Monday, October 28, 2013

Yes they are real!

What are the BMLs?  Are they Real?
Yes, they are real!  But in order to say that, we have to come up with a definition that excludes all post-observational interpretations.  Thus the following definition is based on the original observers’ on-site, real-time interpretation, not someone else’s subsequent interpretation:  A BML is any nocturnal light, seen in the vicinity of Brown Mountain, with an origin that is unknown to the observer at the time of the observation
A BML is any nocturnal light, seen in the vicinity of Brown Mountain,
with an origin that is unknown to the observer
at the time of the observation

This definition is purposefully broad to include all sightings by everyone who has seen lights that they identified as unexplained in the area since the late 1800s.  It is the assumed or presumed unknown origin that makes the lights mysterious in the first place.  Each person's sighting is real and significant to them and none are dismissed as not-real.  Since the distinction of 'unknown origin' is the determination of the observer, then all lights visible in the area must also be BMLs!  Let me explain.

Eye-Witness sightings
Every light visible in the area of Brown Mountain probably has been called a mysterious unknown-origin light (in other words a BML) by someone either recently or in the past---remember it is left up to each individual observer to label the light they saw as explained or unexplained.  Over the past two years, our research team has amassed a vast collection of BML eyewitness descriptions, both recent and historical.  Although these descriptions are often conflicting and vary greatly in the details of what was seen, none can be dismissed, even those that can be easily identified by others as misinterpretations of normal lights.  It is clear from these varied descriptions that people are not always seeing the same thing, but rather they are seeing a large number of different light phenomena; none of which should be rejected as not real.  Certainly for many observers their sighting was not only memorable, but also unique, fascinating, and in some cases, life-changing. Therefore, to include all mystery light sightings as BMLs, the definition given above is based on the observers' characterization of the light as having an 'unidentified-origin'.  However, just because a light is unknown to an observer doesn't mean that light is also unknown or unknowable to someone else.

The difference between an identified light and a mystery light
is often the difference between an informed observer
and an uninformed or misinformed observer

Identification of Light Origins
While misidentification of lights plays a major role in the Legend of the BMLs, observation of lights defying easy explanation also plays a role.  The difference between an identified light and an unidentified light is often the difference between an informed observer and an uninformed or misinformed observer.  One person’s BML is another person’s street light.  One person’s BML is another person’s flashlight, or communication tower light, or airplane, or campfire, or car headlight, or firefly, or International Space Station, or planet, etc.  And yet some lights defy all attempts to identify them by scientific or scholarly investigation.  However, those lights that seem to defy scientific or otherwise scholarly explanation are generally from sightings that lack sufficient details to classify them as anything; as a result those lights are temporarily listed as 'unclassified' until such time that their actual origin might be determined.

To know the BMLs, First Know the Observer
The level of one's nighttime outdoor experience, familiarity with nature, supernatural beliefs, and understanding of science vary greatly amongst observers, yet each of these plays a major role in how an observer interprets what they see.  As expected, an informed observer is much less likely to misinterpret what they see, while an uninformed or misinformed observer is more likely to misinterpret what they see.

Don't Mess With my BMLs
Everyone enjoys a good mystery and the desire to believe in unexplained or unexplainable lights is strong and even highly emotional for many people.  In fact, most people aren't receptive to hearing something that threatens their beliefs, favorite mystery, or opinions.  "I know what I saw, and it wasn't a manmade light" and "Some things just can't be explained" are common reframes from those unwilling to give up the mystery, or to even consider alternatives.  On the other hand, there are those who sincerely believe they witnessed aliens, UFOs, disembodied spirits, ghosts, secret government projects, or otherwise unexplained paranormal phenomena.  To everyone, no matter what you believe, the BMLs are real!  It's just our interpretations of what we see that differ.

Monday, October 21, 2013

Best photo of Blue Ghost Fireflies

This 4-hour time exposure is perhaps the best image of the elusive Blue Ghost Fireflies (BGFs) I've ever seen!  It was taken by professional photographer Spencer Black on June 8, 2013 at Dupont Forest State Park near Hendersonville, NC.  Black, from Asheville, NC is well known for his very-long-exposure night time photography, which is exactly the skill needed to photograph the rare BGFs.

The BGFs do not flash like the more-common yellow-blinking fireflies; instead they burn continuously for 10 seconds to two minutes while flying up to 200 feet horizontally just above the forest floor.  The human eye detects the dim light of the BGF as white or bluish white (thus the name Blue Ghost Fireflies), while the camera records the light as yellowish green.  Only the rods in the human eye detect faint light, the cones of the eye cannot; thus color is not precieved when looking at BGFs----it takes both the rods and the cones working together to precieve color.  The camera captures the true color.  The same phenomenon occurs with astronomers who see only white (or bluish white) stars through the telescope, while a camera attached to the telescope records the true colors.

Looking at the photo, imagine how dark the forest must have been as it took the camera lens 4 hours to capture even this much light!  In addition, probably only a few BGFs were active during the 4 hr exposure; i.e., an observer may have seen only a small number of fireflies at any one time.  Now imagine yourself alone and deep in the woods on a very dark night and seeing a few of these lights moving amid the trees and brush---if you didn't previously know what the BGFs were, you could easily be mystified by the lights.  Given the behavior of the BGFs as highly sensitive to light  (turning off when you turn on a flashlight & only coming back on when your turn your light off) and sensitive to air vibrations (turning off when you walk toward them & turning back on only when you stop moving)----one can easily understand how some uninformed observer can mistakenly think the lights are interacting with them (as in 'intelligent behavior').  We have some anecdotal stories of observers seeing lights that perfectly match those of the BGFs, including stories of some folks who were so terrified of the lights that they ran away or climbed trees to get away from them!  And one observer on Brown Mountain in the early 1960's apparently intrepreted the lights as benovelent beings from Venus and allowed himself to be abducted!

Our research team has verified the existence of BGFs in this area of western NC.  We have seen & collected them at Wiseman's View (7 miles west of Brown Mountain) and Buck Creek Gap (25 miles northwest of Brown Mountain).  In addition, they have reportedly been seen on the east rim of Linville Gorge (5 miles west of Brown Mountain), on Harper's Creek (about 5.5 miles north of Brown Mountain), on North Muddy Creek (about 12 miles southwest of Brown Mountain), at the Highway 181 overlook (3 miles northwest of Brown Mountain) and on Chestnut Mtn (2.5 miles north of Brown Mountain).  We hope to confirm their presence on Brown Mountain this coming spring.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Views from Table Rock 16Oct13

Photography taken from the top of Table Rock last night

Light wind, heavy clouds, and dense haze from high humidity hampered photography last night (16Oct13) from the top of Table Rock (east rim of Linville Gorge).  Numerous hunters were encountered on the access roads and in the parking lot, while 11 campers were found at the summit itself.  Lights from both groups probably could be seen from some of the other popular observation sites; thus anyone out looking for BMLs should be aware of the possibility of the increased present of back-country users at this time of the year.

Hickory, NC City Lights
Clouds slightly illuminated by the moon (hidden behind clouds in upper left corner of photo)
Tripod-mounted Canon EOS REBEL T3i camera w/ 18-50 mm zoom lens
12 second time exposure, ISO-100, f/3.5

Hickory, NC City Lights
Tripod-mounted Canon EOS REBEL T3i camera w/ 75-300 mm zoom lens and 1.4X tele converter
10 second time exposure, ISO-100, f/7.1

Google Data Center building, Lenior, NC
Long row of dim lights just left of center of image; Brown Mountain in foreground
Tripod-mounted Canon EOS REBEL T3i camera w/ 75-300 mm zoom lens and 1.4X tele converter
5 second time exposure, ISO-100, f/8
Stealth Campsite w/ rock fire ring at Little Table Rock
This is the campsite visible in the 29Jul13 photo # 4384 nightime image showing campfire and light
Campsite is at the end of a razorback ridge well below the summit 
and on the southwest side of Table Rock---many folks call this Little Table Rock
N 35.89027; W 81.88752
 Canon EOS REBEL T3i camera w/ 18-50 mm zoom lens
ISO-160, f/3.5