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.

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