Great Balls of Fire

The scientific establishment tangles with the Twilight Zone in these stranger-than-fiction tales of encounters with ball lightning. Ball lightning (boules de feu or foudre spherique; Kugeblitz) is the name given to the mobile luminous spheres which have been observed during thunderstorms.

A luminous sphere, sometimes hissing, that slips under doors and through closed windows, ball lightning seems to ignore the rules of science. Indeed, sceptics continue to question its existence.

But many scientists now accept that ball lightning is a real phenomenon. Great Balls Of Fire reconstructs events from eyewitness accounts, such as the flight from New York to Washington during a thunderstorm. A glowing ball emerges from the pilot's cabin and passes down the plane's aisle. Onlooker Roger Jennison saw it pass within 50 centimetres of his seat: "I felt no heat as it passed me," he recalls.

Yet when the ball does explode, it does so with immense force. Scientists are fascinated by the phenomenon, which may hold the key to future energy sources.

Genre: Nature

Running Time: 60 minutes (approx)