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Wednesday, December 17, 2014

12 Lights on Pinch-In Trail in Linville Gorge August 13, 2014

This time-lapse photo shows 12 staged hiker lights on the Pinch-In Trail on the west side of Linville Gorge.  The lights were captured by our BML Cam2 camera which sits at a house near the lower end of the gorge.  BML Research Team members Dr. Cato Holler, Chris Holler, & I hiked the trail with 520- and 320-lumen handheld spotlights.  Recent forest fires have created open vistas along the middle portion of the trail where our lights are visible, while dense trees blocked our lights on the upper- and-lower-most parts of the trail.



 12 Staged Hiker Lights on Pinch-In Trail

520-lumen Handheld Spotlight (6" X 6" w/ 2" dia lens)

24 Lights on Shortoff Mtn 14Jul14

This time-lapse photo shows 24 individual staged lights on Shortoff Mtn on the night of July 14, 2014 captured by our BML Cam2 camera which sits at a private residence near the south end of Linville Gorge.  The camera points up the gorge and is 2.5 to 3.0 miles southwest of Shortoff Mtn.  The photo records my round-trip night hike to the summit of Shortoff Mtn with my 520-lumen handheld spotlight.  The cluster of lights at the right end of the line of lights marks the switchbacks on the Wolf Pit Trail.  Forest fires in recent years have created open views along the trail above the switchbacks, while dense woods below the swithbacks block all lights.

Staged Hiker Lights along the Wolf Pit and Mtn-to-Sea Trails on Shortoff Mtn

520-lumen Rechargable Handheld Spotlight (6" X 6" w/ 2: lens)

Monday, December 15, 2014

Dangerously Low Flying Airplane over Brown Mountain 11Dec14

During my staged light test hike on Brown Mountain on the night of December 11, 2014, I was shocked to witness a dangerously low-flying twin-engine airplane only about 100 feet off the ground!

Low-Flying Airpalne over Brown Mountain on Dec 11, 2014

It's not easy to get to Lael's Rock (my name)---I had to bushwhack about 20 minutes from Trail #2
through very dense brush on a steep rocky slope to reach the site of what I suspect is Ralph Lael's 1962 encounter with mysterious lights that he interpreted to be aliens.  The large bare rock exposure is clearly visible in the daytime and on moon-lit nights when the monlight reflects off the wet rocks.  Just 3 minutes after I arrived at the rock, and just moments before the end of twilight, a very loud twin-engine airplane about 100 feet off the ground flew overhead!  The plane actually came over the top of BM and stayed at the same 100 feet or so elevation above the ground as it descended into Holly Springs valley, then banked hard to the north as it followed Upper Creek east of Ripshin Ridge.  The plane did not have sufficient altidute to clear Ripshin Ridge so it was forced to make that sharp left turn. 

Why the airplane was flying so dangerously low just moments before total darkness is unknown.  Had I not been on Lael's Rock at the exact moment the plane flew overhead and witnessed the event, we would have been hard pressed to explain the light streak.  And had Cam1 not have been purposefully started about 45 minutes early that evening in order to capture my light before nightfall, Cam1 would not have captured the lights of the airplane in the first place---in other words, we almost missed this strang light!  In the 2 years Cam1 has been operating, we've never seem such a low-flying plane.  Just goes to show that strange manmade lights do occur unexpectedly on BM!!

16 Lights on Brown Mountain Dec 11, 2014

The night of December 11, 2014 was cold and clear----perfect for a night hike and some staged light tests on Brown Mountain!  I hit the trail about dark, visited several known bare rock exposures with open views toward our BML Cam1, and hiked a 4-mile loop atop the mountain.  My light was a 520-lumen re-chargeable handheld spotlight that I've used on previous light tests.  The following image is a composite stack of 16 individual 30-second time exposure images taken at various times during the 4.5 hour hike by Cam1, which lies atop a house on Jonas Ridge 7 miles west of Brown Mountain.  This is the same image, with the same field of view, seen in all Cam1 images this year; i.e., the camera has not changed position all year.

16 Lights on Brown Mountain December 11, 2014


520-lumen rechargeable handheld spotlight used for Dec 11, 2014 Light Tests
 
Light from my handheld spotlight was captured at 16 different places on Brown Mountain by BML Cam1---these are the 16 spots of light on the mountain visible on the composite time-exposure image above.  With the leaves now off the trees, I was able to see the distant Jonas Ridge House lights where Cam1 is located at numerous places along the various trails I hiked that night.  Sure enough, Cam1 caught my spotlight at many places along the trails.  During the same hike back in August when the leaves were still on the trees, my light was only visible at Bear Rocks and along FS Rd 4099 with open views toward Cam1.  The birght lights at Lael's Rock and Bear Rocks seen in the image above are the same 520-lumen spotlight pointed directly toward Cam1 for a full 30-second time exposure.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Measured Line-of-Sight Azimuths for BML Cam1 (Jonas Ridge Camera)

An intergal part of our BML research is acurately locating specific lights seen on our various camera images.  Knowing exactly what is visible in an image of distant objects is critical in determining exactly what a specific light might be.  Our BML Cam1 is located atop a house on Jonas Ridge and has been running intermittently since February 2013.  It is pointed southeast toward Brown Mountain, which lies 7 miles away.  While the camera's field of view was manually changed a few times last year, it remained constant during 2014, except for some minor high-wind shaking.  The following image shows 11 seperate very-acurate line-of-sight azimuths that allow us to better understand the location of lights that are visible within the camera's field of view.  Distortion of the image due to the curvature of the camera lens is obvious from the unequal increments of degrees horizontally across the image.

Accurately measured line-of-sight azimuths in degrees
for BML Cam1 (Jonas Ridge)

Note that these lines of sights include prominent geographic landmarks, fortuitous Moon rises, airports/heliports where lighted aircraft were photographed landing or taking off, and our own staged light tests at known sites on Brown Mountain.  Various software programs were used to measure the azimuths correctly.  The majority of the lights beyond Brown Mountain are those of Lenoir and some of the communities immediately south of town.  However some tall communication tower lights of Statesville are visible on the far horizon near the middle of the image.  Only the northern-most 1/4 of Brown Mountain itself is visible within the camera's field of view and the city of Hickory is out of view far to the south (right).

Friday, December 5, 2014

BML Cam1 Jonas Ridge Camera for November 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 intermittedntly 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 digital meteor-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, back-country user lights, and brush/forest fires.  Natural lights captured by the camera include stars, Jupiter, Mars, Venus, Mercury, the Moon, meteors, lightning and fireflies.  Disappointingly, Cam1 has yet to record any support for mysterious or unknown lights in the Brown Mountain area.

BML Cam1 recorded 300 hours of nocturnal observation time on 29 seperate nights during November 2014, resulting in 33,666 individual 30-second time-exposure images.  This brings the totals over the past 22 months since start up in Feb 2013 to 3,654 hours of nocturnal observation time on 410 seperate nights resulting in 397,374 individual time-exposure images.  Each of these images has been examined in detail by members of our research team.

No abnormal, unusual or unexpected nocturnal lights were recorded by BML Cam1 during November 2014.   However, the usual distant city/town/rural lights, airplane lights, and light from the bright planets Jupiter and Mercury were visible this month.  Possible Leonid meteors were visible on Nov 7 & 9; while Moon rises on Nov 17, 18 & 19 produced promined lens flares and over-saturated Moon lights.  Rainy/foggy weather obscured views a few nights, especially the last week of the month.  Reflections of Hwy 181 vehicle lights on the east side of Ripshin Ridge were ocassionally visible.   Smoke stack plumes & clouds in the valley s. of Lenoir were also visible a few nights.

The following images are selected to show some significant features visible during November 2014.  Note that the camera position does not change during this sequence of images.  Blurry or out-of-focus distant lights are caused by movemnt of the lights as well as rising heat currents that distort the incoming light waves during the time exposures.

The planet Mercury rose just before the Sun.

A meteor caught in the sky above Lenoir. 
Bright Moonlight illuminates Brown Mountain.

The bright airplane just took off from the Statesville airport
and is heading toward the camera with its landing light on.
Vertical smear lines are often produced below bright lights---probably due
to image transition errors within the camera itself.

Prominent lens flares probably coming from a bright light just to the left of the field of view
but pointed directly toward the camera.

 Rise of the crescent Moon above the eastern horizon at 99.5 azimuth.
Diffraction & over-saturation of the light is due to features within the camera itself.
Compare the position of the Moonrise here with the one on Nov 20.

Lens flare from the bright light of the off-center position of the Moon.
 
Rise of the crescent Moon on Nov 20 at 104.0 azimuth
Just one day after the Nov 19 Moonrise image.
Note how far south along the horizon the Moonrise has moved
(change in azimuth: 4.5 degrees) in only 24 hours!
 

Thursday, December 4, 2014

BML Cam1 Jonas Ridge Camera for October 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 meteor-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 306 hours of nocturnal observation time on 31 seperate nights during October 2014, resulting in 34,250 individual 30-second time-exposure images and 3,400 individual 10-second time-exposure images. This brings the totals over the past 21 months since start up in Feb 2013 to 3,354 hours of nocturnal observation time on 381 seperate nights resulting in 363,708 individual time-exposure images.

No abnormal, unusual or unexpected nocturnal lights were recorded by BML Cam1 during October 2014.  However, the usual distant city/town/rural lights, airplane lights, and light from the bright planet Jupiter were visible this month. Rainy/foggy weather obscured views a few nights and reflections of Hwy 181 vehicle lights on the east side of Ripshin Ridge were ocassionally visible. Dust plumes & clouds in the valley s. of Lenoir were also visible a few nights. Multiple airplanes landing & taking off from Statesville airport were visible many nights.  Special 10-second time exposures were recorded on Oct 25/26, but produced no new revelations.  Faint moving ATV lights were visible on the ridgeline near Bear Rocks on BM on Oct 30.  Stationary, occassional camper lights at campsite near Bear Rocks were visible on the nights of Oct 30 & 31.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

BML Cam1 Jonas Ridge Camera for September 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 271 hours of nocturnal observation time on 30 nights during September 2014, resulting in 31,296 individual 30-second time-exposure images. This brings the totals over the past 20 months since start up in Feb 2013 to 3,047 hours of nocturnal observation time on 350 different nights resulting in 326,058 individual time-exposure images.

No abnormal, unusual or unexpected nocturnal lights were recorded by BML Cam1 during September 2014.  However, the usual distant city/town/rural lights & airplane lights were visible this month.  Rainy/foggy weather obscured views much of the month.  Reflections of Hwy 181 vehicle lights on the east side of Ripshin Ridge were visible many nights in the low clouds/fog.   Dust plumes & clouds in the valley s. of Lenoir were visible many nights.  Multiple airplanes landing & taking off from Statesville airport were visible on Sep 7 (11:56 pm--2:16 am) & again on Sep 21-22 [including bright runway lights turned on at 3:46 am (6:30 video time), plane lands at 3:53 am (6:37 video time), then runway lights off at 4:06 am (6:50 video time)].  Lights from CMC-North East Stadium in Kannapolis were burning from the start of the video at 9:27 pm until 10:05 pm (0:00-0:38 video time) on Sep 13.
 

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.