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Old 31st August 2021, 10:37 PM   #1
DevilsAdvocate
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Mystery lights

I have been seeing mystery lights in the sky about every few months for a number of years. Maybe someone can't help figure out what they are.

I live in a condominium. There are a few identical condo buildings to the left. There is an empty field to the right. It is a three floor building. I live on the second floor. I have a balcony on the back of the building. The balcony is recessed a bit, so there are brick walls on either side that extend about 3 feet past the edge of the balcony. There is a third story balcony above. This creates a sort of framed view of the back yard.

Behind the building is about 80 feet of grass. Then there is a long line of trees about 20-30 feet deep. The trees are about 60-80 feet tall. Behind that is a prairie. There is a house behind there off to the left side.

Every so often I see something that looks like a shooting star behind the trees. It actually looks more like a falling ember from fireworks. A bright light trailing light behind it with small sparks or embers falling off behind it. The light is white or maybe sometimes light yellow. The lights are always falling at a slight downward angle.

They always appear behind the trees and go slightly down behind the trees. Usually they appear from behind a tall tree, but sometimes they comes from the side where I can't see or I just happen to notice them and don't see where they came from. They are usually going from left to right, but I have seen a few that go right to left. From those trajectories, they must just be coming out of the air somehow.

They don't move really fast, but fall quickly. Because of my view, I can only get a quick glimpse before they fall behind the trees.

I usually see them at night, which is when I am usually out on the balcony, but have seems them a few times during the day. Both clear nights and cloudy nights.

At first I thought it might be bird catching fireflies and the flies lighting up as the bird catch them and carry them away. But I have seen them when fireflies are not around and even during the day when there is clearly no other object near the light.

The buildings do not have fireplaces (well, there are gas fireplaces). Heating and air machines are in each condo unit. There doesn't appear to be anything on the building rooftops.

I just saw one. It is very quite. Everyone is asleep. People go to bed rather early around here. I was out back thinking and just happened to staring right where it appears behind a tall tree and then went behind the other trees. I saw it very clearly. I could tell it was right behind the line of trees. Bright white with little bits of with light flying off behind it.

This has perplexed me for years. Anybody got any ideas?
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Old 31st August 2021, 11:44 PM   #2
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It's obviously an alien spacecraft.
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Old 1st September 2021, 02:26 AM   #3
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I wouldn't want to venture a guess without something like a clear daytime photograph of your POV of the area in question. I know you've gone to a lot of effort to describe it verbally, but you've described the things that seem most important to you whereas something small you may have dismissed as unimportant, or which you may not even have consciously noticed at all, may be the actual answer to the mystery.

At the same time, I cannot advise you strongly enough to just never post such a photo, since it could pinpoint your location and you just don't want to do that on the modern internet.
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Old 1st September 2021, 04:28 AM   #4
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Somebody throwing cigarette butts from a balcony.
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Old 1st September 2021, 04:49 AM   #5
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If the lights in question are consistently seen in the same direction and the same time, then I would look for an airport in the direction of the lights.

And if there is such an airport, then I would say that the lights in question are airplanes landing and/or taking off from that airport since these lights are seen during periods of darkness.

After all, aircraft landing lights can be seen for many miles given the proper meteorological conditions.
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Old 1st September 2021, 12:50 PM   #6
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I vote aircraft if you have ruled out Venus.

Sometimes depending on the angle, planes can look like they are doing strange things but if you were to see the same plane from the side it would look like you expect it to.
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Old 1st September 2021, 01:08 PM   #7
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Why don't you go and take a look? Try to get closer; the other side the trees.

Looking at things from a different angle often provides an explanation for the otherwise unexplained.

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Old 1st September 2021, 01:58 PM   #8
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Another vote for aircraft. One effect thatís especially noticeable is sunlight. When youíre in an area thatís under cloud cover, in shade, or already in twilight/dusk conditions, an airplane far away and/or high in the air can still be in sunlight. Iíve seen the effect before, and itíll look like itís glowing or shiningÖa lot like a shooting star. Just another possibility, if that fits your circumstances. From your description, it sounds like your balcony may be shaded more (buildings on two sides and trees on the fourth), which brought this to mind.


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Old 1st September 2021, 02:02 PM   #9
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I'm wondering if someone is shooting off some of the quieter type of fireworks of some kind, like a roman candle or something similar.
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Old 1st September 2021, 03:13 PM   #10
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You guys are awfully quick to rule out psychotic episode.
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Old 1st September 2021, 05:33 PM   #11
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Here is another possibility from the "real world". I base this on personal experience from when I used to participate in the sport of Endurance Riding. I used to go out training in a rural area near where I lived. This training involves riding at night through forestry roads. Training at night helps to accustom you and your horse to nighttime riding because most longer events such as 160km trails (called "100 milers in the US") would frequently start at 3am or 4am and not finish for the last riders until well after sunset. This has nothing to do with the lights themselves, I'm just explaining why I was in a position to see them.

There was one particular place on my regular training track (right at the top of a ridge on a "skid site") where I would occasionally see something similar to what you describe. Across at the top of the next valley, I would see see lights, barely moving in the treeline, then suddenly one of them would dart off, diving to the right or left or even downwards and then disappear, looking like it was flickering and in some cases I even thought I saw sparks.

At first I used to think it was just a bunch grunter hunters tacking wild pigs (early morning and late night is a typical time for pig hunters to be out doing their thing). The other thing it could have been was cannabis growers tending their patches of green, but the times of year I saw this was often wrong for the cannabis growing season. It was only after I consulted a local topographic map to locate exactly where it was, and went up there to take a look around during the day that it dawned on me what I was seeing. I found a fairly extensive mountain bike track, and a quick check of the compass directions showed some parts of the track coming up the other side of a ridge-line across flat part so that the riders were coming directly towards where I would be when I saw the lights. The tracks went down the near side of the ridge straight down or down to the left or right. What I was seeing was the helmet lights or bike lights of these mountain bikers as they headed across the ridge towards me, and then dropped down the track on the near side The flickering was the lights being intermittently occulted by trees and branches. I don't have an actual explanation of the sparks I saw, but it was possibly some kind of after-image in the eyes.

Unsurprisingly, this sort of thing has happened before.
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Old 1st September 2021, 05:58 PM   #12
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And the All Time Classic Ghost Lights:

The Marfa LightsWP
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Old 1st September 2021, 11:31 PM   #13
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Thank for all the suggestions.

I can’t prove that it is not an alien spacecraft.

I don’t think a photo would help much. You would just see trees with a bit of sky above.

I only see the lights on rare occasions. Just one light each time. Then it maybe weeks or months before seeing another one. Maybe 3-5 lights per year. Usually in the summer. I’m trying to remember, and I think I have seen them in the winter, but I’m not sure. I’m not out on the balcony much in the winter because it gets rather cold here.

It is too far out to the trees for a cigarette butt. In the day time that would look like a cigarette butt and not a light. That would also be red or orange instead of white. The lights are larger than a cigarette. About 4-6 times larger than the brightest star I can see.

It is fairly flat around here. Because of the height of the trees anything above the trees is just sky. There isn’t anything tall enough to have any lights passing by at that height.

Nearest small airport is about 20-25 miles away. I do see airplanes lights sometimes suddenly appear from behind the trees. For a while I thought maybe that was what I was seeing. They didn’t look like airplane lights, but these lights are only visible for maybe a second. By the time I see it, I often just catch a glimpse. But on occasion, like last night, I happen to be looking in the right spot and get a good look. It doesn’t look anything like airplane lights.

Airplane lights tends to be a bit more dull and not as bright and sparkly. The lights don’t flash. Also, I never see airplane lights with a light trail behind them. Previously lights seemed to have sparks coming off the back but it is hard to be sure because it so fast, but the one I saw last night definitely had tiny white light dots coming off the back.

Venus was below the horizon last night. The lights move at a downward angle (not a steep angle) so it can’t be a star or planet. A satellite would be too slow.

I don’t think it is fireworks. I have seen the lights very late at night. As I said, people go to bed rather early here. If someone was back there setting off roman candles I think I would hear them.

I have considered a psychotic episode. Well, at least a psychological illusion. Maybe I blink my eyes and it causes the appearance of a light. Maybe some retinal image. But I only see the lights here. And they clearly go behind the trees, so it isn’t some illusory light in front of my eyes.

I have considered a reflection in the window or my glasses. But I can’t recreate the effect. And any reflection I can create has the light in front of the trees instead of behind.
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Old 1st September 2021, 11:46 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by Gord_in_Toronto View Post
Why don't you go and take a look? Try to get closer; the other side the trees.

Looking at things from a different angle often provides an explanation for the otherwise unexplained.

This is the best suggestion so far. Get closer to it and investigate, Watson!
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Old 1st September 2021, 11:50 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by GraculusTheGreenBird View Post
This is the best suggestion so far. Get closer to it and investigate, Watson!
It's not like DA can predict when it's going to happen.

DA, from your description of the flare it seems to me that a meteor is the most likely explanation, but it seems strange that it's always in a similar location. Are you under the flight path of any rocket missions, perhaps? It could be a fairing or other non-recoverable piece of a spacecraft.
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Old 2nd September 2021, 12:24 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by GraculusTheGreenBird View Post
This is the best suggestion so far. Get closer to it and investigate, Watson!
I have gone out to look before. Based on this suggestion, and my renewed interest in solving the mystery, I went out for a look today.

The rooftops do have some vents. The vents are identical to a vent from my place that comes out of the side of the building. Same vertical location, but going up instead of out. For my place, that vent goes into a tube into the utility closet and is labeled "fresh air". The vent has a screen over the top. I doubt that any sort of ember or anything is flying off those vents and causing these lights.

Investigating further is a bit difficult. I don't really want to go tromping through the woods in the middle of the night. Behind the trees is a gravel road that is the driveway to the house that is back there. It is someone else's property.

I'm liable to have an old farmer coming at me with a shotgun asking why I'm sneaking around the property. But I'm a country boy and have been in that position before and know how to handle myself. So I went out today snooping around a bit. The road is visible from the house, so I didn't stay long.

Not much to see. I didn't find anything that looked like it might have been something on fire that fell down there. Just a road then some grass and then prairie and some forest. Garage and the house off the the left.

Down the road a bit there is a parked semi. In the winter when there are no leaves on the trees I can see a bit through the trees and have seen that semi there from time to time. Is it possible the semi kicked up some sort of exhaust that would cause these lights? I would think it would have to be running, and if it is running it is certainly close enough that I would hear it.
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Old 2nd September 2021, 12:36 AM   #17
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There is a natural explanation. I too have seen on two occasions separated by many years, a falling to earth, light. It was similar to your description, but was a bright emerald green with a short tail of yellow/orange sparks, but falling slowly like a flare. When I researched this, I discovered that it is possibly extra terrestrial material burning up in the atmosphere but unlike a meteorite, it has lost momentum in its descent. The colour indicates the type of material as it burns.
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Old 2nd September 2021, 12:42 AM   #18
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
It's not like DA can predict when it's going to happen.

DA, from your description of the flare it seems to me that a meteor is the most likely explanation, but it seems strange that it's always in a similar location. Are you under the flight path of any rocket missions, perhaps? It could be a fairing or other non-recoverable piece of a spacecraft.
I'm not around an Airforce base or anything like that. I can't find anybody else around here who has see these types of lights.

Right now meteors seem like the most likely explanation, but that still seems a bit problematic. I have seen shooting stars and they don't look like these. These are larger and brighter and at least appear to be much closer. It is difficult to tell whether they are actually close or not because they are just lights in the sky.

When there are meteor showers I often go out on the balcony to watch and I never see any. Unlike meteors, the lights I see are never coming down largely vertical. It is more horizontal, but always descending. It looks like an ember flying and falling slowly.

I have just watched some videos of meteor and they look very very much like what I see. Bright white light. Trailing light. Sparks flying off the back.

But I grew up in the country. The edge of a small town. Lots of camping and fishing. Lived in rural areas. I have never seen anything like this except for here.
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Old 2nd September 2021, 12:46 AM   #19
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Flare? Don't know why someone might be shooting off flares in the area, but maybe?
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Old 2nd September 2021, 01:00 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Flare? Don't know why someone might be shooting off flares in the area, but maybe?
Seems very unlikely. Flares are meant to go up and burn and then come down. These are moving mostly horizontal with a slight decent. Also, I can't image why there would be so many flares. Or if there were, that the police wouldn't be responding.
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Old 2nd September 2021, 01:36 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
Seems very unlikely. Flares are meant to go up and burn and then come down. These are moving mostly horizontal with a slight decent. Also, I can't image why there would be so many flares. Or if there were, that the police wouldn't be responding.
Then I'm back to thinking about rocket debris.
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Old 2nd September 2021, 01:56 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
Then I'm back to thinking about rocket debris.
Is there some chart or map or information about rocket debris? I just watched some videos of SpaceX rocket debris. The debris moves very very slow compared to the lights I see.
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Old 2nd September 2021, 07:02 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
Nearest small airport is about 20-25 miles away. I do see airplanes lights sometimes suddenly appear from behind the trees. For a while I thought maybe that was what I was seeing. They didnít look like airplane lights, but these lights are only visible for maybe a second. By the time I see it, I often just catch a glimpse. But on occasion, like last night, I happen to be looking in the right spot and get a good look. It doesnít look anything like airplane lights.

Airplane lights tends to be a bit more dull and not as bright and sparkly. The lights donít flash. Also, I never see airplane lights with a light trail behind them. Previously lights seemed to have sparks coming off the back but it is hard to be sure because it so fast, but the one I saw last night definitely had tiny white light dots coming off the back.
If it's in about the same part of the sky as planes, that tells me it's planes. The details are just a matter of what makes one plane look different from another plane.

Different lenses on the lights, for example, will do different amounts of focusing/scattering by different means. To use cars as a convenient example because the same principle applies to them, I'm sure we've all seen cases where one oncoming car hits a bump in the road and nothing really seems to happen with its lights except some slight gentle vertical movement, then the next car hits the same bump and suddenly its headlights seem to blink on & off a few times while radically jerking up & down. Why? The second one's headlights are in a narrower beam, which seems on when it's pointed right at your eyes and off when it isn't. (Also the vehicles' suspensions could behave in two different ways.)

For any observations with the sun below the horizon but not very far below, it doesn't even need to be the plane's lights; it can be a reflection from the sun. Observations under even slightly different atmospheric conditions will also result in one thing looking like several different things depending on how the air distorts the signal.
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Old 2nd September 2021, 08:09 AM   #24
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If you can't get closer physically, then take a look via Google Maps using the satellite view. Look for roads, buildings, etc.
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Old 2nd September 2021, 08:47 AM   #25
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Could be a variant on my reflected sunlight idea, maybe with light reflecting from contrails? Sounds like it may be too ďfastĒ for that, though


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Old 2nd September 2021, 11:36 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by arthwollipot View Post
It's not like DA can predict when it's going to happen.

DA, from your description of the flare it seems to me that a meteor is the most likely explanation, but it seems strange that it's always in a similar location. Are you under the flight path of any rocket missions, perhaps? It could be a fairing or other non-recoverable piece of a spacecraft.
A meteor would not fall in the same place repeatedly.

A satellite flare OTOH might recur in about the same place. But it doesn't fit the description exactly.


DA: as for it not looking like other aircraft, that doesn't seem relevant. Since when do all aircraft lights look the same?

What about the trail? I'd have to see the trail to take a guess on that.

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Old 2nd September 2021, 07:08 PM   #27
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By any chance does that gravel road beyond the trees (parallel to the tree line, it sounds like) have utility wires on poles along it?

I'm thinking, a moving reflection from the wires due to headlights or sun reflection from a vehicle that travels along the road.
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Old 2nd September 2021, 07:13 PM   #28
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I think the variety of suggestions being offered in this thread is a good demonstration of why "it can't possibly be anything else" is such a vapid argument. There's no way you can have thought of all the things it could possibly be.
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Old 2nd September 2021, 07:34 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
By any chance does that gravel road beyond the trees (parallel to the tree line, it sounds like) have utility wires on poles along it?

I'm thinking, a moving reflection from the wires due to headlights or sun reflection from a vehicle that travels along the road.
That bolded bit is a good suggestion.
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Old 2nd September 2021, 07:54 PM   #30
DevilsAdvocate
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Originally Posted by Myriad View Post
By any chance does that gravel road beyond the trees (parallel to the tree line, it sounds like) have utility wires on poles along it?

I'm thinking, a moving reflection from the wires due to headlights or sun reflection from a vehicle that travels along the road.
Good suggestion, but there are no poles are wires back there. There isn't anything up that high.

I have thought about a reflection. I think in some thread here I told the story of the Mystery of the Glowing Orb. That was a different light mystery back in those trees. For a couple nights I kept seeing a glowing orb back in the trees hovering about a foot off the ground. It would slowly fade out, then come back and pulsate, then go out again. It kept happening. I eventually investigated. It turns out it was a sheet of clear plastic caught in some tall weeds. There is a light above the back door to the building. I was standing on the deck in just the right position where it would reflect that light to me off the plastic. A gently breeze would slowly move the sheet back and forth causing it to pulse and fade in and out.

Yesterday when I walked back there I was looking for any plastic but didn't see anything, although a small piece would be hard to find without a much more thorough search. I don't know what light would be reflected way up there, but without actually getting into the position above the trees it is difficult to tell.

I wouldn't exclude a light reflecting off something flying around back there. But the lights are always moving in a straight line moving somewhat downward. There aren't blowing around.

Now that I think about it, I don't recall ever seeing a light on a particularly windy night.
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Old 2nd September 2021, 10:52 PM   #31
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Fireflies ??? right time of year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BOjTMkyfIA
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Old 3rd September 2021, 03:43 AM   #32
W.D.Clinger
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Originally Posted by macdoc View Post
Fireflies ??? right time of year.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0BOjTMkyfIA
Fireflies seem likely to me too.

DevilsAdvocate rejected fireflies as an explanation in his/her original post, but the reasons given for that rejection were not terribly convincing:
Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
At first I thought it might be bird catching fireflies and the flies lighting up as the bird catch them and carry them away. But I have seen them when fireflies are not around and even during the day when there is clearly no other object near the light.
Fireflies light up even when birds are not around. And how does DevilsAdvocate know fireflies were not around when the lights were seen? And it seems to me that "clearly no other object near the light" when the lights are seen during the day should count as evidence in favor of fireflies rather than evidence against.
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Old 3rd September 2021, 10:04 AM   #33
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It shouldn't be too hard to distinguish a Bic from a Zippo.
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Old 3rd September 2021, 01:20 PM   #34
Gord_in_Toronto
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post
It shouldn't be too hard to distinguish a Bic from a Zippo.
You'll need a spectrometer. Start here to make one using your cell phone:

http://physicsbuzz.physicscentral.co...meter-for.html
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Old 15th September 2021, 08:52 PM   #35
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I was just out on the deck and I saw something strange. It was a plane. I know it was a plane. I saw the plane lights. I could hear it.

I first saw it through some branches in the tops of the trees. That made the lights flicker a bit, but I could easily identify it as a plane. As it got higher it when behind some thicker leaves and disappeared. Then, as expected, it appears over the tops of the trees.

What is strange is that when it was clearly over the tops of the tress the lights were flickering. I thought it was flashing its lights for some reason, which is not what I typically see (sometimes there is one flashing light). But that only lasted maybe a second or so and when it got just a bit higher the lights were all solid.

The plane was probably coming from that airport about 25 miles in that direction. There is a city about 5 miles further. That creates quite a bit of light pollution that makes it easy to see the tops of the trees. The trees don't have a bunch of branches sticking up. The "skyline" of the tops of the trees is quite well defined.

It wasn't exactly what I normally see. But it was close. From a different angle and moving faster, it would be a close match. If the brighter lights were aligned and the smaller light was visible and it appeared to be flashing, it could look like sparks.

I think maybe I am seeing planes circling in to land at the airport. Maybe. But I am curious about the flashing. I have definitely seen the flashing when the lights are not behind branches. But that is what I just saw.

Is there some optical effect that would make lights in the night sky appearing from behind something appear to flash even though they are not flashing?
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Old 15th September 2021, 09:57 PM   #36
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Moving patches of warmer or cooler air can change the direction of a light ray. That effect gets bigger & more likely over longer distances. For a light source that's evenly putting out light in all directions, that might not make it seem to switch on & off, but just make it seem to wave & wobble instead, because even when the light momentarily can't reach you in a straight line, it might still reach you in a slightly bent line. But, the more narrowly a light beam is focused in a particular direction (such as "forward" for headlights on vehicles including flying ones), the more likely it is to make it seem to switch on & off, because if it's not pointed in a direction that will reach you, then it's just not pointed in a direction that will reach you; the nearby alternative angles that could reach you don't have light being sent along them. It's the same thing that makes focused-beamed car headlights seem to flicker when they hit a bump or dip in the road.
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Old 16th September 2021, 03:16 AM   #37
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Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
Seems very unlikely. Flares are meant to go up and burn and then come down. These are moving mostly horizontal with a slight decent. Also, I can't image why there would be so many flares. Or if there were, that the police wouldn't be responding.
Is there a military training area nearby? They could be illuminating flares (we use handheld Shermullys), though I would have thought that you would hear the gunfire if you were close enough to see the flares.
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Old 16th September 2021, 07:11 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by DevilsAdvocate View Post
I was just out on the deck and I saw something strange. It was a plane. I know it was a plane. I saw the plane lights. I could hear it.

I first saw it through some branches in the tops of the trees. That made the lights flicker a bit, but I could easily identify it as a plane. As it got higher it when behind some thicker leaves and disappeared. Then, as expected, it appears over the tops of the trees.

What is strange is that when it was clearly over the tops of the tress the lights were flickering. I thought it was flashing its lights for some reason, which is not what I typically see (sometimes there is one flashing light). But that only lasted maybe a second or so and when it got just a bit higher the lights were all solid.

The plane was probably coming from that airport about 25 miles in that direction. There is a city about 5 miles further. That creates quite a bit of light pollution that makes it easy to see the tops of the trees. The trees don't have a bunch of branches sticking up. The "skyline" of the tops of the trees is quite well defined.

It wasn't exactly what I normally see. But it was close. From a different angle and moving faster, it would be a close match. If the brighter lights were aligned and the smaller light was visible and it appeared to be flashing, it could look like sparks.

I think maybe I am seeing planes circling in to land at the airport. Maybe. But I am curious about the flashing. I have definitely seen the flashing when the lights are not behind branches. But that is what I just saw.

Is there some optical effect that would make lights in the night sky appearing from behind something appear to flash even though they are not flashing?
I'm leaning towards airplanes as well. The bright lights they use on takeoff and landing but then turn off once they're airborne, plus the blinking lights they always have on. That might be the flashing - the blinking lights they always have on, but which would not always be visible from every angle, it would depend on how the airplane is oriented relative to the viewer.

In flat terrain those lights can be visible from very far away. I used to go camping in Death Valley National Park, in one area (way up in the hills way down in the south end of the park) we could watch the landing lights from McCarren Airport in Las Vegas, maybe about 100 miles from us.

If it is smaller airplanes from a smaller airport, not on a busy daily schedule they could appear at odd times.
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Old 17th September 2021, 04:58 AM   #39
Hellbound
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Mystery lights

Just to toss in $.02,apparent flashing can also be caused by movement. The landing lights are directed forward and down (from the plane), so as it maneuvers (adjusting pitch and turning) that could make it look like flash or flicker.

Depends on the frequency of flashing whether or not thatís a viable possibility


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Old 17th September 2021, 05:20 AM   #40
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DevilsAdvocate:

Hello there.

Can you provide the latitude and longitude of your location when you see these lights?

Also, can you provide the time of day when you see these lights and the direction in which the lights are seen?

If so, then it may possible to determine if the source of the lights is likely due to aircraft operating from a nearby airport/private airfield.

Thanks.
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