Morganton, NC – Scientists from Appalachian State University have captured images believed to be those of the elusive Brown Mountain Lights.
Regular sightings of the mysterious lights – hovering above Brown Mountain – date back more than a century. But as often as the lights are seen, they’re rarely captured on film or video.
Then on the night of July 16, a round glowing light was captured simultaneously by two time-lapse digital video cameras near the mountain, which is located just north of Morganton. The cameras are operated by Dr. Daniel Caton and colleague Lee Hawkins of the physics and astronomy department at Appalachian State.
Caton has worked to capture evidence of the lights since participating in a symposium about the natural phenomena that was hosted by the Burke County Tourism Development Authority in February 2011. However, time-lapse video cameras on Jonas Ridge yielded no conclusive imagery during the last five years and Caton was considering pulling the plug on the study when he noticed an “anomaly” while reviewing footage from late July 16 and early July 17.
“This is the first time we’ve had a dual detection (on both cameras). It was something out there. It came on and went back off virtually instantly four times over several minutes,” Caton explained. “We’ve eliminated all the things that are likely man-made natural sources, so we’re left with no real explanation other than it’s whatever the lights might actually be.”
Theories of what causes the lights range from ball lightning – which Caton considers a possibility – to naturally-occurring gases rising from the mountain to more cosmic possibilities.
Burke County tourism director Ed Phillips, who has taken a particular interest in the lights and put together the two symposia, sees this development as a major breakthrough.
“Those who have seen the lights over Brown Mountain are ecstatic that a team of scientists has finally captured a mysterious light in the same location,” Phillips said. “These images give credibility to the many people who have seen lights over the mountain.”
Ever the cautious scientist, Caton wants to gather more data on the lights. But he admits this has been a very interesting development.
“It’s intriguing. I was about ready to give up, so this was one of those moments when you look at the screen and go, ‘What was that?’” said Caton. “It’s the first time we’ve captured something that we can’t easily explain.”
Phillips applauds the efforts of Caton and his team of researchers, knowing that it will likely result in an increased interest in the Brown Mountain Lights.
“This is significant. We hope to host a symposium in the future that focuses on the science behind the lights and the research into their cause,” said Phillips. “Does this verify the Brown Mountain Lights? I believe it does. Do we have an explanation? No, we don’t.”
See round light just left of center. Photo Dan Caton & Lee Hawkins