Monday, March 2, 2015

New Light on Brown Mountain

The recent cold weather has added a new naturally-occurring light on Brown Mountain!

Snow on the bare rock outcrop that I call Lael's Rock reflects moonlight and creates a bright spot of light on the west side of the mountain.  The image below shows the reflected moonlight from the Waxing Gibbous Moon (57%) about 4 hours before Moon set.  The previous two weeks of zero or below nightly temperatures probably turned the small stream of water that flows onto Lael's Rock into ice, which was then covered by reflective pure white snow.  This patch of snow-covered ice had not yet melted like the snow on the rest of the mountain---leaving an obvious bright white spot on the side of the mountain.  Similar snow-covered rock outcrops can also be seen in the foreground of the image.

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 and has recorded over 4,000 hours of night-time images.

Who could mistake this light as  'mysterious'?  Probably not many people would be fooled, but with the number of people we've seen so far who are unsure of what they see, anything is possible.
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.

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