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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 stop 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 Brown Mountain 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.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Brown Mountain Light -- Beer, that is

I found my Brown Mountain Light!

This Brown Mountain Light research never ends!  But I'll go to any length and leave no stone unturned in my efforts to seek out the facts.  So, yesterday, I made my way to the Olde Hickory Station in Hickory, NC---the site of the historic Hickory Tavern, where the first electric lights in Westen North Carolina were installed in 1888.  Soon thereafter, electricity spread to every city, town & community throughout the Catawba River valley and these were probably the first mystery lights seen & reported by the mountain residents in the early 1900s and which gave rise to the Legend of the Brown Mountain Lights.  And there's another connection to the Legend with this location---it sits immediately beside the raidroad tracks; yes, the very same first railroad in western NC that began operating in 1858.  It was this new & unexpected train that gave rise to the first authentic reports of mystery lights over the top of Brown Mountain---the Fate Wiseman story.  In fact, it was the lights from this early train that resulted in Wiseman's View on the western rim of Linville Gorge getting it's name---Fate Wiseman would sit there intently staring off into the distance waiting for glimpses of the mystery light (train headlight), so people began calling the spot Wiseman's View. 
 
Now for the good part---the beer is called 'Brown Mountain Light', brewed across the parking lot at the Olde Hickory Brewery!  I now have the 'proof' I've been lookin for!
 
 

Monday, June 23, 2014

BML Cam1 Jonas Ridge Camera for Apr 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, as evidenced by the frequent diffraction/over-saturation/lens flare features produced by overly bright lights.

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 194 hours of nocturnal observation time on 21 nights during April 2014, resulting in 23,300 30-second time-exposure images.    This brings the totals over the past 15 months since start up in Feb 2013 to 2,016 hours of nocturnal observation time on 219 different nights resulting in 212,188 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.
 
Lens flare from the bright planet Venus
 
Airplane leaving Statesville Municipal Airport and lights from CMC-NorthEast Stadium in Kannapolis (79.6 mi away)
 
Forest fires on Brown Mountain
 
Forest fires on Brown Mountain
 
Ground fog/clouds on Brown Mountain
Note that all distant city/town/rural lights are blocked by the low clouds, yet several isolated spots & short lines of lights are still visible.  These are probably random hot pixels due to flaws in the camera's digital sensor. 
Such hot pixels are also evident when skies are clear
 
Unannounced staged light test by a team member who rode his motorcycle along FS Rd 4099. 
Also note lights from stadium in Kannapolis
 
Unannounced staged light test by a team member
who hiked to the top of Wildcat Knob with a headlamp
 
First of three-image-sequence showing a MedEvac helicopter heading for Lenoir's Hospital
 
Second of three-image-sequence showing a MedEvac helicopter heading for Lenoir's Hospital
 
Third of three-image sequence showing a MedEvac helicopter heading for Lenoir's Hospital. 
Helicopter, now with bright landing light, descends and lands at Caldwell Memorial Hospital
in downtown Lenoir at 11:44 pm. 
The helicopter leaves Lenoir at 12:07 am and flies back above Brown Mountain. 
Actually, the helicopter was probably east of Brown Mountain following
US Hwy 64 from Morganton to Lenoir or US Hwy 321 from Hickory to Lenoir
 
ATV lights on Brown Mountain
The Forest Service's Brown Mountain Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area
(34 miles of maintained ATV trails)
opened for the summer season on April 1, 2014,
but this is the first time we've seen nighttime activity on the mountain this year
 
ATV lights on Brown Mountain
 
Lenoir's Easter Cross has been turned off
Lenoir's seasonal Easter Cross atop Hibriten Mtn was shining nightly from Mar 5 until Apr 21, 2014. 
This is the same light structure lighted as a star duing the Christmas season
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Sunday, June 22, 2014

BML Cam1 Jonas Ridge Camera for Mar 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 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 have been 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, as evidenced by the frequent diffraction/over-saturation/lens flare features produced by overly bright lights.

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 not recorded any support for mysterious or unknown lights in the Brown Mountain area.

BML Cam 1 recorded nearly 280 hours of nocturnal observation time on 28 nights during March 2014, resulting in nearly 33,500 30-second 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.
 
Lenoir's Easter Cross atop Hibriten Mtn was lighted from Mar 5 until Apr 22---this is the same light structure that the city of Lenoir lights as the Christmas Star every Christmas season.  These seasonal lights are clearly visible from the popular BML observations sites and make excellent staged light tests.
Another notable light tonight is the new bright light on the horizon south of Granite Falls that shined for about 3 hours, then suddenly went out at 10:19 pm.
 
First of 4 image-sequence showing a MedEvac helicopter with bright landing light flying north above the top of Brown Mountain and heading for Caldwell Memorial Hospital in Lenoir
 
Second of 4 image-sequence showing a MedEvac helicopter with bright landing light flying north above the top of Brown Mountain and heading for Caldwell Memorial Hospital in Lenoir
 
Third of 4 image-sequence showing a MedEvac helicopter with bright landing light flying north above the top of Brown Mountain and heading for Caldwell Memorial Hospital in Lenoir
 
Fourth of 4 image-sequence showing a MedEvac helicopter with bright landing light flying north above the top of Brown Mountain and heading for Caldwell Memorial Hospital in Lenoir.  Helicopter lands near downtown Lenoir at 10:38 pm and then leaves at 11:09 pm flying back above the top of Brown Mountian.  On the return flight, the bright landing light is replaced by much dimmer navigational lights.
 
New unexpected extremely bright light on the horizon south of Statesville airport starts at 8:25 pm, slowly brightens & inlarges, then slowly dissappears by 8:48 pm---perhaps a burning building?
 
Bright moonrise at 5:05 am (23% Wanning Cresent)
 
New unexpected very bright light just east of mountain ridge south of Lenoir---perhaps a brush or forest fire?
 
Venus in morning sky above Granite Falls
Note Lenoir's Easter Cross atop Hibriten Mtn is still lighted
 

Friday, June 20, 2014

BML Cam1 Jonas Ridge Camera (Feb 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 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 have been 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, as evidenced by the frequent diffraction/over-saturation/lens flare features produced by overly bright lights.
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 not recorded any support for mysterious or unknown lights in the Brown Mountain area.
BML Cam 1 recorded 115 hours of nocturnal observation time on 11 nights during February 2014, resulting in nearly 14,000 30-second 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 waves that distort the light waves during the time exposures---lights that instantly flash on and off once produce sharp images.
 
Twilight illuminates the area and allows identification of Lick Mountain,
24.2 miles from the camera
 
Helicopter leaving Caldwell Memorial Hospital in Lenoir