Strange streak discussion: 2004 Dec 7 APOD

Comments and questions about the APOD on the main view screen.
Bob Harrington

I think 'thederek' has the answer.

Post by Bob Harrington » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:06 am

thederek wrote:I'm convinced it's a bug!

maybe that sounds too simplistic, but i think it is quite realistic.

1. right coloring for a small gnat or mosquito.
2. that is about the distance a bug could fly in about 1/20th of a second (i think, it kinda depends on the distance from the lense that the bug was flying)
3. that clearly explains why it wasnt in the picture before or after.
4. its easy! and obvious!
I think you've got it!

The images still have the EXIF info from the Canon Powershot G3 camera used. Included in that info is the fact that the flash was fired for each of the images (not sure why flash would be used in this situation, but perhaps part of the automatic functioning of the camera)

I suspect an insect flying by close to the camera - and thus out of focus - left the darker shadow during the 1/20 second exposure, and then was illuminated by the very brief (usually well under 1/1000 second) strobe of the camera's flash.

Depending on whether the camera fires its flash at the end or the beginning of the exposure, you might need to reverse the order of my time line above...

A very similar situation to the silly fervor over 'Rods' a few years ago, where a whole new crop of 'theories' about interdimensional alien intruders was created to explain what was in fact insects flying in front of cameras... ;^)

Bob ^,,^


need more info

Post by overs » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:08 am

that's funny - when i look at the photo properties, it says that it was taken at 4:52 AM.

I live in eastern australia, and that sounds spot on for dawn. it would be good to know more info about when and where, etc.

Looking at the clouds, it is quite obvious that the sun was behind and to the right of the camera, so maybe its northern queensland??? (but it could really be anywhere...)

Just thought that was important, since if it really was taken in the morning, then the self-exploding bulb thoery goes out the window, since it would have been TURNING OFF, instead of on!


Can't be a shadow

Post by SomeGuyInCalif » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:13 am

It cannot be the shadow of a contrail; such shadows, while common, are only visible when the contrail intersects the line between the viewer and the sun. The lighting of the clouds shows that the sun is coming from the right, while the shadow extends up and to the left.

Nor can it be the shadow of the lamppost or housing; the shadow of the lamppost would be a plane, not a line. The shadow would be visible (appearing as a line) only if the viewer was in the plane looking across it. In this case, the plane could not include the lamppost, the viewer, and the apparent line of the shadow. While such a plane could be generated by a point-source light and a piece of the housing at just the right angle, such a piece would be small and close to the light, so the resultant shadow would diverge as distance increases. The apparent line diverges very little if at all (I can't detect any divergence).

A ballistic object that has reached terminal velocity will travel in a straight line. A meteor that survives atmospheric impact and falls to the earth will slow to some terminal velocity (which decreases with altitude) and will cool. This is why meteorites are not traveling 40000 kph when they hit the ground. As they cool, they lose their glow, and would then produce a dark streak if captured on film.

That said, it could be a hair on the lens; it seems unlikely that a perfectly straight hair would happen to land on the one photo that happened to show a light exploding, and would happen to intersect the image of that burst. Possible, but unlikely. Given the number of photographs taken around the world every day, and the number of meteorites that land every day, it seems more likely to me than the hair theory.

It could be a bug; the same argument holds as the hair. Possible, but the synchronicity of all three conditions seems less likely than a meteorite. However, pictures with odd artifacts are snapped all the time, and we don't puzzle over them; this one is being scrutinized simply because of the confluence of oddities. Still, I like the meteorite theory.


Re: Is it a bird? Is it a plane? I think it's a plane...

Post by Guest » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:14 am

Anonymous wrote:
fireking wrote:I've seen shadow lines very similar to the one in the picture.
This gives me an idea.

The light, when inspected, was not working. This time of the evening (just after 6PM) is when automatic lights often come on - we can apparently see other lights on in the picture.

When lights burn out at startup, they often flash, briefly and brightly. I can't make out the design of the light, but, is it possible that the photographer captured a light bulb burning out -- and the line is the shadow of the light housing? Depending on the design of the housing, a burnout flash could illuminate everything around it, except for the column of air/mist shadowed by the housing.

smith @
I really think you're right! The photographer had the "luck" to capture a lightbulb explode on lighting. I also think that the shadow isn't going to the left upper corner right into the sky, but come's directly to the photographer and passes him only en few feet left above his position, because the lampbulb is to the right off the column. The gasses from the exploding lamp are clearly seen.

guest of guests

Post by guest of guests » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:17 am

If it was true film. A fold in the film for that frame of film causes a streak to appear and wisp of light at end is just section of film gathering more light than necessary because its folded.


Post by obiskeyone » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:21 am

It is just the wake of an aircraft flying through the clouds.


my thoughts

Post by vern » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:22 am


I think it's just an exploding lightpole or transformer or whatever was attached to that pole. You can clearly see smoke jets going up and down from the light source. The streak is no shadow, because to cast such a narrowl angled shadow the light source had to be almost like a laser. But the light source has a big area, the shadow should be wide angled and blurry.
The streak could be some digital shadow that was produced by the way the CCD information int the camera was processed.
Annother explanation could be a round of live ammo fired from a military aircraft that accidentially hit the pole.
Is there a military installation near the scene?



bugs in my hair...

Post by jrobertdobbson » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:23 am

Don't think it is a bug as I don't think bugs travel in such straight lines.

Don't think the whiite smudge is a shock wave as it has too high an angle and isn't conical. Shock waves are pretty acute and tend to form cones rather than lines. (see and be aware that this is a minimum angle for the cone, as this plane is just passing through mach 1.)Also, note that there appears to be a hole in the middle of the circle.


Post by Lukeonia1 » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:23 am

Food for thought everyone, I saw this image on the other week. HERE is the article.

I like the meteorite theory myself, as well. However, I think what we need most is an update on the condition of the light pole and fixture.

Anyone in Australia care to go take a look? :wink:



Post by Frankthebunny » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:26 am

Who inspected the pole and when? What exactly was wrong with it? These are essential, basic questions to be answered first, if, as it appears, the pole was "hit" by something...

Glen Tobiason

Streak in the sky

Post by Glen Tobiason » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:27 am

I believe that there are two things happening. 1. the long dark streak is a shadow of a plane´s contrail in the clouds. The very low angled sunlight (sunset or sunrise) in the background cast this shadow on the underlying low lying clouds. 2. The light bulb just happen to burst or flare out at the time of the photo. The streak around the lamp was probably a reflection of the flash in some of the camera´s optics or body insides.



Post by AMJ » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:27 am

No guesses but here are some things to note:

1. the streak is prett uniform in size over it's length and it seems to go behind a cloud at one point.
2. there is an interesting reflection (?) on the water along the same line as the camera to the light pole.
3. Maybe my eyes are just playing tricks, but if you follow the "reflection" to the far distant shore, the trees appear to be just slightly brighter than the surrounding trees

#1 leads me to believe the streak is in the distance and it just happened to line up with a lamp burning out.
I don't know what #2 and #3 mean.


it IS a meteor

Post by rocketboy » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:27 am

if you look at it again you can see the white vapor cos by air pressure cos by high speed at the see it had some high had some mass therefore it couldn`t be anything but meteor...


streak in sky

Post by thisbearbites » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:28 am

Get Down! They're shooting things at us!
Lightning, bulb blew, bug, etc. theries are too common of occurences. All would have been recognized.
This photo is real mind blower!
I like the shooting laser theory. The heat from the lazer causes an ash and smoke trail by burning air particles.
Either that or it is a meteor.
This is Fun! :D

Ric Routh

Speed of Events in Phenomenon

Post by Ric Routh » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:31 am

We have some speed information documented in the picture. If we can find out what the shutter speed and film speed were, we can measure the speed of event by the size of the blur of the event. This would apply to both the streak and the flash. It appears that the flash was remarkably fast as it appears to be VERY localized. Once we have determined the speed of the flash, we might be in a position to make some rough calcualtions relative to the energy released in the flash (we have a measure of its brightness and the time of duration). So,...can someone ask the photographewr what the shutter speed and film speed were?


Post by Matt » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:31 am

If "meteor experts don't think it's a meteor" and "atmospheric scientists don't think it's lightning", then I'm disinclined to think it's either. I'm also disinclined to believe the line is a shadow, since it appears to have been caused by something tangible -- piercing through the cloud, no noticeable diffraction...
Bereft of any other ideas, barring science fiction UFOs and laserbeams of course, it seems most plausible that there are three events coincidentally occuring simultaneously: some sort of debrit shooting down from the sky, some sort of light burst being emitted from a fast moving water-vehicle or from the pole or some other unidentifiable source, and the smoke-looking haze that appears to be surrounding the light-burst -- which I don't think is in any way related to the light source. Crazy coincidents occur all the time and are often caught on film, but usually the causes are known and we are only amused, rather than intrigued.

But just because I barred the science fiction, doesn't mean it's not possible...
According to the Drake Equation, the plausibility is high that this phenominon was caused by an extra-terrestrial intelligence :roll:

Another idea: maybe the streak was an unauthorized spacelaunch from the landmass across the way :wink:


More questions...

Post by smr » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:32 am

I am not convinced the dark streak is a distant object/result. Someone else suggested it may be a hair or other small object "flying" by. It would be nice to have pictures before and after this one too. Seems more likely the two events are not related at all. Could be the sunset is reflecting off of the lamp.

Mike Schneider

Post by Mike Schneider » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:32 am

obiskeyone wrote:It is just the wake of an aircraft flying through the clouds.
...and into the water?

Posts: 18
Joined: Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:07 am

strange streak

Post by DOM » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:36 am

I'm not a specialist then here's my idea on this picture.

When I saw it for the first time , I remembered immediately this picture

then the fire visible in the image that we talk become the light source , with the smoke passing in front , that create the streak.

Do I have the right answer ? :wink:

sherlock holmes

tiny contrail

Post by sherlock holmes » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:36 am

this thing is way too tiny to be a plane, but it does arc slightly as if affected by gravity. i think it's someone's model rocket. that would explain the flame captured in the image as well.

Forest Green

Ball Lightning

Post by Forest Green » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:41 am

I wonder if this is ball lightning. My family owned a farm in Connecticut which had several chimneys. On more than one occasion ball lightning came down the kitchen chimney and knocked around the room. I have seen this first hand. That is what the APOD reminds me of. We also had a willow tree in the farm yard that had been struck and split three times, proving that lightning WILL strike the same place twice!

Mike Schneider

Post by Mike Schneider » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:42 am

obiskeyone wrote:It is just the wake of an aircraft flying through the clouds.
...and into the water?


Strange streak discussion

Post by guest » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:42 am

I can offer nothing more on the shadow than those already posted, but I would like to support fireking 's theory regarding a street lamp burnout. As a traffic signal technician of many years, I have been actually looking at traffic lantern as the signal changed on a number of occaisions. As stated, incandescent lamps are most likely to fail at switch-on due to lower impedance when cold and a corresponding large in-rush current. This indeed results in a much brighter flash than the normal illumination. Additionally, much automatic street lighting in Australia is determined by ambient light levels rather than time. With the gathering storm, it is quite possible that the local circuit has just been activated. Are the other lamps glowing on the earlier frames?



Post by Guest » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:44 am

I have to go with either a fake or a camera defect caused by whatever the flash is near the center of the photo. I find it interested that the shadow/streak ends and nearly dead center of the photo which leads me to believe it's a camera defect or a man created fake.

My reasoning is first what are the chances of getting whatever this is in a photo and second what are the chances on top of that to have it dead center in the photo.


Re: strange streak

Post by overs » Tue Dec 07, 2004 7:46 am

DOM wrote:I'm not a specialist then here's my idea on this picture.

When I saw it for the first time , I remembered immediately this picture

then the fire visible in the image that we talk become the light source , with the smoke passing in front , that create the streak.

Do I have the right answer ? :wink:

then how do you explain that in our pic the 'shadow' doesn't change shape, like the one in your photo converging towards the moon?