Lights in the sky! It’s wonderful to go out and look up into the night sky and see all the stars glittering in the ‘celestial dome’ above us. The stars are not, however, the only light sources that have fascinated humankind.
Halley’s Comet was “discovered” in 1705 by Edmond Halley. Since it has an orbital period of approx. 75 years, there is no doubt that this comet has been seen numerous times by the ancients, prior to it entering the history books with Halley’s name attached! David Reneke’s article on Halley’s Comet is really worth a visit
Let’s just go somewhat further back in time, to the Bible. The most memorable record of a fireball in the sky is the one visible to the Three Wise Men, who took it as a sign that they had to travel in the same direction as the ‘star’, and found a manger inside of which a carpenter, his wife and newborn child just happened to be temporarily residing.
In the bible, God is credited as the creator of the comets, which inspired the development of the science that demystified them, and which also tells us when He made them. In Genesis 1:14–19, we are read that He creates the heavens and the Earth on Day 1; the sky on Day 2; dry land on Day 3; the stars and heavenly bodies on Day 4 (the Hebrew word for star, כוכב (kokab) refers to any bright heavenly object which, presumably, includes comets as well); all life that lives in water arrived on Day 5; all creatures that live on dry land on Day 6 and, of course He decided to take a well-earned rest on Day 7!
If the heavens were created on Day 1 but the stars and heavenly bodies had to wait until Day 4, the ‘heavens’ was a vast nothingness with a ball of mud called the Earth in the middle of nothing? Frankly this makes little sense in this modern world.
I have to take time out here to say that, as I have mentioned in a previous blog: Bible Inconsistencies, I consider the Bible and similar religious texts, to be of human origin.
Ancient Greek texts record sighting this comet in 466 BC and Chinese scholars noted its’ crossing the skies in 240 BC. Babylonian tablets mark appearances in both 164 and 87 BCE and it is thought that this last appearance was featured on an Armenian coin, with the head of King Tigranes the great, whose crown bears a star with a curved tail! It has been suggested that the Star of Bethlehem, which I previously referred to, was the comet which we now refer to as Halley’s Comet.
Its’ most celebrated appearance is possibly a comet that was visible in
the sky in 1066 and, at that time, it was considered to be an omen for the upcoming battle between the English and invading Normans.
I was interested to discover that Genghis Khan considered the comet his own personal star – delusions of grandeur!
There are references to comets on all continents, for instance Incan comet symbols and their references to sun gods. The The Hidden Records website about this is an incredibly interesting read. I would particularly like to point out that, if you scroll down to the section entitled ‘when the Inti came down from the sky’, the site’s author (who has reproduced the golden sun disc) “realised when holding the disc and viewed it from a side elevation, that the design of this disc reproduces the dimensions and details of all historical accounts of flying discs… as in ancient alien flying discs.” Food for thought.
Seers in ancient India spoke of comets, which you can read more about at http://arxiv.org/abs/1411.7312
The Mayans referred to ‘stars that smoke’ which is well documented at http://www.starteachastronomy.com/mayan.html
Of course, early civilisations attempted to make sense of these visitors to our skies, often considering them to be portents of doom or that they were messages from the gods. Comets were unlike any other object in the night sky. Whereas most celestial bodies travel across the skies at regular, predictable intervals, so regular that constellations could be mapped and predicted, comets’ movements have always seemed very erratic and unpredictable. No wonder they were viewed with awe and much mysticism attached to them. Mayan images show cigar and torch shapes, which we can only guess at being a record of seasonal meteor showers.
Having documented the known light phenomena, I’d like to turn my attention to those which have been viewed, videoed, reported on and which may, or may not, have been debunked.
Modern day light phenomena
There are just so many of these to include! A good proportion of them may well have been mis-identified and the origin of the light is actually entirely explainable, be it plane, car or train lights (or something else!?). In recent years people have picked up on a Chinese tradition of lighting a candle inside a paper lantern, which then they launch into the night sky. Other phenomena are often linked to UFOs, however, these are particularly well documented and I don’t wish to dwell on these as I want to look at other types of light phenomena.
First of all, before we get started on the unexplainable phenomena, there are numerous Youtube videos of what appears to be space junk, or meteors, breaking up in Earth’s atmosphere or falling to Earth. As these travel across the sky, they are quite spectacular to watch. However, in my opinion, it’s the ‘travel across the sky’ bit to keep in mind. Space debris, whether it breaks up in Earth’s atmosphere or falls to Earth, invariably travels in a straight trajectory. It’s when the lights seem to have independent movement that we begin to ask questions about what we’re seeing.
The light phenomena I want to discuss here are those that don’t fit under the fireball/UFO heading.
There’s a fair few where lights are visible in the distance and researchers/paranormal investigators have attempted to find out what causes the light effect. The most common suggestions are (as I’ve previously mentioned) mis-identification of plane, car or train lights but not all of the light ‘displays’ can be attributed to this.
The Paulding Light
I watched an episode of Fact or Faked from 2010 which dealt with this and they decided it was worth going to the location and trying to find out what the cause is and if they could replicate it.
The Paulding Light was first recorded in 1966 and was then supposedly observed appearing every night at that location.
Stories circulated of a ‘legend’ involving the death of a brakeman, that the light is from the lantern held by the brakeman whilst attempting to stop an oncoming train from colliding with railway cars already stationary on the tracks.
The episode showed the team attempting several experiments but they were ultimately unable to recreate the phenomena, using car headlights from a north-south section of US45 and a flyover by an airplane with a spotlight. They carried out an EVP session but their final verdict was “unexplainable”.
In the same year (although I can’t see whether this was before or after the Fact or Faked
investigation) students of Michigan Tech conducted a scientific investigation of the light. Using a telescope to examine the light, they were able to identify vehicles and stationary objects on a highway, clearly enough that they were able to view an ‘adopt a highway’ sign!
It is reported that this team recreated the Paulding Light by having a car drive through a specific stretch of US Highway 45. Their theory was that the stability of an inversion layer (a deviation from the normal change of an atmospheric property with altitude) allowed the lights to be visible from that stretch of highway
4.5 miles away. This does sound credible and likely to be the probable cause of the phenomenon. I have to question why the one team’s attempts were unsuccessful and yet the other appeared able to recreate the phenomenon? Without knowing more about the individual teams’ investigations in order to compare their attempts, we shall never really know why.
Edit 7th September 2015 Having posted this article I then came across The “mysterious” Paulding Light being a video of two locals who record this light appearing in the sky. They talk of the suggestion that it is caused by car lights but then tell us that the light appears red, thus discounting this theory.
Yet the Hood Studios: The Paulding Light Explained seems to tell us they have debunked this. What do you think?
There’s an official Marfa Lights viewing area on Highway 90! This light phenomenon began during the 19th Century.
It is reported that the lights dance on the horizon south-east of the town, an area that is nearly uninhabited and extremely difficult to traverse.
We are told that the lights appear randomly throughout the night, no matter the season or the weather, sometimes red, sometimes blue, sometimes white. For local information have a look at the Visit Marfa website.
There’s a well-written site, by James Bunnell, entitled ‘Strange Lights in West Texas’ that is more scientific and analytical in its’ approach to the Marfa lights. He advises that he’s spent over 10 years researching this phenomenon and that, besides the ‘mystery lights’ he has also isolated ‘night mirages’ . The outcome of his research was aided by research carried out by NASA scientist, Friedemann T. Freund, who proved his theory in a laboratory that igneous rock, when subjected to sufficient stress, starts to acquire electric charges. This led Bunnell to assert that the implications of his findings are significant for a region with high tectonic stress, like Mitchell Flat, where tectonic plates are in collision and massive amounts of igneous rock are being subjected to enormous stress. Bunnell postulates that these circumstances create the right conditions for powerful electrical discharges (i.e. underground lightning) across fault lines deep under Mitchell Flat. Marfa Lights
These lights have been recorded in the Hessdalen valley, in rural central Norway, since the 1930s. They’re slightly different from other light phenomena in that, instead of 2 (or more) orbs of light low in the sky or on the horizon, these float through, and above, the valley, visible from a few seconds to over an hour! They are usually bright white, yellow, or red, and can appear above and below the horizon. Project Hessdalen has been researching the phenomenon since 1983 in an attempt to find the cause of the lights.
A research group, consisting of students, engineers and journalists, collaborated as “The Triangle Project” in 1997–1998 and recorded the lights in a pyramid shape that bounced up and down. In 1998, the Hessdalen Automatic Measurement Station (Hessdalen AMS) was built in the valley and registers and records the appearance of lights.
Later, the EMBLA (Ensemble-based Methods for Environmental Monitoring and Prediction)
programme was initiated which brought together established scientists and students into researching the lights. Leading research institutions are Østfold University College (Norway) and the Italian National Research Council. Their primary undertaking is for greater precision in predicting weather, climate and environmental conditions. Unfortunately, their website doesn’t have any direct mention of Hessdalen:
However, Wikipedia does have some information about research results at https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hessdalen_lights which includes a scientific analysis at the end which reads as total gobbledegook unless you have a Masters degree in science !
Hot on the heels of this, is an article in the Daily Mail which reports that the cause of the lights has been solved.
For almost two decades, the people of Phoenix have experienced this:
Arizona News talks about the 19 years that this phenomenon has been seen in the skies above Phoenix, Arizona.
It appears that, in 1997, residents of the area were outside their homes, hoping to catch sight of the Hale Bop comet and instead, witnessed “giant balls of light that seemed to be attached to something in a mile wide V formation or actual craft,” said Dr. Lynne Kitei, who has since gone on to research this phenomenon. It subsequently was quoted as being “the #1 UFO event caught on tape!”
However, eSkeptic posts in his blog that, as a reporter in Arizona, he DID debunk this years ago, but that it keeps getting regurgitated (don’t these things have a habit of doing this!). He makes some valid points eSkeptic’s article
Brown Mountain Lights
This phenomenon, reports of which first appear in the early 1930s, is reported as a series of ghost lights seen near Brown Mountain in North Carolina. There are a number of vantage points from which to attempt to view these, even an ‘overlook’ which has been updated city of Morganton who recognise that this attraction draws visitors to the area and advise that the best time to visit in the chances of seeing the lights is between September and November. Given that this occurs during such a specific time of year, my own conclusion is that this is a naturally-occurring phenomenon along the lines of those posited for other similar phenomena.
The Brown Mountain Lights official website can give you a better insight, together with video footage,
St. Louis Light aka The St. Louis Ghost Train
Virtual Saskatchewan’s site about the St Louis Ghost Train has some interesting commentary and speculation about it being caused by car lights is refuted by one female observer who, it appears, encountered this phenomenon in broad daylight. However, it seems that although it’s been referred to as a train, there’s no train visible or train sounds, just the light on the abandoned railway tracks. Making an assumption that it’s in some way caused by a train, just because of it’s proximity to the tracks, is rather poor. Further, Wikipedia’s reporting of it mentions a “strange light moving up and down…. changing colours and varying in brightness”. This would rule out a ghostly train, since trains don’t and never did have lights that could change colour, yet alone vary in brightness. So the chances are that this is yet another example of some naturally-occurring phenomenon.
The Gurdon Lights
Atlas obscura puts it succinctly enough “A mysterious light floating in the trees of Gurdon, Arkansas may be a piezoelectric effect”.
Atlas Obscura’s post on the Gurdon Lights
The suggestion of car lights was ruled out as the location is considered to be too far from the highway. Of course, various myths have sprung up very similar to those of other phenomena. “Local legend has it that the light is the lantern of a railroad worker who fell on the tracks and was beheaded, or in another variation the light of a worker who was killed in a brawl on the tracks.” Starting to sound familiar, isn’t it! So the cause has been attributed (but not scientifically proven) to be underground quartz crystals in the area which are under constant stress and cause an electric reaction that results in the glow. Unlike other mysterious lights, the Gurdon Light is reported to always be present, but only visible at night.
The Ozark Spooklight / Hornet Spooklight or the Hollis Light
Whilst this phenomenon is somewhat similar to those I’ve cited previously, it would appear that the first mention of the Spooklight was in a pamphlet called Ozark Spook Light. This was published in 1881 – long before the invention of the automobile! Once again the suggested explanation is that it’s a visual by-product of electrical shifts in the atmosphere, created by large underground metal deposits in the area.
Atlas Obscura about the Ozark spooklight
Odee documents 9 Mysterious Lights Seen In The Sky.
Some are naturally occurring and just fascinating to watch, the others are mystifying.
U.S. Navy Missile Test (U.S.)
The Battle of Los Angeles (U.S.)
The Miracle of the Sun (Portugal)
Ice Crystals (Latvia)
Aerial Lights (U.S.)
Iridescent Clouds (Costa Rica)
The Hessdalen Lights (Norway)
The Norway Spiral (Norway)
The Taurid Meteor Shower (Canada)
To include into this equation another variation on light phenomena some strange lights that appear in the sky which are naturally-occuring but still interesting, all the same:-
St. Elmo’s Fire
ELVES “Emissions of Light and Very low frequency perturbations due to Electromagnetic pulse Sources”
Blue jets and gigantic jets
These are documented at Ten strange lights that appear in the sky
One of the things I haven’t mentioned in regard to light phenomena, but which eSkeptic was quick to point out in his article, is the reality that “the eyeball is a poor instrument for judging the altitude of point sources of light in a night sky.” I concur wholeheartedly. I have an earlier blog post on pareidolia (complete with picture examples) which proves that static things can easily be mis-identified, equally the same can be said for moving objects when viewed in the distance!
I would add to this that our memories also cannot be trusted! Whatever you may have witnessed, should you be asked 10 minutes after the event; an hour after; then a day after; it’s highly likely that your recall of what you experienced will alter. Given time to ponder on it, you’re likely to embellish your re-telling of it (particularly if you subsequently discuss it with others who also saw it) with what you think you saw, and add to your recollection with what others told you they saw.
I am a firm believer that, since we are easily fooled by our senses we need to document what we think we saw/heard/experienced straight after the event. For an objective report of an experience it is important to document what you experienced immediately after, and not allow time to think about the occurrence, or conversations with others, to provide additional input that flaws your ‘evidence’.
To sum up, since I haven’t personally experienced any phenomena of this type, nor am I likely to have the opportunity to do so in the foreseeable future, my conclusions are based on the research that I have carried out.
I’d love the opportunity to see these for myself because I do believe that it’s important to witness these things for a totally objective personal opinion. It’s human nature to jump to conclusions about something, and attribute the cause to something, because that’s what we either expect and/or recognise – much as we do with pareidolia where, for instance, clouds form recognisable shapes but we know that this is purely co-incidence.
Given that very few of these phenomena have had any scientific investigations carried out, the reports that I’ve quoted are from those who witnessed them. However much you try to be objective about things like this, when you’re experiencing something directly, the adrenalin kicks in and you go into “observe” mode. You won’t have thought to make a note about what you’ve experienced straight after, so that you’re not reliant on your memory if you’re subsequently asked about it.
Edit 23/10/2016 So here’s one potential cause of ‘UFO light in the sky’ reports just because of somone flying 1000W LED on Drone https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Gl1xYyGom1g
Did you enjoy this article?
Have you experienced any light phenomena yourself?
I’m sure there are other phenomena that I haven’t yet found out about so, if I’ve missed anything that you think should be included here, let me know!