After hitting the ground and lighting the sky, lightning strikes leave behind a trail of charged particles, or ions. In most cases, these positive and negative ions recombine in a split seconds, says Lowke. Any remaining ions travel down to the ground.
Lowke's theory, is that some of these ions can accumulate on the outside of non-conducting surfaces such as a window.
"These ions pile up and produce an electrical field which penetrate the glass," he says.
Lowke says the field gives free electrons on the inside of the window enough energy to knock off electrons from surrounding air molecules, as well as release photons, creating a glowing ball.
Recreating it in the lab
"This is the first paper which gives a mathematical solution explaining the birth or initiation of ball lighting," says Lowke.
He says the next step is to use the theory to replicate ball lightning in the laboratory. That may still prove difficult, as it would require equipment capable of producing 100 million volts.
But a ball lightning event seen by a former US Air Force pilot suggests another approach.