Wednesday, June 11, 2014

BML Cam1 Jonas Ridge Camera (May-Jun 2013)

Our Brown Mountain Lights research team continues to collect and anaylse information on the nocturnal lights visible in the area of Brown Mountain. This post begins a series of comments and images resulting from the full-time nightly camera (BML Cam1) located on Jonas Ridge and looking east over Brown Mountain. The camera operated for 133 nights between February 12 & December 31, 2013 and recorded nearly 112,000 30- or 60-second time exposure images representing over 1,200 hours of nightly observation. The 2014 images are still being evaluated and will be the subject of future posts.

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 for 2013 and 2014 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 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, highway-vehicle lights, off-highway vehicle 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.

The following selected images for BML Cam1 May-Jun 2013 have a 50-degree field of view (74-124 azimuths) with Brown Mountain visible far in the distance. Annotations on the images are made by me. Note that distances in miles between the camera and the objects identified are given.

Vehicle lights visible on NC Hwy 181 along Ripshin Ridge and Forest Service Road 496. Moving headlights are occasionally seen along FS Road 496, which is a well-maintained gravel road that is open to the public year round and provides access to Table Rock and the east rim of Linville Gorge.
Vehicle lights are also common at the NC Hwy 181 Brown Mountain Overlook. Here vehicle headlights are pointed directly at the camera as the vehicle leaves the overlook. Diffraction/over-saturation/lens flare rays are a common bright-light feature of the highly light-sensitive camera.  City/town/rural lights of Lenoir and Hickory are visible in the distance.

Lightning flashes with over-saturation features.

BML Cam1 is located atop a house on Jonas Ridge. Here lights from the house itself illuminate nearby trees, while vehicle lights are visible along NC Hwy 181 and at the Brown Mountain Overlook. Stars are visible in the sky, while city/town/rural lights of Lenoir and Hickory are also visible over the top of Brown Mountain.

Vehicle headlights at sharp bend on Forest Service Road 496. Also visible are stars in the sky, distance lights of Lenoir and Hickory above Brown Mountain and distant communication tower lights beyond Chestnut Mtn.
Moonrise over Brown Mountain.Diffraction/over-saturation/lens flare rays produced by the bright Wanning Gibbous (75%) moon.


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