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Monday, November 17, 2014

BML Cam1 Jonas Ridge Camera for August 2014

The Brown Mountain Lights Research Team's BML Cam1 sits atop a house on Jonas Ridge and overlooks Brown Mountain 7 miles to the east. It has been running intermittently since February 2013.
 
Dr. Dan Caton, Professor and Director of Observatories, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Appalachian State University (Boone, NC) installed and operates the camera as part of an on-going research project. Dr. Caton also installed and operates another research camera (BML Cam2) located at the southern end of Linville Gorge. The images from both cameras are compiled into nightly videos and posted on YouTube---just search "Brown Mountain Lights Camera 1" (or Camera 2) for the individual nightly videos. Both cameras are modified highly light-sensitive comet-hunting cameras.

To date, numerous lights have been recorded by Cam1, including: town/city/rural lights in the valleys beyond Brown Mountain, fireworks, communication tower lights, airplanes and helicopters, highway-vehicle lights, off-highway vehicle lights, stadium lights, and back-country user lights. Natural lights captured by the camera include stars, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, the moon, lightning and fireflies. Disappointingly, Cam1 has yet to record any support for mysterious or unknown lights in the Brown Mountain area.

BML Cam1 recorded 256 hours of nocturnal observation time on 30 nights during August 2014, resulting in 30,738 individual 30-second time-exposure images. This brings the totals over the past 19 months since start up in Feb 2013 to 2,776 hours of nocturnal observation time on 320 different nights resulting in 294,762 individual time-exposure images.

No abnormal, unusual or unexpected nocturnal lights were positively identified by BML Cam1 during August 2014.  While observation during much of the month was hampered by stormy weather (clouds, rain & fog), a staged light test by myself on August 20th was instrumental in proving once again that normal back-country user lights are readily visible at Bear Rocks on the summit of Brown Mountain (6.7 miles east of the camera) and on FS Road 4099 (5.6 miles distant from the camera).   Non-staged ATV headlights were visible on the nights of Aug 16th (southbound on Trail #2) and Aug 23rd (northbound on trails along the ridgeline of Brown Mountain).  Other than the lights mentioned above, the usual distant manmade lights (urban/rural, airplanes, etc) were visible most nights above Brown Mountain throughout the month.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Staged Light Test Aug 13-14, 2014 Pinchin Trail BML Cam2

Staged Light Test Aug 13-14, 2014  Pinchin Trail  BML Cam2

Three Brown Mountain Light Research Team members hiked down the Pinchin Trail on the west side of Linville Gorge before dark on the evening of August 13/14, 2014 and conducted staged light tests on the hike back up the trail to the car after dark.  The hikers were Dr. Cato Holler, Jr., Chris Holler, and myself.  Hiker lights included 520- and 320-lumen handheld spotlights and headlamps up to 78 lumen.

These staged tests establishes the easy visibility of the type of handheld lights commonly carried by back country hikers and also establishes exactly where that trail is located in the camera's field of view.  The tests confirm our earlier suspicions of similar lights seen on previous dates when unknown hikers and campers were on the trail.  A forest fire in 2006 destroyed most of the vegetation along the trail, allowing for nearly-continuous open views, especially on the middle portions of the very steep trail.  During the hike, I recorded the times of our arrival and departure at specific landmarks along the trail---these matched perfectly with lights recorded by the video on BML Cam2. The full video can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TOgK4CMJqI  see video time (0:35-1:00) for our hiker lights and (1:20-1:27) for our headlights on Dogback Mtn.

Our BML Cam2 is located at a house south of the southern end of Linville Gorge. It is operated by Dr. Dan Caton, Lee Hawkins, and Annette Farah of the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Appalachian State Univ., Boone, NC. The camera is located 4.5 miles south of the Pinchin Trail and has been running intermittently since October 2013.


Hiker lights pointed directly toward the camera
 
Hiker light atop prominent rock tower (nicknamed Sourwood Stack) along the trail
Otter Browning's bright campfire seen in the Feb 01-02, 2014 video was located just up the trail from this point.
 
After the hike, we drove Old NC Hwy 105 (Kistler Memorial Hwy) to the summit of Dogback Mtn.
Our vehicle's headlights and 2 handheld spotlights are pointed southward toward the camera. 
Headlights of vehicles on this gravel raod are often visible at this open viewspot.

Once again, staged light tests like this strongly suggests that differentiating between distant nocturnal manmade lights and non-manmade lights is extremely difficult if not actually impossible for uninformed observers relying only on visual clues.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Staged Light Test July 14, 2014 Wolf Pit Trail BML Cam2

My solo nighttime roundtrip hike to the summit of Shortoff Mtn on the Wolf Pit Trail on the evening of Monday July 14, 2014 provided a staged light test that establishes the high visibility of the type of handheld lights commonly carried by back country hikers. Both my 520-lumen handheld spotlight and my 4-LED 78-lumen headlamp were visible to the camera. The exercise also establishes exactly where that trail is located in the camera's field of view and confirms our earlier suspicions of similar lights seen on previous dates. An extensive forest fire in 2007 destroyed most of the vegetation along the trail, allowing for nearly-continuous open views, especially on the upper portions of the mountain. On the trail, a party of 4 hikers without lights were encountered after sunset but before darkness, while overnight campers were seen near the summit, just out of view of Cam2. My recorded time notes for my arrival at specific landmarks matched perfectly with lights recorded by the video. The full video can be seen at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGC4l74Ibus

Our BML Cam2 is located at a house south of the southern end of Linville Gorge. It is operated by Dr. Dan Caton, Lee Hawkins, and Annette Farah of the Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Appalachian State Univ., Boone, NC. The camera is located 2.5-3.0 miles from the Wolf Pit Trail and has been running intermittently since October 2013.

My handheld light seen from the Summit of Shortoff Mtn
Light shinning from rock cliffs with unobstructed view toward Cam2.

My handheld light seen from the Junction of the Mountain-To-Sea Trail and the Wolf Pit Trail

My handheld light seen from the area of the switchbacks on the Wolf Pit Trail
 
 
Once again, staged light tests like this one strongly suggests that differentiating between distant nocturnal manmade lights and non-manmade lights is extremely difficult if not actually impossible for uninformed observers relying only on visual clues.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

BML Cam1 Jonas Ridge Camera for July 2014

The Brown Mountain Lights Research Team's BML Cam1 sits atop a house on Jonas Ridge and overlooks Brown Mountain 7 miles to the east. It has been running intermittently since February 2013.

Dr. Dan Caton, Professor and Director of Observatories, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Appalachian State University (Boone, NC) installed and operates the camera as part of an on-going research project. Dr. Caton also installed and operates another research camera (BML Cam2) located at the southern end of Linville Gorge. The images from both cameras are compiled into nightly videos and posted on YouTube---just search "Brown Mountain Lights Camera 1" (or Camera 2) for the individual nightly videos. Both cameras are modified highly light-sensitive comet-hunting cameras.

To date, numerous lights have been recorded by Cam1, including: town/city/rural lights in the valleys beyond Brown Mountain, fireworks, communication tower lights, airplanes and helicopters, highway-vehicle lights, off-highway vehicle lights, stadium lights, and back-country user lights. Natural lights captured by the camera include stars, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, the moon, lightning and fireflies.  Disappointingly, Cam1 has yet to record any support for mysterious or unknown lights in the Brown Mountain area.

BML Cam1 recorded 147 hours of nocturnal observation time on 20 nights during July 2014, resulting in 16,546 individual 30-second time-exposure images. This brings the totals over the past 18 months since start up in Feb 2013 to 2,335 hours of nocturnal observation time on 263 different nights resulting in 279,106 individual time-exposure images.

The following images are selected to show some significant features. Note that the camera position does not change during this sequence of images. Blurry or out-of-focus distant lights are caused by rising heat currents that distort the incoming light waves during the time exposures---lights that instantly flash on and off once produce sharp images.
 
  
July 4th sky rocket fireworks and MedEvac helicopter
The MedEvac helicopter flew northward above Brown Mountain and landed
at the Caldwell Memorial Hospital in downtown Lenoir. 
Approximately 45 minutes later, the helicopter took off from downtown Lenoir and flew back southward over the top of Brown Mountain.
 

 July 4th sky rocket fireworks
Same spot as before, 6 minutes later.

 
Lights due to processes internal to the camera
Double exposure due to image transition errors.
  
Lights due to processes internal to the camera
Double exposure due to image transition errors.
 
Lights due to processes internal to the camera
Double exposure due to image transition errors.
 
Lights due to processes internal to the camera
Possible cosmic ray strikes while lens window is totally blocked by rain.
 
Lights due to processes internal to the camera
Hot pixels or random excited pixels.
 
Light from vehicle/s on NC Hwy 181
on the east side of Ripshin Ridge
 
Possible helicopter taking off 
between downtown Lenoir and the Google Data Center
 
Probable lightning bug.
 
Lights due to processes internal to the camera
'Smear line' from bright airplane landing light.
 
Probable lightning bug or firefly 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

BML Cam1 Jonas Ridge Camera for June 2014

The Brown Mountain Lights Research Team's BML Cam1 sits atop a house on Jonas Ridge and overlooks Brown Mountain 7 miles to the east. It has been running intermittently since February 2013.

Dr. Dan Caton, Professor and Director of Observatories, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Appalachian State University (Boone, NC) installed and operates the camera as part of an on-going research project. Dr. Caton also installed and operates another research camera (BML Cam2) located at the southern end of Linville Gorge. The images from both cameras are compiled into nightly videos and posted on YouTube---just search "Brown Mountain Lights Camera 1" (or Camera 2) for the individual nightly videos. Both cameras are modified highly light-sensitive comet-hunting cameras.

To date, numerous lights have been recorded by Cam1, including: town/city/rural lights in the valleys beyond Brown Mountain, communication tower lights, airplanes and helicopters, highway-vehicle lights, off-highway vehicle lights, stadium lights, and back-country user lights. Natural lights captured by the camera include bright stars, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, the moon and lightning. Disappointingly, Cam1 has yet to record any support for mysterious or unknown lights in the Brown Mountain area.

BML Cam1 recorded 184 hours of nocturnal observation time on 27 nights during June 2014, resulting in 20,930 individual 30-second time-exposure images. This brings the totals over the past 17 months since start up in Feb 2013 to 2,372 hours of nocturnal observation time on 243 different nights resulting in 283,490 individual time-exposure images.

The following images are selected to show some significant features. Note that the camera position does not change during this sequence of images. Blurry or out-of-focus distant lights are caused by rising heat currents that distort the incoming light waves during the time exposures---lights that instantly flash on and off once produce sharp images.
 
Lights due to processes internal to the camera
The stacked line of lights on the lower right side of the image is due to the transition from the previous 30-second-time-exposure to the next exposure.
 
Distant cloud to ground lightning
 
Unannounced staged light test
Dr. Cato Holler, Jr., a member of our BML Research Team
camped at Bear Rocks
and shined his headlamp at several recorded times toward BML Cam1.
 
Light beam from headlight of vehicle
traveling south on NC Hwy 181 on Ripshin Ridge
 
 
 
 


BML Cam1 Jonas Ridge Camera for May 2014

The Brown Mountain Lights Research Team's BML Cam1 sits atop a house on Jonas Ridge and overlooks Brown Mountain 7 miles to the east. It has been running intermittently since February 2013.

Dr. Dan Caton, Professor and Director of Observatories, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Appalachian State University (Boone, NC) installed and operates the camera as part of an on-going research project. Dr. Caton also installed and operates another research camera (BML Cam2) located at the southern end of Linville Gorge. The images from both cameras are compiled into nightly videos and posted on YouTube---just search "Brown Mountain Lights Camera 1" (or Camera 2) for the individual nightly videos. Both cameras are modified highly light-sensitive comet-hunting cameras.

To date, numerous lights have been recorded by Cam1, including: town/city/rural lights in the valleys beyond Brown Mountain, communication tower lights, airplanes and helicopters, highway-vehicle lights, off-highway vehicle lights, stadium lights, and back-country user lights. Natural lights captured by the camera include bright stars, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, the moon and lightning. Disappointingly, Cam1 has yet to record any support for mysterious or unknown lights in the Brown Mountain area.

BML Cam1 recorded 172 hours of nocturnal observation time on 24 nights during May 2014, resulting in 19,846 individual 30-second time-exposure images. This brings the totals over the past 16 months since start up in Feb 2013 to 2,188 hours of nocturnal observation time on 243 different nights resulting in 262,560 individual time-exposure images.

The following images are selected to show some significant features. Note that the camera position does not change during this sequence of images. Blurry or out-of-focus distant lights are caused by rising heat currents that distort the incoming light waves during the time exposures---lights that instantly flash on and off once produce sharp images.
 
Probable building fire in Lenoir
 
Lights due to processes internal to the camera
Image transition errors produced the band of faint lights across the lower portion of the image.
These are an exact but dim duplicate of the bright band of electric lights above Brown Mountain.
The dim vertical lines that connect the dim lights with their parent bright lights are 'smear lines' produced during the fly-in transition between the previous 30-second-exposure image and the next image.

Fireflies?
 
 
 

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Staged Light test atop Brown Mountain Aug 20, 2014

Last night, Wednesday Aug 20, 2014, I hiked trails atop Brown Mountain for yet another staged light test.  My 520-lumen handheld spotlight and my 78-lumen 4-LED headlamp were both visible to our research camera on Jonas Ridge (BML Cam1). 

520-lumen spotlight on Bear Rocks
 
Bear Rocks atop Brown Mountain
Prominent, well-exposed, house-size boulders
35.91654 N; 81.76766 W
 
Image from Bear Rocks looking
toward BML Cam 1 on Jonas Ridge. 
The camera sits atop one of the lighted houses in Gingercake Acres
 
I drove to Chestnut Gap, bicycled FS Road 4099 the three miles to the north end of Brown Mountain, and then hiked to the prominently exposed Bear Rocks via the connector trail & ATV Trails 2, 8, 1B & 6; arriving at 10:24 pm.  In the first image above, my 520-lumen spotlight can be seen at the extreme right edge of the camera's field of view---6.7 miles from the camera.
 
Upon leaving Bear Rocks at 10:38 pm, I followed ATV Trail #2 back to the north end of Brown Mountain and arrived at my vehicle at 1:09 am.  On the way, I stopped along FS Rd 4099 at several clear views and shined my 78-lumen headlight toward BML Cam1, however only one such spot (at 5.6 miles from the camera) appeared within the field of view of the camera (see extreme left side of image below).
 
78-lumen 4-LED headlamp on FS Road 4099
 
The full nightly video can be seen at:
 
Such staged light tests help establish actual landmarks and the visibility of manmade lights commonly carried by back-country travelers.
 

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

ATV Lights on Brown Mountain August 16, 2014

Our Brown Mountain Lights Camera 1, positioned on Jonas Ridge, captured the headlights of a southward moving ATV on Trail #2 of the US Forest Services' Brown Mountain Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area on the evening of August 16, 2014.  There are 34 miles of maintained ATV trails atop Brown Mountain and they are open from April through October each year.  But only occassionally do nighttime riders access the rugged and remote Trail #2---which is the only trail where back-country user lights are visible from the popular observation sites, such as Jonas Ridge, the NC Hwy 181 Brown Mountain Overlook and Wiseman's View.  The following four screen shots from the August 16 nightly video show the changing position of the lights at 9:28, 9:38, 9:55 & 10:04 pm.  On the original video, the ATV is seen slowly weaving it's way along the crooked trail, eventually ending up for a 21 minute stop at the prominent and well exposed Bear Rocks before continuing southward and out of the field of view of the camera.  A detailed review of the location of Trail #2 as plotted on published Forest Service topo maps clearly shows that the lights are following the convoluted path of that trail.

 
ATV Headlights
August 16, 2014  9:28 pm

ATV Headlights
August 16, 2014  9:38 pm

 
ATV Headlights
August 16, 2014  9:55 pm

ATV Headlights
Augusut 16, 2014  10:04 pm
 
The original full video for August 16, 2014 can be viewed online at:
 
The lights in question are visible for 57 minutes from 9:25 pm until 10:22 pm real time.  However, due to the time-lapse images and playing speed of the video, this corresponds to 0:21 to 1:18 video time.
 
Our research team has previously conducted staged light tests atop Brown Mountain that verify some of the positions of the lights seen in the August 16 video---however this was not one of our staged light tests.
 
Many people observing these lights from any of the popular observation sites would interpret them to be  the 'mysterious Brown Mountain Lights'.   However the Aug 16, 2014 video and the above images clearly demonstrate the extreme difficulty, if not the actual impossibility, of correctly differentiating between manmade and non-manmade noctural lights utilizing visible clues alone, especially for uninformed or mis-informed observers.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

BML Cam2 Staged Light Tests July 14-15 & Aug 13-14, 2014

The Brown Mountain Lights Research Team's BML Cam2 sits in the yard of a house beside Old NC Hwy 105 (Kistler Memorial Highway) and looks up Linville Gorge. It has been running intermittently since October 2013.  As of March 31, 2014, Cam2 has recored 511 hours of nocturnal observation time on 105 different nights resulting in 30,000 individual time-exposure images.  Videos of the individual nigthly time-lapse images are posted on YouTube---just search "Brown Mountain Lights Camera 2"
Dr. Dan Caton, Professor and Director of Observatories, Dept. of Physics and Astronomy, Appalachian State University (Boone, NC) installed and operates the camera as part of an on-going research project. Dr. Caton also installed and operates another research camera (BML Cam1) located on Jonas Ridge and overlooking Brown Mountain---just search "Brown Mountain Lights Camera 1" on YouTube.  Both cameras are modified highly light-sensitive comet-hunting cameras.

To date, numerous lights have been recorded by Cam2, including: airplanes, backcountry vehicle lights, and back-country hiker/camper lights. Natural lights captured by the camera include bright stars, meteors and lightning. Disappointingly, Cam2 has yet to record any support for mysterious or unknown lights in the lower Linville Gorge area.
 
Suspected hiker/camper lights in several different areas have occassinally been captured by Cam2.  To verify these suspicions, staged light tests were conducted by team members night hiking on the Wolf Pit Trail on July 14-15, 2014; and again, on the Pinch-In Trail on August 13-14, 2014.  Cam2 captured the handheld hiker lights both nights, verifying the earlier suspicions.
 
More details about these staged light tests are forthcoming, in the mean time however, the respective YouTube videos are highly informative---now we know exactly where these trails are in the camera's view and we know that hiker lights are highly visible from portions of each trail.
 
July 14-15, 2014  Ed Speer roundtrip on Wolf Pit Trail to summit of Shortoff Mtn (east rim of Linville Gorge)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bGC4l74Ibus
Lightning at begining of video, hiker lights (0:31-1:15), scattered moonlight, camera lens halo.
 
August 13-14, 2014  Ed Speer, Cato Holler, Chris Holler roundtrip on Pinch-In Trail (west rim of Linville Gorge)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1TOgK4CMJqI
Airplanes, camera lens halo, vehicles on Old Hwy 105 on Dogback Mtn, hiker lights (0:35-1:00).
Vehicle lights on Dogback Mtn soon after the hiker lights were ours too!!
 
As with all of our other staged light tests, these two light tests also strongly suggest that differentiating between distant nocturnal manmade lights and non-manmade lights is extremely difficult if not actually impossible for uninformed observers.