Photographing at night in dark conditions requires long exposures. This causes moving MLs to be recorded as "light tracks" instead of looking like the ball of moving light you might see if you were present when the photograph was made. MLs do not always move so some of the images are not light tracks. Length of the light tracks depends on many variables including how far away the light was located, how fast it was moving, and the length of the time exposure which is influenced by how bright the light may have been and the extent of available moon light. In general, there is usually no convenient way to know how far distant a light might be because the observer has no information regarding the brightness. MLs are sometimes as bright as train lights making them appear to be closer to the observer than they actually are. We determine distance by taking cross bearings from automated night cameras.
Because MLs are rare, automated night cameras were used to obtain more information on when and where MLs were making their appearance. A total of eight or nine automated cameras ran every night for many years (see Methods page). To minimize the amount of video that was to be reviewed, night cameras were operated at low resolution and had little or no magnification in order to maximize coverage. Individual frames were stacked to accumulate light. This image stacking is another way to achieve time exposures and was done to acquire as much background terrain as possible. Photographs and video that are black and white were made by these night camera systems.
The best ML images are those that were made on-site using color DSLR cameras equipped with telescopic lenses. Many of the following images were made that way and they include details not possible with night monitoring stations alone. One DSLR camera has been modified so that it is able to record infrared wave lengths in addition to visible wave lengths. Pictures made by this camera may include reddish looking terrain and show red ML surrounds. The image above is an example ML that shows an unusual ejection of luminous material that streams out to the left during this 5 second time exposure on July 24, 2007 at 9:45 PM CDT. However, conventional cameras sometimes show MLs with red surrounds and/or component ejections as well, so not all the red is infrared in the images below. Some of the images below include "rainbow-like" patterns. These rainbow patterns are generated by use of diffraction gratings that contain thousands of tiny triangles to parse the light by frequency. The resultant rainbows show the ML's spectral signature (see Science Paper 8).. B&W images that look like space ships from a "War of the Worlds" movie are actually DPS helicopitors looking for speeders on US90.
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