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Strange phenomena at night

  1. Apr 7, 2009 #1
    About 10 years ago I was attending a pig roast at my dad's camp in Maine in a very remote area. We have no electricity at the camp and there aren't any houses for several hundred acres in any direction. It was probably about 9 or 10 at night, and quite dark except for the fire light. There were about 100 of us outside talking when it occurred: for about 2 seconds, the entire night sky was suddenly as bright as day..and then it was back to night again.

    The view of the night sky was very clear. I did not see any visible sign of anything unnatural in the sky before, during or after the event. The only possible explanation I can think of is a meteorite...but that doesn't quite sit right either, because of the way that the entire sky was illuminated. Or is that normal?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 7, 2009 #2


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    Well, exploding meteors (bolides) can be extremely bright, but one that bright probably would have made the news. Other than that, nothing jumps out at me as possible explanations.
  4. Apr 7, 2009 #3

    Ivan Seeking

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    An exploding transformer is the only other thing that comes to mind. They can light things up over a large area. When we had a historic storm here in ~1996, I could see transformers blowing twenty miles away.

    If you could provide the year and day, it might be possible to find other related reports.
  5. Apr 7, 2009 #4
    Unfortunately I don't know the exact year/date. Perhaps if there was a place that kept historical records of meteorological events I could check to see if there was anything plausible in the "ballpark"...which I guess was around summer 1998.

    I can't imagine that his could be caused by an exploding transformer. After traveling millions of miles from Cybertron I would think they have mastered the ability to fly through the atmosphere safely.

    Ok, just kidding. Although there are power lines a few miles away from the area, they would be low down...because the cabin is on top of a hill / small mountain. I would not expect a transformer obscured by trees in the lowlands to light up the whole sky from the perspective of on top of the hill...and also it was a clear night, no storm, no real wind no rain.
  6. Apr 7, 2009 #5

    Ivan Seeking

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    :rofl: You caught me at an age disadvantage. I had to think about that one for a moment.

    They can pull thousands of amps until the upstream breaker trips. If we are talking about a 11,500 volt line, which is a standard, that makes for a heck of a flood light. Also, the apparent duration of the flash could be due in part to the time required for your eyes to recover.

    I'm not arguing that's what it was, but it seems plausible.
  7. Apr 8, 2009 #6
    Funny thing is, I had to think about yours for a minute :rofl:

    Here are some examples of a transformer exploding captured on video:

    The first is quite impressive,
    "this was an electrical substation that stepped down high voltage (138,000 volts) from a transmission line down to a lower voltage (23,000 volts) for local distribution. It was conveniently located adjacent to a golf course and residential housing. In this clip, a ground fault on a capacitor bank on the low voltage side of the substation creates an arcing fault that behaves like an uncontrollable welding torch from Hell, chewing up everything in its path."

    Incidentally, my microwave oven just did the same thing yesterday. I was popping up some corn when I heard an odd sound...sounded like an arc welder. I looked in through the window and I saw that indeed, it looked like an arc welder! I opened it up and saw it was burning a hole through a metal plate on the side...hehe.

    This one is a bit tamer:

    I'm not sure how much variability there is, but the first is far too prolonged (and doesn't look nearly bright enough..although it's still cool), and the second is kind of lame altogether.
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 24, 2017
  8. Apr 8, 2009 #7
    There is a photo which shows the night sky lit up due to Earthlights: WhyCan't We Predict Earthquakes (move slider to 41 min). These are considered to be produced from geological activity associated with earthquakes. Note that an actual earthquake at the time is not a prerequisite. Is the area known to have any fault lines?
  9. Apr 8, 2009 #8

    Interesting...I couldn't view that video, but I did find this one


    It causes the night sky to light up for a moment. Although I didn't see a glowing ball before it happened, the flash of light does look similar...so this seems the best explanation so far!

    Also, I don't know much about geology, but it looks like the area is located on some big fault lines

    http://img17.imageshack.us/img17/6562/faults.gif [Broken]
    Last edited by a moderator: May 4, 2017
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