Sunday, January 4, 2015

BML Cam1 Jonas Ridge Camera for December 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 and has recorded over 4,000 hours of night-time images.
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 with low-light sensitive CCD sensors.

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 336 hours of nocturnal observation time on 29 seperate nights during December 2014, resulting in 38,569 individual 30-second time-exposure images. This brings the totals over the past 23 months since start up in Feb 2013 to 4,002 hours of nocturnal observation time on 440 seperate nights resulting in 437,273 individual time-exposure images. Each of these images has been examined in detail by members of our research team.

No abnormal, unusual or unexplained nocturnal lights were recorded by BML Cam1 during December 2014. However, the usual distant city/town/rural lights, airplane lights, and Lenoir's Christmas Star atop Hibriten Mtn were visible this month.  In addition staged hiker lights atop Brown Mountain were visible on Dec 11, while a probable hunter's camp was visible on Dec 4, MedEvac helicopters were visible on Dec 13 & 18, and probable ATV lights were visible on Dec 31.  During the staged hiker light test on Dec 11, an airplane was seen flying very low over Brown Mountain and it's lights were captured by BML Cam1.

The following images are selected to show some significant features visible during December 2014. Note that the camera position does not change during this sequence of images. Blurry or out-of-focus distant lights are caused by: 1) over-saturation of the super-sensitive CCD sensor; 2) movemnt of the lights; &/or 3) rising heat currents that distort the incoming light waves during the time exposures.  Bright lights with light rays extending above & below are also due to the CCD sensor.
Dec 11, 2014  Staged hiker lights on Brown Mountain
Dec 11, 2014  Unknown low-flying airplane passes over hiker during staged light test
 Dec 31, 2014  Lights of two southbound ATVs on Brown Mountain
Dec 13, 2014  MedEvac helicopter northbound over Brown Mountain heading for Lenoir

Dec 13, 2014  MedEvac helicopter leaves Lenoir and flys southbound over Brown Mountain

Friday, January 2, 2015

Numerous ATV Lights on Brown Mountain December 31, 2014

New Year's Eve ATV ride captured by our BML Cam1 overlooking Brown Mountain!

The following image shows the lights of two seperate ATVs on Trail #2 atop Brown Mountain between 8:31 pm and 9:02 pm on December 31, 2014.  The ATVs traveled southward (left-to-right) on the rugged one-way trail and stayed fairly close together during the trip.

Two ATVs traveling together on Trail # 2 atop Brown Mountain

The convoluted trace of Trail # 2 is apparent from the line of lights.  Only about 1 mile of Trail # 2 is visible within the field of view of this photo.  Compare this image with earlier posts of similar ATV lights visible along the trail on Aug 16, 2014 & my handheld spotlight as I hiked the trail on Dec 11, 2014.

ATV Trail # 2 is part of the US Forest Service's Brown Mountain Off-Highway Vehicle Recreation Area (34 miles of maintained ATV trails atop Brown Mountain).  The Recreation Area is open to ATVs from mid-March until Jan 1 each year; thus these were perhaps the last ATVs on the mountian until spring time.  This was not a staged light test and the riders are unknown.

Our BML research team has conducted numerous light tests on Brown Mountain over the past two years and has established that back-country user lights are readily visible at night.  Lights such as these are probably frequently misinterpreted as mystery lights by uninformed and unprepared observers viewing from the popular observation sites like the NC Hwy 181 Overlook and Wiseman's View.