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The physics behind a weird electrical phenomenon — glowing orbs of lightning — may be mimicked by something even stranger. A magnetic structure proposed for the natural oddity known as ball lightning makes an appearance in a newfound variety of a knotlike entity called a skyrmion, a team of scientists reports.

Typically observed during thunderstorms, ball lightning is poorly understood. Anecdotal reports describe eerily glowing spheres that float through the air for several seconds before fading (SN: 2/9/02, p. 87). That’s much longer than standard lightning strikes, which last tens of microseconds, and researchers are still struggling to explain how the fireballs persist.

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Category: Science