Comments about technological history, system fractures, and human resilience from James R. Chiles, the author of Inviting Disaster: Lessons from the Edge of Technology (HarperBusiness 2001; paperback 2002) and The God Machine: From Boomerangs to Black Hawks, the Story of the Helicopter (Random House, 2007, paperback 2008)

Saturday, November 20, 2010

The Ring: Some Background

As I mentioned in an earlier post on cloudspotting, I've been snapping cloud pictures with digital cameras since mid 2008. It's a hobby, like bird watching. The catch adds up to many thousands of pictures in all kinds of weather, mostly in the US. With so much time spent looking out and up, sometimes I come across striking visual effects. They don't come along often, but add zest to the hunt.

This post is to give some context to one of those visual outliers, since I'll be talking briefly about Photo No. 147 tonight with host Ian Punnett at the top of Coast to Coast AM.

Some background: this spring I was getting ready for the summer cloud season, going back through the previous year's crop of cloud pictures to organize them and dispose of unneeded ones; it's like cleaning the electronic attic. That's when an oddity in one image caught my eye; the photo was one out of a series of snaps taken on a weekend afternoon in mid-May 2009. I didn't notice anything special when taking the pictures that day. It's one of those cameras with no viewfinder, just a screen on the back, so in daylight it's very hard to see what the camera is capturing. I was just snapping away because I liked the look of an airliner contrail alongside a set of cool clouds.

Here's the camera I used, of garden-variety:
Here's a portion of the photo in question (No. 147), which I've watermarked for copyright purposes, along with the enlargement below. The anomaly in question is a faint blue oblong in the lower left of the photo.

After enlargement and some added contrast, it looks like this:
It doesn't look like a flying object to me, somewhat more like a ring of plasma, but that doesn't help much either.


Whatever it was, it was fleeting. I had taken a string of pictures in the same general span of sky over a fifteen-minute interval with this camera, and the Ring doesn't show up in any of the others.

In particular, the immediately preceding photo, No. 146, was taken less than a minute before, probably less than thirty seconds before. No. 146 has the same clouds and a slightly shorter jet contrail, but no Ring.

I don't have any great insight about this; I just happened to be outside with a camera; but three things about Photo No. 147 pique my interest. First (and supporting the idea that this was a ring viewed at an oblique angle) is the fact that the "ends" of the ring on the left and right are brighter than other parts of the ring. Look in particular at the tip on the right, how bright it is. This would be the case if looking obliquely at a ring of plasma; the ends would be somewhat overlapped and therefore brighter. Second, there is some kind of central core inside the ring. Third (and this is barely visible until the contrast is raised), there appears to be a faint, bluish arc on the lower left. What the heck is that?

I checked with a few contacts in the world of physics, and they offered no opinion other than the ring might be a camera glitch or a lens flare. I'm no JPEG expert so for all I know, digital cameras produce such glitches randomly. This camera hasn't done so before or since, but maybe it hiccuped that time. 

But I'm pretty sure the ring is not a lens flare given the direction the camera was pointing: north or northeast. It takes a brilliant light to make a lens flare and in Minnesota in May, the sun is nowhere near the field of view of a camera that's pointed north at mid-day. Also, lens flares I've seen don't look like this. 

Date: Allowing for a mistake I made when setting up the camera clock upon purchase (for example, not changing AM to PM), I'm reasonably sure that I took Photo No. 147 on the early afternoon of Saturday, May 16, 2009. Location was the Twin Cities of Minnesota, looking north or northeast.

I'm hoping a high-energy physicist might have a look. In the meantime the only half-baked hypothesis I can offer is that it's a picture of something very distant exploding in the very high atmosphere, and the shock waves glowed so brightly they overcame the brightness of the sky at mid-day. But when comets come in and blow up there's a debris trail, and none is visible here, so my proposition has its own shortcomings.

If some kind of distant large explosion in the high atmosphere did occur and if it was within view of sensors aboard Defense Support Program reconnaissance satellites, it might have been recorded. In addition to looking down for incandescent ICBM booster plumes, DSP satellites allegedly have, over the years, detected rather large breakups of high-velocity objects in the high atmosphere. I have read that at least one was in the multi-kiloton yield. But as of now all such sensor information is classified so I can't check my hypothesis.

That's it for now; just wanted to add a little extra context for Coast to Coast AM listeners. Thanks for tuning in!



18 comments:

  1. Rarely a lens flare can occur when the source of light is just brighter in one portion of a view, even when the camera is pointing in a direction that is not toward the Sun. This image seems typical of digital cameras being very contrast sensitive and translating that into images which ordinary film would have failed to capture, if this is true of this camera it should repeat this behavior in similar cloudy conditions. I would suggest trying to repeat images in similar conditions. If they cannot be repeated that would seem to be evidence of something else, until then I do indeed suspect that this is an odd form of lens flare.

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  2. I seen and also reported this anomaly to coast I seen the exact same thing here in San Diego nov 4 2010. Their were 2 of these large floating clear objects seemly carried by the wind. Myself and 2 other moms seen it. I watched it for approx. 10 mins then poof! they disappeared from sight. I also noted a jet with a con trail flying over head. Your photo also has a con trail. I think the jets are dropping these. This is the 3rd report now of these mysterious objects from different parts of the country. They are clear,huge sheets of some type of plastic or rather they look like a huge plastic tarp. Debbie in San Diego

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  3. It is a reflection of the sun from a large, slightly concave reflective surface on the ground seen projected onto a thin cloud layer. As the sun (apparently), clouds or the reflector moved, so did the projection.

    This accidental condition requires the cloud layer to be at the focal distance of the reflective surface. Hence, assuming a stationary reflective area such as a glass building or a pond (or from pool to a glass surface and back in the direction it came), even at the same time of day with a hazy cloud layer, no reflection would be seen if the cloud ceiling were at a slightly different height.

    Experiment: Take a cheap magnifying mirror and, from the floor, reflect the ceiling light back onto the ceiling or wall at an angle. You will see the same kind of irregular annulus with an ellipticality depending on the tilt of the mirror to the light source.

    A perfect parabolic mirror, as from a reflecting telescope, would produce a sharp image of the light source. But poorly, naturally or accidentally produced concave surfaces usually have focal lengths that vary concentrically. For that reason, the parts of the image reflected from a ring of the reflective surface would be in focus, while inside and outside, the light would be scattered, producing the hollow oval seen in the photograph.

    David Ryan
    Louisville, KY

    PS: It is not a "lens flare" from the camera's compound lens elements. It is too diffuse and irregular.

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  4. I think its great fun to get people talking and looking around at the world. I did a fun little edit with simple image adjustment and made this interesting 4 panel image of the anomaly.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/sebsaramago/5194128217/

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  5. Yes, the pattern of the image is mainly determined by the contours of the uneven surface making the reflection and the uneven surface of the clouds catching it. The shape could be anything. The uneven cloud layer also blocks parts of the image from being reflected at all, making it stronger on one side than the other. Since the strong side faces the sun, I would say the reflective surface is horizontal, probably a small body of water, that is within a few miles of your position more or less in the sun's direction. If the height of the cloud layer (records kept by the weather bureau, local airport) and the angles to the image and the sun at the time were known, you could possibly identify it on a map (i.e. Google Earth.) If you could have flown into it at the time and looked down, you would have immediately noticed where the bright reflection was coming from.

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  6. Just wanted to let you know that circle of light you saw was very similar to the circle of light I saw June 3rd 2000 in Kaneohe, Hawaii.

    ( I'm not quite sure if I believe how people are justifying its existence).

    Folks, You have to experience what I saw to understand the enormity of this thing or what ever it was. You were right in calling it plasma, thats the same thought I had; However, it appeared to have a mind of its own.

    Maybe it was pre programmed or some kind of probe. I have marked the area of my sighting in quotations where it appears similar to your photo.

    Your photo is what I saw but on a grander scale. The bright areas on the ring is what I saw before the circle began to divide into different spheres.

    It appears your photo of the circle represents the ring at the edge of our atmosphere, that would account for its feathery faded like appearance. (indicating many miles of distance between it and our atmosphere. It therefore had to be very bright for it to be seen in daylight.)

    ..............I am a diagnostic scientist in medicine. I diagnose through changes in morphology or structure and shape and compare those changes.

    I hope that information will give some credibility to what I have to say.

    (PART ONE)

    ...............On the night of June 3rd., 2000 at approximately 8:03 pm., I observed an awesome movement of lights. They appeared in my cone of vision about 10 degrees left of a center position and about 20 degrees above the horizon. (This may sound complicated but It's important to give detail as I have had many years of this tape running in my head).

    They were following a path directly in front of me with a curvature 10 degrees left of center of the line of sight and about 20 degrees above the horizon.
    (In perspective, smaller lights were distant and larger ones were closer). Their were 30 or 40 pairs of lights. (maybe 100 individual lights in all, "trust me it was awesome")

    Each pair was rotating as if they were attached in tandem with each other, similar to the ending lights on the wing of an aircraft. They were all rotating in a counter clockwise direction. They appeared to be coming from a distant point in the night sky in a north east direction.
    Each set of lights were rotating in a different position, (similar to the hands on the face of a clock) so all together they appeared to be moving along a cork screw like path. (like looking down a spiral staircase).

    They were moving in a downward shallow hanging arc over the Pacific ocean. As I said they were moving counter clockwise in tandem but from their perspective they would be moving clockwise.

    The color of each light was that of an arc welders torch and the shape was similar but not exactly like that of a 4 pointed star.

    Their movement was fluid, (like flowing water), There was no jerking or fading in and out like videos of ufo's. I guess you could say it seemed to be organic. (at least thats the feeling I got). (END PART ONE)

    ReplyDelete
  7. Just wanted to let you know that circle of light you saw was very similar to the circle of light I saw June 3rd 2000 in Kaneohe, Hawaii.

    ( I'm not quite sure if I believe how people are justifying its existence).

    Folks, You have to experience what I saw to understand the enormity of this thing or what ever it was. You were right in calling it plasma, thats the same thought I had; However, it appeared to have a mind of its own.

    Maybe it was pre programmed or some kind of probe. I have marked the area of my sighting in quotations where it appears similar to your photo.

    Your photo is what I saw but on a grander scale. The bright areas on the ring is what I saw before the circle began to divide into different spheres.

    It appears your photo of the circle represents the ring at the edge of our atmosphere, that would account for its feathery faded like appearance. (indicating many miles of distance between it and our atmosphere. It therefore had to be very bright for it to be seen in daylight.)

    ..............I am a diagnostic scientist in medicine. I diagnose through changes in morphology or structure and shape and compare those changes.

    I hope that information will give some credibility to what I have to say.

    (PART ONE)

    ReplyDelete
  8. (PART TWO)

    ...............On the night of June 3rd., 2000 at approximately 8:03 pm., I observed an awesome movement of lights. They appeared in my cone of vision about 10 degrees left of a center position and about 20 degrees above the horizon. (This may sound complicated but It's important to give detail as I have had many years of this tape running in my head).

    They were following a path directly in front of me with a curvature 10 degrees left of center of the line of sight and about 20 degrees above the horizon.
    (In perspective, smaller lights were distant and larger ones were closer). Their were 30 or 40 pairs of lights. (maybe 100 individual lights in all, "trust me it was awesome")

    Each pair was rotating as if they were attached in tandem with each other, similar to the ending lights on the wing of an aircraft. They were all rotating in a counter clockwise direction. They appeared to be coming from a distant point in the night sky in a north east direction.
    Each set of lights were rotating in a different position, (similar to the hands on the face of a clock) so all together they appeared to be moving along a cork screw like path. (like looking down a spiral staircase).

    They were moving in a downward shallow hanging arc over the Pacific ocean. As I said they were moving counter clockwise in tandem but from their perspective they would be moving clockwise.

    The color of each light was that of an arc welders torch and the shape was similar but not exactly like that of a 4 pointed star.

    Their movement was fluid, (like flowing water), There was no jerking or fading in and out like videos of ufo's. I guess you could say it seemed to be organic. (at least thats the feeling I got). (END PART TWO)

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  9. SORRY FOR THE DOUBLE POST OF PART ONE. NEVER DID THIS BLOGGING THING BEFORE.
    I WAS COMPELLED TO LEARN HOW TO DO THIS AFTER HEARING YOUR STORY ON COAST TO COAST. I HAVE BEEN LISTENING FOR YEARS TO SEE IF ANYONE HAD A SIMILAR SITING AND YOU ARE THE ONE.

    I WILL FOLLOW WITH DIFFERENT PARTS LATER. THIS HAS NOT BEEN AN EASY CHORE TO LEARN HOW TO ACCOMPLISH THIS BLOGGING THING.

    I DIDN'T REALIZE IT ONLY TAKES A MINIMUM AMOUNT OF CHARACTERS.

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  10. Hi Everyone:
    What I seen was real, I Don't think Mr. Chiles seen the object himself, only later seen it in a photograph. What I seen and what others have reported as well are real objects. Other mothers picking up their children seen the huge objects floating high perhaps thousands of feet up in the atmosphere. So their were multiple witnesses who also saw what I saw. The jets and con trails are key here I believe, I am convinced that some type of jet perhaps military are dropping these objects. Debbie in San Diego

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  11. (PART THREE)

    As they moved towards me they did and about face 90 degree turn straight up, still rotating in tandem and having long sinuous tails behind them. The tails were bright like an arc welders torch but billowy and plasma like instead of like the tails you would expect to see on shooting stars.

    After the turn they moved straight up into the clouds and I was unable to observe their movements, (approximately., 5 sec.). The clouds seemed to glow from behind but I can't be sure because of the reflection of sodium street lights.

    I saw an opening in the clouds and waited to see if they would appear. I still wasn't sure if I was imagining what I had just seen. It seemed a long time but to my surprise they did appear and what I saw was nothing like before.

    What I saw next was at least (50 or 60) rectangles. They were dimly lit with a whitish blue glow but bright enough for me to distinctly see them. Their movement was erratic. It was as if they were all violently shaking. They appeared to bend and curve around each other in very odd and physically impossible ways. (similar to a swarm of Bees) Its very difficult to explain anything at this point. It was just a very odd.

    They continued to move across the night sky (its dark in Hawaii at this time in the summer) all the while rising in altitude as a group. It was a fairly large grouping, enough so, that my open hand when raised half way above my head almost covered them. Some of the rectangles strayed outside the group so it appeared as a somewhat loose formation.

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  12. SIDE BAR:
    I DON'T HAVE AN EMAIL ADDRESS SO THIS IS ABOUT THE ONLY WAY TO
    COMMUNICATE THIS INFO. I WILL STILL FOLLOW UP WITH MORE PARTS.

    I'M NOT SURPRISED THE RING WAS NOT IN THE BEFORE OR AFTER PHOTO. THE RING AND ITS "MITOSIS" SO TO SPEAK ONLY LASTED ABOUT 4 TO 8 SECONDS. LIKE YOU SAID IF YOU LOOK CLOSELY YOU CAN SEE BRIGHT SPOTS ON THE RING. ACTUALLY THE RING EVENTUALLY COALESCED INTO 7 BRIGHT SPHERES OF PLASMA WITH EACH TRAVELING TO A DIFFERENT LOCATION AND FORMING A "V" WITH ONE LEG LONGER THAN THE OTHER........MORE TO FOLLOW.

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  13. This reminds me of something on a recent broadcast of C2C. Linda and someone else where talking about the possibility that other intelligences can program light particles.

    Can't be explained with simple lens flare when other people are reporting similar objects through naked eye.

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  14. (PART 4)

    As it moved higher it became brighter, smaller and the rectangles migrated closer together. Their erratic movement ceased but they still appeared separate.

    I hate to compare these rectangles to a movie but if you can remember the motion picture "2001 A Space Odyssey" and compare them to the numerous monolith like rectangles and color them white then give them depth "thats what I saw".

    The group continued to move higher and coalesced to form a circular (whitish blue) round dinner plate like geometry. Than on cue ( like the movement of a school of fish) a black opening of the night sky appeared in the middle of the dinner plate and expanded (with an outward movement) pushing all the rectangles together. It did this in 3 consecutive movements until it formed a bright white (ring of light).

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  15. (PART 5)

    Their movement was complete chaos. I would have expected something with more precision but it was almost surreal to watch the rectangles bump into each other and bounce off. It was as if they weren't sure where to go. It no longer appeared "fluid like" and became more like (bumper cars at the carnival}. They eventually calmed down and formed a tire like ring not unlike your photograph composed of white rectangles.

    These rectangles morphed into (7) spheres of very bright (whitish blue} light.
    It was amazing to watch them form these spherical globes of light. they curved gracefully around each other and merged. They did this "movement fast and at separate positions on the ring of light.

    After they formed (or very nearly at the same moment they formed) they moved to separate locations forming a "V" with the apex pointing South West. One leg of the
    "V" was longer than the other as if you had taken a non-existant (8th) globe away.

    An interesting thing to note here is as each sphere reached its location it stopped
    (instantly) with its long sinuous tail slamming abruptly into it. "It appeared to be alive". It was very odd and maybe just a tad creepy.

    After this all ended the clouds came in and obscured the whole event. I seem to
    remember at this point that a bright light came out of the bottom of the clouds and moved to the southwest and dull amber light shot to the northeast. I can't be sure for some odd reason this part is fuzzy to me.


    (LAST BLOG)

    THE END, ALOHA

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