Dashed Lights Coming From the Sky [Likely long exposure + flash + flickering lights]

November

Member
Hello All.

I am new to this board. I stumbled on it from Twitter.

I was wondering if anyone could tell me what might explain this photo.

It was taken in 1992, in the desert, during a time of increased earthquake activity.
We had had a 7.4 approximately a week earlier, and I was trying to get a photograph of the "glow" that was over the hills at nights.

The camera is facing west toward hills, they are dark, there are no houses or roads there. This was intentional. I don't know what time it was, sometime between 8 p.m and midnight.

What would explain this?
I have other photos that do show squiggled lights, due to time exposure I assume (I'm not a photographer), but nothing like this.

In the foreground on the right, I think that is a street sign.

I appreciate any information you could give me.

Thank You.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Here's a levels-adjusted version


it looks fairly clearly like it's a long exposure. It's a scan of a film-based photo, not originally digital.

It also looks like two lights, flashing rapidly, and either they are moving, or the camera is moving.

I would suspect that the camera is moving. Given the illumination of the road, I'd suspect that a flash was fired, but there was a maybe 1 second exposure, and the photographer moved the camera (tilt down a bit, turn to the right, then tilt down again) after the flash fired, no realising it was still exposing.

I suspect the lights are pair of LED, or LED light clusters. Some LED's appear to be on constantly, but actually flicker on and off, and this is seen in a long exposure.

It's possible they are a reflection, if the photo was taken through glass.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
To illustrate what I'm saying about LED's Here's a 0.4 second exposure of my scanner, showing the Green LED:

Here's the same picture with the camera moving:

Here's it with 0.4 seconds plus flash


The above photos with the yellow dashed line look rather artificial. But they are genuine photos, straight out the camera. I just took them a few minutes ago.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
So my tentative theory is that the photo was taken from inside a car, and is showing the reflection of some LEDs within the car, possibly something like a radar detector.
 

Pete Tar

Senior Member.
What was the visual you were trying to capture - what did your eyes see?
Was the appearance of the photo a surprise?
That would most likely make it an artefact of the camera rather than the capture of something objectively there.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
And do you remember the EXACT location? Meaning might there have been some kind of box down the road a bit - like a roadside assistance box.

You say you think there is a street sign in the foreground to the right. But I don't see anything.
 
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NoParty

Senior Member.
I took "foreground" in this case, to mean that little rectangular reflective sign (?) just to the right of where the yellow dashed lines begin.
Mick's pics are ridiculously similar! Soon they'll have their own page on YouTube…proof of some kinda false flag.
My only reservation with the "LED" theory, is that I don't think of them as being widely used in 1992
(I mean, I know the technology existed long before, but I don't remember seeing many until a few years later…
I could be wrong, and don't even understand why LEDs are more likely here than some other 1992 light source).
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
My only reservation with the "LED" theory, is that I don't think of them as being widely used in 1992
(I mean, I know the technology existed long before, but I don't remember seeing many until a few years later…
I could be wrong, and don't even understand why LEDs are more likely here than some other 1992 light source).
I suspect LED's because of the flickering. Regular incandescent lights would show up as solid streaks.

1992 seems pre-technological now, but back in 1992 there were things like radar detectors. There were also alarms, and stereos. Things which had LED lights - and generally red, like the lights in the photo - because in 1992, red was the only color LEDs could cheaply be.

Example, a radar detector from 1992 (at least based on a similar 1992 model):
http://longlonghoneymoon.com/2013/07/review-valentine-one-radar-detector/

 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I took "foreground" in this case, to mean that little rectangular reflective sign (?) just to the right of where the yellow dashed lines begin.


The key question there would be if there was a flash. If there was a flash, and this is indeed a sign, then that would point towards the camera moving.

If there was no flash, and this is some reflective sign, them that means the camera was not moving. Which would be a lot harder to explain (but not at all impossible).

I lean towards flash.
 
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NoParty

Senior Member.
Hmmm…I always think of fluorescents as rapidly turning off and on, but not LEDs. But that makes sense.
However, I still wouldn't expect large ones in '92…the pic is just too dark and grainy for me to have
any confidence re. the scale of those light trails. If they're scaling a mountain, that explains the direction,
but not the size. I think. Ack, I wouldn't even bother speculating, except that we (think we) have the actual photographer. :0

p.s. Sure LOOKS like a modern, reflective street sign...
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Hmmm…I always think of fluorescents as rapidly turning off and on, but not LEDs. But that makes sense.
However, I still wouldn't expect large ones in '92…the pic is just too dark and grainy for me to have
any confidence re. the scale of those light trails. If they're scaling a mountain, that explains the direction,
but not the size.
Certainly not the size. One thing that is apparent is that the lights are the same distance apart through the whole movement. So it's clearly not the tail-lights of a car driving up a mountain. Everything points to camera movement.

p.s. Sure LOOKS like a modern, reflective street sign...
Looks like a bright white horizontal line. I'm not sure what street sign looks like that. White with a reflective coating.
 

NoParty

Senior Member.
Looks like a bright white horizontal line. I'm not sure what street sign looks like that. White with a reflective coating.
Well, again, I think it's too damned small to tell (I'm no YouTube CT expert),
:) but when I zoom in, it appears to me to have a slight greenish cast…
but kind of overexposed by light hitting it…again, pure conjecture.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Well, again, I think it's too damned small to tell (I'm no YouTube CT expert),
:) but when I zoom in, it appears to me to have a slight greenish cast…
but kind of overexposed by light hitting it…again, pure conjecture.
It's a scan of a print. So unfortunately, not going to be very accurate in the color department.
 

November

Member
Yes, the reflection pointed out in Post 9 -- I am fairly sure is a street sign.

I am thinking, if I remember right, yes the flash was on, but I think I placed the camera on the vehicle, so there would not be movement.
It was taken from outside the car.
I went to that spot intentionally, because I wanted as little interfering light as possible.

There was a glow over the hills every night, during significant earthquake activity in the area (20,000 aftershocks that summer), so I was trying to get a photograph of that glow.

The road ended about where the strange lights hit the road. (3/4 - 1 mile?) That's where the hills began. No lights in the hills.
There is a small dirt road that goes through the hills, but those lights are definitely not on that dirt road.
I can't think of any reason why there would be any LED's in the middle of that road. And no lights at all were in front of me.

I made sure of that.

I do remember the exact location.
It was a small, desert neighborhood, with no reason at all for there to be any sort of call box or anything on that road. That road just led straight to the hills.

I can't understand why the street sign doesn't show any movement.

I did not see these lights.

This photograph has baffled me for years.

Hey thanks for the cool image for my identity. It's perfect. :)
 
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November

Member
Here is a view of the hills from the south/east. In the night photo, I was standing on a road that was directly east, and that small hill you see on the bottom right side of this picture, would have been to my left in the night picture.

You can see the earthquake faults that appeared in the hills.

Those lights over the hills -- I never knew if they were stars that somehow appeared in the daytime, or some sort of "gas" balls coming out of the ground -- maybe causing the night time glow.

I do see the similarity in the LED photos you all have shown me. I just can't think of any reason at all why there would be an LED in front of the car.
If anything it would have had to have been a half-mile down the road at least. Would a camera pick up an LED light from a half-mile away?





Here is another picture of the lights:
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Yes, the reflection pointed out in Post 9 -- I am fairly sure is a street sign.

I am thinking, if I remember right, yes the flash was on, but I think I placed the camera on the vehicle, so there would not be movement.
It was taken from outside the car.
I went to that spot intentionally, because I wanted as little interfering light as possible.

There was a glow over the hills every night, during significant earthquake activity in the area (20,000 aftershocks that summer), so I was trying to get a photograph of that glow.

The road ended about where the strange lights hit the road. (3/4 - 1 mile?) That's where the hills began. No lights in the hills.
There is a small dirt road that goes through the hills, but those lights are definitely not on that dirt road.
I can't think of any reason why there would be any LED's in the middle of that road. And no lights at all were in front of me.
Probably we won't be able to nail this one down 100%, as so much time has passed (the original location/car/camera will have changed or no-longer exist), and the photo is not digital. We might be able to arrive at some plausible theories though.

If the camera was outside the car, then LEDs in the car only seem to be an option if they were reflecting off something. Can you tell use the make/model of the car, and where you might have placed the camera?

Do you remember any electronic equipment (like a radar detector) that might have had LEDs?

Did you bring along other equipment, like a video camera? that might have had LEDs?


I do remember the exact location.
It was a small, desert neighborhood, with no reason at all for there to be any sort of call box or anything on that road. That road just led straight to the hills.
Can you say exactly, like lat/long, or the name of the road/intersection? It's useful to look at the shooting situation in Google Earth.

I can't understand why the street sign doesn't show any movement.
Because it's just lit once, by the flash. The LEDs.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Here's a bit of speculation, not incredibly likely, but worth considering.

Consider the white "road sign"- the white bar - it's approximately the same width as the two red lights together. Here I've moved it underneath:


It's the same horizontal configuration of two brighter dots, perfectly horizontal.

What if it's actually the same thing? There's a long exposure, the white bar is from the flash. Then the camera moves a bit, and during that time the bar is illuminated by something red and flickering. Possibly the auto-focus assist light on a different camera?
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
What were you using for light? It was the middle of the night, and no street lights, so did you have a flashlight? Use the car lights?
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Another source of double horizontal reflectors is deer.

This would still need a flickering light source though.

Insects can produce some interesting lines with long exposure, but the doubled up horizontal nature tends to indicate it's not an insect.
upload_2013-11-10_9-20-26.png
 
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solrey

Senior Member.
Is there a small airport somewhere on the other side of those hills or otherwise in the nearby area? They could be wing tip strobes of a plane. Notice how the two parallel lights blend into one and are a bit brighter in between the corners? Reminds me of a plane making a couple of turns and the change in perspective in the relative position of the wing tips to an observer on the ground. The close up shows the lights are not exactly opposite of each other, they're offset in the way that unsynchronized wing tip strobes would be on a time lapse. Wouldn't LED's on the same circuit oscillate at the same frequency and thus be in sync on a time lapse? And if they were two parallel stationary lights wouldn't they remain parallel throughout the exposure rather than coming together between the corners? A plane making turns is all I can come up with to explain that.

I think it could be a small plane. And sound can carry in odd ways in the hills so a plane that seems relatively close might not be heard.

Here's a long exposure of planes taking off from SFO at night.



http://www.amusingplanet.com/2011/05/long-exposure-shots-of-airline-takeoffs.html

If there is any source of lights on the other side of the hills, like an airport, small town or even a truck stop, that could be the source of the "glow" above the hills. We often see a glow of light above the treetops when looking in the direction of the college football stadium about a mile or so away. For some reason on most nights they leave the lights on all night even though they tout themselves as a "green" university.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
I'm pretty confident it's camera movement causing the line, and not the object moving. The main reason is that the start and the end segments maintain the exact same spacing:


Also the light on the left is one pixel or so higher than the right, and this seems consistent through the whole path.

And the path taken makes no sense for a plane in 3D, given the very even lengths of flashes. Plus there's no constant light.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
@November, any chance of getting a better quality scan? Like 300dpi (or higher, preferably 600), saved as a PNG? The current JPG has a lot of compression noise.

600DPI JPG would be fine too.
 
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JRBids

Senior Member.
Hello All.

I am new to this board. I stumbled on it from Twitter.

I was wondering if anyone could tell me what might explain this photo.

It was taken in 1992, in the desert, during a time of increased earthquake activity.
.
What do you think increased earthquake activity would contribute to this photo? It seems as if you put that in there because it had some importance.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
What do you think increased earthquake activity would contribute to this photo? It seems as if you put that in there because it had some importance.
November was trying to capture a different phenomenon, a reported "glow" over the hills after the earthquake. The lights in this photo were an accidental capture during that. Earthquake lights are a genuine phenomenon.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquake_light
@November, where was this? Landers?
 
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M Bornong

Senior Member.
November was trying to capture a different phenomenon, a reported "glow" over the hills after the earthquake. The lights in this photo were an accidental capture during that. Earthquake lights are a genuine phenomenon.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earthquake_light
@November, where was this? Landers?

Yucca Valley? http://earthquaketrack.com/quakes/1992-06-28-11-57-34-utc-7-3-1
 

Trigger Hippie

Senior Member.
Could it be a stationary car on the road some distance ahead with it's hazard lights flashing? Train crossing lights? It would good to get a daytime shot from exactly the same location.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Could it be a stationary car on the road some distance ahead with it's hazard lights flashing?
Unlikely. Hazards flash at about 1 per second, so that would be about a one minute exposure with VERY smooth motion.

I'd say the shape of the curve is very consistent with camera movement of less than a second. Also consistent with typical flickering LED speed. Note my shots of the scanner LED at 0.4 seconds has exactly 35 segments in both shots.
 

November

Member
Scan I put on a CD (JPG) awhile back from a better scanner.


Link to map of area: (Still trying to find coordinates). I hope this works.

https://maps.google.com/maps?t=h&vp....162759,-116.316741&spn=0.011026,0.01929&z=16

Location was Joshua Tree, California.
I would have been standing on Calle Los Amigos (E-W direction) probably just east of Avenida La Flora Desierta, facing west. (That would probably be the street sign to the right).

You can pan out and see how the street ends at the hill, and that it is perhaps 3/4 of a mile?

I was driving (I believe) my 86 TC3 Plymouth Horizon. (Red car in below photo).



Didn't have any radar detector or other reason to have LEDs in that car.

I had no other equipment. It is not impossible I had a tripod, because I know I was worried about camera movement, but no other electronic equipment.

You are thinking maybe the street sign reflected the flashing LED off the camera somehow? I still can't figure out how it would look like it came down to the road at the end of the street. But I'm considering that. They are close to the same width.

For light, I just pulled up in the car, got out, (I believe) placed the camera somehow on the car... did a delay before the picture took, and just took it. I may have left the headlights on, but I don't think so. I did use the flash I'm pretty sure.

On the other side of the hills is a dump. I had seen oddball aircraft behavior over that hill a couple of times, but not at that time. There is a Marine Base 15/20 miles east, so you never knew what they were up to. Anyway, no aircraft would have ever been flying where the lights are, it would be too close to the hills. (But for them to be doing some sort of laser experimentation from up high -- wouldn't surprise me a bit.) Either way I heard or saw no crafts.

There are towns on the other sides of the hills and I've considered that as far as the "earthquake glow" goes. It just seemed that the lights over the hills appeared much brighter -- when the earthquakes started. (Maybe I was just more alert to my surroundings, who knows.) I was taking these pictures for a geologist up at Stanford University, because she was interested.

If you measured the spacing at both ends and they are exact -- that is interesting. Especially since there does seem to be some narrowing toward the center.

I'll try to come up with the coordinates.

I can't tell you how much I appreciate you all looking at this seriously. I've been trying to see if there's a logical explanation for this picture for a long time.

Thanks, November.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Thanks for the location. Just East of Avenida La Flora Desierta puts you here:


The white bar could quite possibly be just the text reflecting off the street sign


The dashed line starts at around the vanishing point, maybe a bit above and to the right:


Which would put it roughly here
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
One possibility is some reflectors at that junction, where the road is offset.

(Presumably the configuration would have changed over 20 years)

Although the light source is a mystery.
 
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captfitch

Senior Member.
I vote for long exposure with flash. On every camera I have owned you can adjust the settings to create a flash either at the beginning or end of any exposure. The blinking object is certainly stationary OR it's so far away that even as it moves closer or further from the camera the size does not appreciably change.

It's also interesting that it appears, in the blown up, enhanced version that the lights are partly hidden behind a rectangle at the bottom of their travel.

Or maybe..... "Roads? Where we're going we don't need roads."
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
One object that would fit the scale is a car, and the lights being tail lights, or maybe even headlights. Why would they flicker though? I don't think there were LED tail lights in 1992.

The flickering seems very even. So unlikely to be something like tail lights flickering as an engine is cranked? But "flickering tail lights" is not an unknown problem in the car world.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Scan I put on a CD (JPG) awhile back from a better scanner.
That's a very small image. Any chance there was a larger one with it?

Do you still have the original print? A negative?

Interestingly though, it has a lot more color, which shows the white bar more as a collection of green and white, making it a lot more like the street nam signs.


And the trail itself seems to have more of a pulsing brightness, rather than an on/off brightness - but that could be the resolution. It does seem a lot more orange/red.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
If you measured the spacing at both ends and they are exact -- that is interesting. Especially since there does seem to be some narrowing toward the center.
Not really, that's an illusion. Look at this line I drew with two pens.


The pens are the same distance apart the whole time. I think your lights are similarly unchanging in their spacing.

I'll try to come up with the coordinates.
Actually, google put them in the link you gave already:
https://maps.google.com/maps?t=h&vp....162759,-116.316741&spn=0.011026,0.01929&z=16

34.162759,-116.316741

Although 34.164094,-116.311630 is the actual spot you describe.
 
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captfitch

Senior Member.
Certainly these must be hazard lights on something. I think the year the picture was taken opens up the possibility. Today, hazard light intervals are fairly uniform. Back then they were much more variable and the frequency may have been faster than now. Plus we don't know the exposure time. It may have been very short.
 

Trigger Hippie

Senior Member.
Might there have been a couple of bicycles on the road?

I know it's only a patent but it is dated 1989, three years before the picture. The design uses a steady red LED with flashes from a xenon strobe.
 
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