. What do people on this message board say about it?

I would believe that a Navy aviator would have good enough eyes, and a firm-enough knowledge of meteorology and atmospheric conditions, to know if something is a natural phenomena or not.

Plus, wasn’t he (and other crew) vectored out to the area by ground control, telling them to check out something unusual on the screens that was flying about? Ground control wouldn’t see lightning on radar. (Someone correct me if I read the story wrong)

But I read ball lightning sightings are rare, so you would think many pilots have never seen it. In fact, I just found a news article from 2014 claiming scientists had filmed it for the first time ever. Read the wikipedia on ball lightning, it is a lot different from regular lightning. The issue of radar though I don’t know. Are you sure ground control noticed it on radar? And that radar absolutely cannot notice ball lightning (even as an unusual effect different from the normal blips of aircraft)?

Philip Klass, a writer for Aviation Week and Space Technology and a noted UFO debunker, suggested that many UFOs were, in fact, due to ball lightning:

The idea is prominent in his first book on UFOs, UFOs Identified. It seems plausible to me. Klass backed off on it as a significant explanation for UFOs in his later books, saying that in many cases there were more likely causes, but I don’t think he ever abandoned the idea completely.

Certainly unfamiliar phenomena can be misinterpreted even by “trained observers”, including Navy aviators with good enough eyes and knowledge of meteorology. Klass cites cases where pilots mistook the moon, Venus, or other astronomical bodies (seen through haze or clouds) as UFOs. Ball lightning is a lot less frequently encountered, and therefore more likely to be misidentified.

Even if something like ball lightning has been demonstrated in the lab, there’s still a huge explanatory gap between that and understanding what processes actually generate it in the atmosphere, and which of the properties ascribed to it in eyewitness accounts it actually has.

So we can throw out “maybe it was ball lightning”, sure.
But we’re never going to be able to make any conclusion while the phenomenon remains so poorly understood.

Did anyone see the full interview of the pilot? The excerpt that CNN has on its web page doesn’t jive with the video. The pilot talks about a “clockwise flow” at relatively low altitude or at least below the clouds if the water’s surface could be seen.The video shows a counter-clockwise flow above the clouds. On the audio one pilot says to the other “There’s a whole fleet of them. Look on the SA” Any explanation about that? The pilot was also interrupted by the reporter when it seemed as though the story wasn’t finished. What else happened? Did the thing appear on the F-15 sensors? What did the cruisers sensors show regarding speed and flight path? BTW, the thing in that video doesn’t look like a tic tac to me.

Your statement makes it sound as if Ball Lightning is some esoteric obscurity that was theorized about and then demonstrated in a laboratory. but Ball Lightning is a long-observed natural phenomenon in nature. Theories have been developed in response to these observations to explain it, and the lab experiments conducted for the same reason.

Ball Lightning is a well-attested phenomenon, even if it’s not fully understood. it certainly may be behind many UFO reports, as may a great many other natural phenomena enumerated by original UFO debunker (and chairman of the Harvard-Smithsonian Observatory) Donald Menzel back in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s.

As you’ll read in your link, the very existence of ball lightning was still discounted right up to the 1960s. Because while eye witness reports go back centuries, they are nonetheless very rare and the description of ball lightning varies a great deal – not just the size, velocity or duration of the balls, but stuff like different descriptions of how they appear to form and/or dissipate, whether they harm things they pass through and so on.

While the consensus now is that ball lightning is a real phenomenon, that’s about as far as our understanding goes at this point, pretty much everything else is still up in the air (so to speak).

So, all I was saying was, at this time, ball lightning can only ever be a speculative hypothesis for an observation like this, because its explanatory power is essentially nil.
If you have a hypothesis that involves a well understood phenomenon, like e.g. a weather balloon, we can look up records of balloon flight paths, compare the height that they typically fly, compare their shape to the video, see if the shape is moving in the same direction as the wind etc etc. With ball lightning, what inferences can we make to try to confirm the hypothesis?

That’s putting it pretty harshly. I doubt if any meteorologists really doubted the existence of ball lightning. Its existence is taken as a given in pre-1960 books that I have. There may have been doubters, but they were not in the majority.

I’m not sure the extent to which it’s relevant, but I have an old book of my grandmothers that I adore, probably published in the 70s, called Mysteries of the Unexplained. Which now that I think about it is totally redundant. But anyway, in this book, accounts of ball lightning are couched between accounts of spontaneous combustion and the Loch Ness Monster.

For what it’s worth, based on what I’ve read, ball lightning scares the shit out of me on roughly the same level as extraterrestrial spacecraft.

Honestly. You have nothing to worry about. They have this little flashlight thingee they shine in your eyes after an encounter, and you won’t remember anything.

Which definition of ball lightning are people using here? The OED definition differs significantly from the UD definition.

I’m just repeating what your own link said. And my experience was the same as Spice Weasel’s where I own paranormal books that mention ball lightning but don’t recall any mention of it elsewhere.
It was only taken seriously relatively recently.

Again, I’m not saying it wasn’t ball lightning. It could have been.
But right now that explanation is barely one rung above “unexplained flying object” since we have no way of predicting when and where ball lightning will show up and what properties it will have when it does. How can we confirm the hypothesis?

Unhappy with his heavily pigmented scrotum, Frank underwent ball lightening.

It was not ball lightning.

  • They were tracking a number of these these objects on radar for two weeks beforehand.
  • It was a calm, clear day, there was no storm.
  • White, not a glowing ball of fire.
  • Defined boundaries, ‘like a tic-tac’, 40 feet long.
  • Caused churning water in the ocean below it.
  • Object ascended to meet pilots, began to mirror them as they pursued it.

I can see the points raised about how the description differs from ball lightning. My new theory: they stumbled upon an experimental “plasma ball cannon” launching plasma balls from the ocean into the atmosphere. (Perhaps conceived of by the late great Nikola Tesla, who I recall was doing something like this on a smaller scale.) Or does “alien spacecraft” or something else seem more likely?

I just noticed the articles on the Shiva Star and MARAUDER plasma weapon project on wikipedia. Both were lost to public knowledge in 1995. Is this sighting in 2004 an offshoot 9 years later of such projects?

It was not a clear day, at least on that video. They are above the clouds, although tis hard to tell if the sky is overcast, broken, scattered etc. As I mentioned above (and no one has addressed), the video and the pilots description in the interview don’t match. At all. Is there more video? Recordings of shipboard or aircraft sensors? Something isn’t right about this.

Having just read the WAPO article, I see that it was a second plane that filmed not the one flown by pilot in the interview.

Ball lightning isn’t 40 ft long. Although I have seroius doubt that the pilot got the size of this object correct, it is probably right within an order of magnitude.

Note that the FLIR didn’t detect any hot air coming out of the object, but a disturbance was observed on the sea; that suggests a drone using rotors rather than a jet or a rocket. I’d guess as well that the movement of the object was fairly slow, and all the strange manoeuvers observed by the pilot(s) were due to their own movements, rather than the movement of the craft. When the object suddenly ‘pings’ off the screen I think that was the camera reaching the limits of its sideways tracking ability.

An account of the Nimitz encounter which lends sends some support to this theory is here;

In short, this appears to have been a real object - but it need not have been using alien technology. Ordinary Earth tech and slightly misinterpreted observational data could cause just about everything that the pilots have reported. It remains a puzzle as to what a drone was doing out over the sea.