1. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member


    Via Cliff Mass:
    The first thing to note is that it's a 20 second exposure, so what we are looking at is NOT a trail, but a streak of light from a moving light source, like a rocket, or a light on a plane.


    Sure looks like a rocket. However that's because it looks like a trail. It more likely a point of light.

    The next thing to notice is that the "trail" gets bigger the higher it is in the image, which means that the object is moving towards the camera.

    So I suspect it's simply a plane, with landing lights on, flying towards the camera, and quite possible descending.

    Metabunk 2018-06-12 15-11-14.

    The grey streak of light in front of the bright light is probably one side of the fuselage, illuminated by the forward facing landing light.

    The Landing light itself is off-center

    The streak is red on the other side, possibly another light.
    Last edited: Jun 12, 2018
  2. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    "Liembo" on the Cliff Mass Blog suggests Alaska Flight 94, which fits the bill, flying directly over Skunk Bay, which is exactly what is needed for this illusion.

    Metabunk 2018-06-12 15-27-23.

    I'm not sure it moves enough in 20 seconds though. Depends on the vertical field of view of the camera.

    Attached Files:

  3. MikeC

    MikeC Senior Member

    That's a long trail for a 20 second exposure of a single light - not impossible - i can only guess how long it is - perhaps someone with Mick's "distance away towards the horizon" grid can do a bit of a calculation?

    But at, say, 600mph - 10 miles/minute (16km/minute) one would expect it to be only 3.3 miles long - about 5.5km, and it certainly looks longer than that.
  4. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Yeah, maybe it's low. Those clouds only look 3,000 feet hight or so.
  5. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    The camera is approximately at: 47.919894°, -122.579119°, looking north east, which eliminates ASA94

    Metabunk 2018-06-12 16-24-12.

    Rough fit. Vertical FOV is about 20°.

    Attached Files:

  6. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Looks like a plausible explanation here:
    Works for me.
  7. Clouds Givemethewillies

    Clouds Givemethewillies Active Member

    I don't know what link was broken , but here is a screen capture! Capture.PNG
  8. Clouds Givemethewillies

    Clouds Givemethewillies Active Member

    There is an impression of multiple forward scattering, so a searchlight perhaps.
  9. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    That's why I though of a landing light, coming towards the camera.

    Here's a plane taking off. Compare the "trail" on the right.
  10. Clouds Givemethewillies

    Clouds Givemethewillies Active Member

    You've got to invert more Mick:) It is going, not coming. It is (primarily) a light beam trace, not the trace of a moving light. As a FlightAware feed wallah, I have undetermined privileges which don't normally manifest themselves. My thought that you were able to delete faster than electric pixies can travel the information super-highway is probably bad! Here is the track for the under-privileged:

    ps. My Google Earth broke when I last updated it, so I have not been able to look at the file.

    On the assumption that my link: https://uk.flightaware.com/live/flight/N952AL/history/20180610/0957Z
    does not work for others, here is part of the Track log (Capture.PNG):

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
  11. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Moderator Staff Member

    It looks as though there is a reddish tint to the left of the trail, which could add weight to the idea that it is flying away from the camera rather than towards it. (Or it could just be chromatic aberration from the camera lens.) Also if you assume that the bright light is at the front of the aircraft then it makes sense that the fainter light trail (from a tail light?) would start closer to the camera than the main trail.


    Here's a video of an EC135 (very similar model) flying towards the camera.

    Source: https://youtu.be/LjG1yKOGClk?t=2m18s

    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
  12. Clouds Givemethewillies

    Clouds Givemethewillies Active Member

  13. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

  14. Clouds Givemethewillies

    Clouds Givemethewillies Active Member

  15. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

    I cant really figure out why I see two lights in that photo.. I only see one light spot on the nose.. although this is N953 not N952 ???

    I've been googling "airlift northwest" for photos.

    add: yea 2 looks exactly the same
  16. deirdre

    deirdre Moderator Staff Member

  17. Clouds Givemethewillies

    Clouds Givemethewillies Active Member

    I had to fiddle the long to -122.587 to get a good fit with SHCC. MLAT is not very accurate anyhow.

    Attached Files:

  18. Sagittarius

    Sagittarius Member

    I'm still having great difficulty in visualizing the helicopter moving away from, rather than towards the camera. Shouldn't it be pointing downwards, rather than upwards, if it was flying away? Can someone explain the optical illusion here?
  19. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    It's not "pointing" at all. What you are seeing are two streaks of light, a grayish white one (mostly hidden) and a bright yellow one.

    The streaks of like come from the movement of the helicopter, and so if you can see the lights from behind, then it's flying directly away. But not necessarily up or down.

    Metabunk 2018-06-13 10-21-02.

    Remember this is a 20 second exposure. You CAN'T see anything other than light streaks for a moving obejct (unless there's a flashing light, which can complicate things, like here)
  20. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Moderator Staff Member

    The trail is basically just a roughly vertical line on the photo. Which direction it is "pointing" depends entirely on which end you treat as the front/top.

    This is the end at the top of the photo, which is larger and appears to be closer to the camera:


    You can either visualise that as a rocket with flame coming out of the back, or as the start of the headlight/searchlight, pointing downwards/away from the camera, with a smaller light on the back. The craft itself won't be visible because of the long exposure, so the illusion of a metallic "rocket" is just that: an illusion.

  21. Sagittarius

    Sagittarius Member

    Well, that's what's puzzling me. The 'rocket' at the top was what I though was the helicopter, and that it was heading towards the camera, hence flying 'upward' in the 2D photo. If the helicopter is flying away, then it's at the bottom of the streak of light, flying 'downward' in 2D.

    What's throwing me off is the grey 'rocket' at the top. What are we looking at here?
    Last edited: Jun 13, 2018
  22. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Moderator Staff Member

    It's at the top, and the bottom, and all the way along the length of the line (although at the far end it is hidden in the clouds). It's a long exposure, so the trail marks out the distance it has travelled in that time.

    My interpretation of the grey "rocket" is that it's the trail of a fainter light at the back of the helicopter. So the trail of that light starts closer to the camera (by the length of the helicopter) than the bright light at the front does.

    It's like, was this tram was going from left to right or right to left? It's not easy to tell, although the headlights might be a clue.

  23. Sagittarius

    Sagittarius Member

    OK, thanks. Time-lapses can be very disorientating! I assume that tram is travelling left to right, with the headlights disappearing from view as they come level with the camera on the right side of the photo. Is that correct?
  24. Raymond

    Raymond New Member

  25. Mick West

    Mick West Administrator Staff Member

    Exactly, something like this:
    Metabunk 2018-06-13 11-47-24.
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  26. Sagittarius

    Sagittarius Member

    Thanks, that helps.
  27. Clouds Givemethewillies

    Clouds Givemethewillies Active Member

    From Skunk Bay Weather https://skunkbayweather.blogspot.com/

    Last edited: Jun 14, 2018
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  28. Im not certain about this; my interpretation would be that the helicopter was simply coming out of the clouds with the searchlight always on, the "metalic" streak would be therefore not the fainter positionlight at the rear but instead just the searchlight where the cloud is still blocking most of the light, but getting thinner at the edges, right?


    I mean, why would there be a fainter streak from another, fainter light just for a small, specific lenght on the pic? its assumable that the searchlight outshines every other light on the helicopter due to long exposure and distance, even if we are looking at the underside and see mostly the complete lenght of the helicopter, this would only make sense if the searchlight was off and was turned on a few seconds after the helicopter entered the frame of the cam, but as statet, it seems it wasnt:
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2018 at 12:02 AM
  29. Clouds Givemethewillies

    Clouds Givemethewillies Active Member

    If anyone has exact coordinates for the camera (to a few metres) I might be tempted to make a version of the unmetionable thing, referred to as SHCC, that inputs KML files, and overlays the track on a photo. I moved my house to Skunk Bay for the plot, but I left it at the same height, as I had no information on height. The points should probably be a bit higher in the sky as the camera is probably lower than mine. Capture.PNG
  30. Clouds Givemethewillies

    Clouds Givemethewillies Active Member

    It would be an interesting twist if they were using a near-IR = NVG (Night vision goggles?) filter. on the searchlight.
    I read somewhere that the camera was sensitive to IR.

    Last edited: Jun 16, 2018 at 1:52 AM
  31. Trailblazer

    Trailblazer Moderator Staff Member

    My assumption was that is the position of the helicopter at the start of the exposure: it is already in the field of view at the time the exposure begins. So the searchlight never covers that part of the frame at all.
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  32. I see, you could be absolutly right and it makes sense and I wasnt thoughtfull enough about it. again :rolleyes:. what still bothers me is the pink glowing edges of the cloud, where the trail starts, and I assume that could only be the case if the helicopter was in fact coming out of the clouds. so, I am not totally convinced, but that detail really doesnt matter anyway, cause the case as a whole seems otherwise completly debunked ;)
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2018 at 12:06 PM
  33. ok, I am convinced, youre both right...tried it with a flashlight and attached another, smaller one at the end of it to simulate the helicopter, all pretty sloppy but the result fits your explanation quite nicely; first photo shows flashlight with second "positionlight", second photo with exposure time 2 seconds, moving flashlight from top to bottom already in frame, when exposure starts (added "missile"-detail for comparison):


    thank you two for the lesson :p
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2018 at 1:08 PM
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  34. Clouds Givemethewillies

    Clouds Givemethewillies Active Member

    Here is my first attempt of a .klm track overlay. I don;t have accurate data, and the picture will not fit on this laptop. Notice that the track is a bit longer than a 20 second blur would be. shcc-klm.PNG Capture.PNG
    Last edited: Jun 16, 2018 at 1:34 PM
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