Join 3,561 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


unknown lights in the Pacific
August 25, 2014 6:53 PM   Subscribe

Unknown orange/red glow over Pacific Ocean "Then, very far in the distance ahead of us, just over the horizon an intense lightflash shot up from the ground. It looked like a lightning bolt, but way more intense and directed vertically up in the air. I have never seen anything like this, and there were no flashes before or after this single explosion of light."

"I decided to try and take some pictures of the night sky and the strange green glow that was all over the Northern Hemisphere. I think it was sort of a Northern Lights but it was much more dispersed, never seen anything like this before either. About 20 minutes later in flight I noticed a deep red/orange glow appearing ahead of us, and this was a bit strange since there was supposed to be nothing but endless ocean below us for hundreds of miles around us."
posted by gen (61 comments total) 24 users marked this as a favorite

 
Sorry, that was me. Turns out beans and thermite aren't a good combination.
posted by eriko at 6:55 PM on August 25 [15 favorites]


This sounds like viral marketing for whatever JJ Abrams is up to next.
posted by MeanwhileBackAtTheRanch at 7:01 PM on August 25 [3 favorites]


Fishing boats and low lying clouds.

The verbal description sounds more like the much cooler red sprite, but they pictures don't back it up at all.
posted by TheAdamist at 7:04 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]


Fishing boats and low lying clouds.

Except the pilot said it's not fishing boats: "A distant city or group of typical Asian squid-fishing-boats would not make sense in this area, apart from the fact that the lights we saw were much larger in size and glowed red/orange, instead of the normal yellow and white that cities or ships would produce."
posted by spacewaitress at 7:11 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Hate to be That Guy, but...no, wait, I don't hate it at all! I revel in it!

Pinpoint stars in three, eight and THIRTY-second exposures from a (presumably) handheld DSLR in a moving airplane? Seriously?
posted by Lazlo Nibble at 7:13 PM on August 25 [33 favorites]


this has to be a viral scheme for something.
posted by xcasex at 7:17 PM on August 25


Color me skeptical as well, especially since supposedly the orange lights are causing the green illumination in the sky?

Most likely, a hoax.
posted by happyroach at 7:29 PM on August 25


The website has been around since at least 2008, so if it's viral marketing, they've either planned for a long time or taken over a preexisting website.

Pinpoint stars in three, eight and THIRTY-second exposures from a (presumably) handheld DSLR in a moving airplane? Seriously?

He has other pictures with equally long exposures from the cockpit. With a tripod and a plane in straight flight and cooperative air conditions, I don't think it's unreasonable. You can find plenty of other examples of long exposures from airplanes.

If it's a hoax, my guess is that it's an 'independent' hoax and not viral marketing. But it might also be real.

Color me skeptical as well, especially since supposedly the orange lights are causing the green illumination in the sky?

Presumably the green and orange are distinct phenomena-- the green isn't the cast off illumination of the orange lights, but it's own separate aurora type thing.
posted by Pyry at 7:40 PM on August 25


Earthquake lights?
posted by 445supermag at 7:48 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


It's the NTIs. Obviously.
posted by ob1quixote at 7:50 PM on August 25


Not to be the bearer of bad news here, but this could actually be the eruption of Tamu Massif, the largest volcano on planet Earth.
posted by linear_arborescent_thought at 7:57 PM on August 25 [2 favorites]


My money's on Godzilla.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 8:02 PM on August 25 [3 favorites]


If it were a volcano you'd see a very obvious ash cloud. I doubt you'd be able to see glowing lava from the air.
posted by echo target at 8:23 PM on August 25


Would there be an ash cloud from a volcano with a summit 6,500 feet beneath the surface of the ocean though?

Also presumably an eruption would involve earthquakes and tsunamis.
posted by elizardbits at 8:29 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


i mean obviously it's that namor is up to no good
posted by elizardbits at 8:30 PM on August 25 [5 favorites]


The green light certainly looks like aurora borealis. This forecasting website does show that the aurora would probably be visible in that area on August 24th.
The orange lights might well be fishing boats in fog - the fog diffusing and spreading the light so it appears larger, the same way that a light fixture diffuser spreads the point light of a bulb over a larger area. Still, they do appear very big from that height. The colour? Maybe smoke from forest fires in Siberia (the same smoke that has even caused a high haze here in Nova Scotia, apparently) is distorting the colour, the same way it makes sunsets red?
posted by Flashman at 8:32 PM on August 25


I really hope it's a bunch of drunken giggling fisherman trolling the fuck out of a known flight path with some glowsticks.
posted by elizardbits at 8:41 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Squid fishing boats would be a good explanation, except that they use green or white lights and not orange.
posted by Pyry at 8:42 PM on August 25


Earthquake lights, not absolutely, but too damn close.

Compare this map of the route and the observation point, with this map of the Kuril-Kamchatka trench.

The route almost parallels the trench.

And earthquake lights are often seen before quakes, and in the 1987 Peru quake referenced in 445supermag's link, were seen above the sea.

Holy shit, I hope that's not right.
posted by jamjam at 8:43 PM on August 25 [3 favorites]


Here's another picture of a fleet of squid fishing boats off Japan. Maybe they are using different lights, or as I said above, maybe air pollution is distorting the colour.
posted by Flashman at 8:45 PM on August 25


Agreed... I'm in environmental sciences and they almost certainly are fishing boats. I saw in the comments someone saying that they would look like specks, not blobs, but these pictures are long exposures and that's a very humid marine layer that probably consists of fog or low stratus this time of year, which would make them look even stranger and further diffuse the light. The weird colors are probably a result of the exposure and the fleet using slightly different lights perhaps to attract different types of fish.

The green lights in the sky are indeed either aurora or thin noctilucent clouds (common in summer at higher latitudes) reflecting ambient light, though I didn't get a good look at them.
posted by crapmatic at 8:47 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


At least it's a full year too late to be K-Day.
posted by elizardbits at 8:49 PM on August 25


I doubt those are squid fishing boats (I've lived up and down the Japan Sea coast and squid fishing is pretty common) since you can find squid pretty close to land, and the siting was supposedly close to Kamchatka.

Very far out for a Japanese squid boat, but on the other hand they may have been fishing for Pacific Saury. The Saury fishery starts at around this time of year and Saury range up that way.

I doubt Saury boats use lights like that, but maybe they were fishing at night?
posted by Nevin at 9:31 PM on August 25


Wait a minute, apparently this was taken in March?
posted by Nevin at 9:33 PM on August 25


What makes you think that?
posted by Pyry at 9:41 PM on August 25


Would there be an ash cloud from a volcano with a summit 6,500 feet beneath the surface of the ocean though?

Well, if it's that deep, you can forget about seeing glowing lava when it's got more than a mile of water on top of it. If it's shallow enough to see glowing lava, it's more than shallow enough to be releasing a huge obscuring cloud.
posted by echo target at 9:44 PM on August 25


The EXIF data says that the photos were taken with a 10.5mm fisheye. I would have expected a lot more distortion in the image; 10.5mm is really quite aggressive. I would have expected the horizon, for instance, to curve up at the edges.
posted by Joe in Australia at 9:44 PM on August 25


The EXIF data says that the photos were taken with a 10.5mm fisheye. I would have expected a lot more distortion in the image; 10.5mm is really quite aggressive. I would have expected the horizon, for instance, to curve up at the edges.

The observed distortion on the horizon is consistent with that lens.
posted by Pyry at 10:12 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


I don't think the lights themselves are orange. In the middle, the brightest lights are white, the dimmer ones are yellow, and the ones that seem to be obscured are the ones that look orange. So night fishing boats with a patchy haze over them seems the most likely solution.
posted by tavella at 10:20 PM on August 25


Pyry: Wow, nice work! It's not necessarily comparable, though: the EXIF data reports that he was using a Nikon d800, which is a full-frame (FX) camera. The page you link to has a report on a 10.5mm lens for Nikon's DX range of cameras, which use an APS-C sensor. I suppose a DX lens used with an APS-C sensor might be similar to an FX lens used with a full-frame sensor, but I don't know. I wasn't able to find a similar review of distortion using full-frame sensors and a 10.5mm FX lens.
posted by Joe in Australia at 10:45 PM on August 25


Oh, you're right-- it does claim to be on a d800. But does Nikon even make a 10.5mm FX? His camera equipment page shows the DX lens. And using a modified 10.5mm dx on an fx sensor doesn't expose the entire sensor, even after the lens hood has been 'shaved'. Maybe the image is a crop?
posted by Pyry at 10:56 PM on August 25


The first one just looks like Northern Lights to me, they look different over the ocean, much bigger like that. The lights could be boats I think, though why so many boats out there I don't know.

Also, probably too far away but they launched an experimental rocket from Kodiak Island that night that exploded shortly after takeoff, apparently pretty spectacularly. I don't know if it was the only launch that night.
posted by fshgrl at 11:04 PM on August 25 [1 favorite]


Pyry: Yeah, the cropping suggestion makes sense and would justify the match with the distortion: a cropped image like that is effectively using a full-sensor as if it were APS-C.
posted by Joe in Australia at 11:13 PM on August 25


Nikon FX bodies automatically crop when a DX lens is attached.
posted by splicer at 11:33 PM on August 25 [3 favorites]


Based on the map of Tamu Masif on its Wikipedia page that was linked above, and this map from the post, this does look like it might correlate with a high spot on the ocean floor, that may or may not be some kind of volcano chain with lava flows above or below the water. Compare the shore lines and you can find what look like underwater peaks right at that spot on Google Maps (directly north of Tamu Masif). Not saying the pictures are real, but not saying its impossible either...

Someone with more Google Earth skills than me could dig into it more.

Or it could be some kind of military test site.

/the truth is out there
posted by hamandcheese at 11:38 PM on August 25


The Kraken Wakes....
posted by marienbad at 1:15 AM on August 26 [3 favorites]


I've mentioned a few dozen times that I live 6 miles due east of the last working nuclear power plant in California, Diablo Canyon (who thought THAT was a reassuring name?) and I frequently look out while the sun sets over the hills just west of me and say out loud "Red skies at night, sailors' delight, Green skies at night, nuclear engineers call your office." My neighbors are getting pretty sick of that joke.
posted by oneswellfoop at 1:23 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


If there's a reef or shallow spot then they're almost certainly fishing boats. That's where you fish a lot of the time.
posted by fshgrl at 1:25 AM on August 26


I'll go and warm up the Jaegers.
posted by Happy Dave at 2:22 AM on August 26 [14 favorites]


This far in and not a single R'lyeh joke?
posted by Pyrogenesis at 2:29 AM on August 26 [6 favorites]


I did get a brief existential shiver when I imagined what things might live on the side of Tamu Massif, if that helps?
posted by Drexen at 2:52 AM on August 26


Iä! Iä...what? Already? OK- never mind, then.
posted by TheWhiteSkull at 4:27 AM on August 26


Dry cleaning bags filled with swamp gas.

Honey - They're in - everybody's eggs.
posted by tommasz at 5:05 AM on August 26 [1 favorite]


It's a weather balloon. This thread is closed. Please disperse to your homes or places of business.
posted by griphus at 5:35 AM on August 26 [4 favorites]


Also.
posted by griphus at 5:37 AM on August 26


It's a Ring of Fire
posted by MtDewd at 5:45 AM on August 26


Guys, it's my goldfish from when I was 6. I told my parents he wasn't dead. He's going to be pissed.
posted by arcticseal at 5:50 AM on August 26


Cameron filming Abyss II: Internet Hullabaloo?
posted by asok at 7:49 AM on August 26




Tͥ̾̉̓͌͐ͭ͏̯̭̻̠͎̺͔̰͝h̸͖̼̭̘͈̫͙̝̦̄̍ͫ́e̱̩̤͎̅̒̍̈̐͘͠ ̵̴̞̻͓̮̮̺̮̼̂ơ̡̝̜ͭ̏̌͢l̈̏͒̎̆̅ͤ͡͏̤̬̺d̩̲̹̝̫͂͘ ͔̳̹̟̞̝͙͌ͨ̐̀o̒ͧͪ̈ͧ̋͏̦̤̟̜̻̀n͊ͤͬ̊̉ͧ̐̚͏̥̗̘̹̭̮̥͚͕͠ė̶̡͈̭̬̹̐ͅş̴̺͚̳̓,̶̠̱͇͈̲̝̹̓ͫͩ̓̃̀ ͈͖̬̳͎̞̑̑̈̅͗͡t̛̺̞͔̟̲͑ͬ͜h̛̙͈̬̞̯̣̲̄ͩ̾͗̔̆͜͝ͅȩ̭̙̄̚y̮͊̉̑́̒ͥ̕ ͕̱̲͋̑͛͊͂̐͡͠cͩ̒̽ͪ̒̌͑ͭ͏̤̘̯̱͚͇̰ͅo̢̩ͫͭ̓͐̂m͉͚̗̲͗̍̽̄͌ȇ̬̹.̶̧͇̜̗͍̍̂̈́ͨ́͒͑
posted by Ogre Lawless at 8:29 AM on August 26 [5 favorites]


Author says in the comments on the linked page that he'll provide unwatermarked images, for any of you sleuths willing/wishing to look more closely.

"...photo's are taken in RAW and very high res. Copyright/watermark because too many people have been stealing and editing my pictures in the past. For serious and editorial/commercial inquiries all images are available in full resolution and without watermark."
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:32 AM on August 26


Where is Art Bell when you need him??
posted by Room 641-A at 10:43 AM on August 26


*Tunes in to Coast to Coast*
posted by stoneweaver at 11:33 AM on August 26


"Tͥ̾̉̓͌͐ͭ͏̯̭̻̠͎̺͔̰͝h̸͖̼̭̘͈̫͙̝̦̄̍ͫ́e̱̩̤͎̅̒̍̈̐͘͠ ̵̴̞̻͓̮̮̺̮̼̂ơ̡̝̜ͭ̏̌͢l̈̏͒̎̆̅ͤ͡͏̤̬̺d̩̲̹̝̫͂͘ ͔̳̹̟̞̝͙͌ͨ̐̀o̒ͧͪ̈ͧ̋͏̦̤̟̜̻̀n͊ͤͬ̊̉ͧ̐̚͏̥̗̘̹̭̮̥͚͕͠ė̶̡͈̭̬̹̐ͅş̴̺͚̳̓,̶̠̱͇͈̲̝̹̓ͫͩ̓̃̀ ͈͖̬̳͎̞̑̑̈̅͗͡t̛̺̞͔̟̲͑ͬ͜h̛̙͈̬̞̯̣̲̄ͩ̾͗̔̆͜͝ͅȩ̭̙̄̚y̮͊̉̑́̒ͥ̕ ͕̱̲͋̑͛͊͂̐͡͠cͩ̒̽ͪ̒̌͑ͭ͏̤̘̯̱͚͇̰ͅo̢̩ͫͭ̓͐̂m͉͚̗̲͗̍̽̄͌ȇ̬̹.̶̧͇̜̗͍̍̂̈́ͨ́͒͑!"



^Can someone explain how this works is this some ascii or extended character set trickery?
posted by stenseng at 12:19 PM on August 26 [1 favorite]


͔̳̹̟̞̝͙͌ͨ̐̀o̒ͧͪ̈ͧ̋͏̦̤̟̜̻̀n͊ͤͬ̊̉ͧ̐̚͏̥̗̘̹̭̮̥͚͕͠ė̶̡͈̭̬̹̐ͅş̴̺͚̳̓

Combining diacritical marks is what they are. Unicode trickery.
posted by ambrosen at 1:34 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


Aside from other deficiencies, boat-light explanations apply only to the red-orange glow in the photos, and do not address two other anomalies observed by the pilot and also unprecedented in his experience:

the intense lightflash:
We heard via the radio about earthquakes in Iceland, Chile and San Francisco, and since there were a few volcanos on our route that might or might not be going off during our flight, we double checked with dispatch if there was any new activity on our route after we departed from Hongkong.

Then, very far in the distance ahead of us, just over the horizon an intense lightflash shot up from the ground. It looked like a lightning bolt, but way more intense and directed vertically up in the air. I have never seen anything like this, and there were no flashes before or after this single explosion of light.
and the the pervasive green glow:
I decided to try and take some pictures of the night sky and the strange green glow that was all over the Northern Hemisphere. I think it was sort of a Northern Lights but it was much more dispersed, never seen anything like this before either. About 20 minutes later in flight I noticed a deep red/orange glow appearing ahead of us ...
Under the hypothesis that it was earthquake lights, I'd try to explain the flash in terms of one of the two current theories of earthquake lights:
The most recent model suggests that the generation of earthquake lights involves the ionization of oxygen to oxygen anions by breaking of peroxy bonds in some types of rocks by the high stress before and during an earthquake. After the ionisation, the ions travel up through the cracks in the rocks. Once they reach the atmosphere these ions can ionise pockets of air, forming plasma that emits light.[9] Lab experiments have validated that some rocks do ionise the oxygen in them when subjected to high stress levels. Research suggests that the angle of the fault is related to the likelihood of earthquake light generation, with subvertical (nearly vertical) faults in rifting environments having the most incidences of earthquake lights.[10] [from 445supermag's link above]
as resulting from escape of oxygen anions (negatively charged) from stressed rocks up through the ocean into the atmosphere, accumulating at some kind of boundary layer and then generating a tremendous flash because of charge separation between that layer and the ocean. Perhaps there was a big irruption of oxygen anions at the time of the flash rather than a gradual accumulation.

The green glow of the aurora is due to oxygen excited by collisions with particles from the solar wind, but if there was a lot of excited oxygen escaped from stressed rock floating around in the atmosphere, solar wind might not be required to evoke the green glow -- and since the patterns of the aurora are due to solar wind particles following magnetic field lines, that might explain the pervasiveness of the glow.

Intriguingly, the red glow of the aurora is also due to oxygen, monatomic oxygen.
posted by jamjam at 2:17 PM on August 26 [2 favorites]


maybe this? http://www.theverge.com/2014/8/26/6069619/us-military-hypersonic-weapon-exploded-in-a-test-flight
posted by slater at 2:58 PM on August 26


Combining diacritical marks is what they are. Unicode trickery.

DO try this at home!
posted by Evilspork at 11:29 PM on August 26


Man, there are some truly fantastic comments on that webpage:

I just saw this posted at in5d...and it gave me goosebumps, in a very positive way!!!,,,I have never heard of you and your website, Dutchman...You, Sir, have caught some absolutely breathtaking photos of POSITIVE ET'S AND THEIR CRAFT CLEANING UP THE FUKUSHIMA RADIATION AND SAVING THE PLANET AND IT'S ECOSYSTEM FROM SURE ANNHILATION!...It is QUITE OBVIOUS WHAT THOSE LIGHTS ARE, MY "SILLY WABBITS"!!!...You, Mr. Dutchman, have caught them redhanded with your spectacular photos!!!
Check out this link,
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QoBGBYDjxQc
and know that the cabal nuked and HAARP'd Japan and Fukushima on 3-11-11 in order to carry out their evil depopulation agenda of this planet...And understand that our Human ET ancestors Will Not Permit our Mass extermination!!! They're Cleaning it Up!!! Kudos 2-U!!!....Yaaay!!! :D!!!


...

People, stop saying it's fishing boats. They are not. Fishermen do not venture out that far, and it was UNDERWATER.

Stop saying it's a volcano. It is not. Do some research on what an underground volcano looks like.

I've been waiting for them, for quite some time. Hopefully they find me. I have been in contact for quite a while here.

I just want you all to know, that those of us with the "tinfoil hats" are sitting in the background, laughing as the world burns.

I don't hate to say it, but I TOLD YOU SO.

posted by modernnomad at 2:09 AM on August 27 [1 favorite]


ob1quixote: “It's the NTIs. Obviously.”
modernnomad: “You, Sir, have caught some absolutely breathtaking photos of POSITIVE ET'S AND THEIR CRAFT ”
Just in case it wasn't clear by my linking to the The Abyss post, I want it noted for the record that I was joking.
posted by ob1quixote at 2:35 PM on August 27


"Tͥ̾̉̓͌͐ͭ͏̯̭̻̠͎̺͔̰͝h̸͖̼̭̘͈̫͙̝̦̄̍ͫ́e̱̩̤͎̅̒̍̈̐͘͠ ̵̴̞̻͓̮̮̺̮̼̂ơ̡̝̜ͭ̏̌͢l̈̏͒̎̆̅ͤ͡͏̤̬̺d̩̲̹̝̫͂͘ ͔̳̹̟̞̝͙͌ͨ̐̀o̒ͧͪ̈ͧ̋͏̦̤̟̜̻̀

^Can someone explain how this works is this some ascii or extended character set trickery?


Can someone explain what that's supposed to be?
posted by Room 641-A at 5:21 PM on August 28


An invocation of the Nezperdian Hive-Mind of Chaos, Zalgo.

Or as described on TV Tropes, "essentially what happens when you combine a Lovecraftian Eldritch Abomination with modern-day Internet Memetic Mutation and a dash of meta sensibility."
posted by filthy light thief at 9:14 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


« Older "Hollywood's pathological fear of being political ...  |  In honor of Saturday Night Liv... Newer »


You are not currently logged in. Log in or create a new account to post comments.