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Last night's observing session...


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I was out from 10.30pm last night at a location in the West Midlands. Between 10:30pm and 11pm, I saw four bright flashes with ten to twenty minutes intervals between them - very similar to sheet lightning, but the sky was very clear. I could also compare them to a camera flash that seemed to fill the whole of my vision. To confuse things, the flashes were not as bright as a camera flash, I am describing the sensation.

Because they were so "quick", I didn't have the chance to locate the source - and wondered if they were residuals from the thunder storm that passed over three hours previously - rememeber there was hardly any cloud (circa 10%?), except for some spent Cumulonimbus fading into the East.

This has happened on other observation sessions, without thunder storms apparent.

I am speculating as to whether they could have been bright Iridium flares. By the way, I don't suffer from visual disturbances. I have seen Iridium flares before, and they usually build up to a brightness and fade out.

If anyone could shed some light on this, I'd be grateful. For the record, I don't own a tin foil hat.

Edited by Beulah
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What you experienced sounds like heat lightning... it happens here occasionally in warmer weather when there's a frontal system hovering on a far horizon.

As you said, the Iridium flares build and then fade, but i experienced a surprise flare a few years ago which was right overhead and it produced the same effect as heat lightning. I looked up and was able to catch the fade-out, and checked Heavens-Above the next day... IIRC it was a magnitude -5.

Speaking of sky flashes...

I've experienced an 'odd thing' similar to heat-lightning quite a number of times during the last decade, and it happens when it's not summer.. or even warm out. Heat lightning definitely lights up the surrounding area momentarily, but this 'odd thing' seems to be more of a 'sensation' (good word to describe the experience, btw) than an optical experience.

In various forum discussions through the years, others have also said they've experienced it and someone suggested that maybe it is indeed an optical experience, but caused by something in our eyes and not something in the sky. Maybe it happens all the time but we need to be in total darkness to be aware that it's happening.

:)

I'd better go before the Men in Black bring me a tinfoil hat. :eek:

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What you experienced sounds like heat lightning...

I live in Alabama and on those hot hot humid nights even if the thunderstorm is far away I can still see the flashes from it. I agree it was probably heat lightening.

I just walked my dog out and i saw heat lightening, looking up i have clear skies with visible stars, but yet I can see the flashes from the heat lightening. I checked the weather radar and the thunderstorm I am seeing it from is probably close to 70 miles away.

Edited by SoulFrenzy
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What you experienced sounds like heat lightning... it happens here occasionally in warmer weather when there's a frontal system hovering on a far horizon.

Hi Carol,

I used to live in Wisconsin (Watertown / Johnson Creek) and remember the heat lightning - fantastic and very eerie on a hot summer night.

We were sitting out in front of the fire here in our garden in the UK the other night (it was very warm for the UK - don't ask me why we had a fire going! :) ) when I saw a faint glow light up the sky a couple of times. It came from behind the house which I was facing - everyone else had their back to it - and when I said "Did you guys see that?" for the second time they silently handed me another beer and spoke in hushed tones about my current fragile state har har!

David

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Talitha, you are brilliant. Thanks for your reply. :)

That describes the situation exactly. The spent thunderhead was very far off on the Eastern horizon, about two hours after the storm had passed. I have experienced the flashing a couple of times before in a clear sky, but to have it happen four times within a short time frame would indicate your suggestion.

Dare I even say that I watch a lot of thunderstorms, and the flashing experiences actually sound like lightning? (if that were possible)

As for the visual disturbances, I can understand some hold that theory; however I go out a lot on winter mornings in the pitch black and have never seen "flashes" - it is also a rare occurance in all the nights I have been observing.

Good to have some mysteries solved. :eek:

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Glad to be able to help. :eek: The 'odd thing' flashes that i and others have experienced seem to happen only after hours of being dark adapted. They happen with such infrequency that it's difficult to pin down any one thing that could possibly be causing them like fatigue, eye strain, etc.

Small world, David... i lived in Twin Lakes (Kenosha County) for about 5 years before drifting up to Tomahawk. :)

Speaking of mystery flashes, here's another one. Soon after i became an Amateur, i noticed the low clouds in the SW sky intermittently flickering, like a flourescent light that's old and needs to be replaced. Then a few nights later the same thing happened, but there were no clouds.. it looked like the air itself was flickering. :)

A few nights went by without it happening, and then it happened again. This time, i got into the truck and drove around the back roads till i found out what it was... extremely bright light from welders at the gravel pit about 3 miles away. :eek: The pit is in use during the day, so the best time to service the equipment is at night. :o

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Small world, David... i lived in Twin Lakes (Kenosha County) for about 5 years before drifting up to Tomahawk. :)

Even smaller than that - I understand you where "born and raised in Chicago" (saw it one of your old posts)

So was I :eek: Cook county hospital way way (to the power of 10) back in 64'. We lived in Palatine then Schaumburg > then moved to the dark skies of Johnson Creek.

Here's a pic of my first "observatory" which was the disused chicken coop (they all died in the blizzard of 77' :) )

Sorry - this is "off message" for this thread!

David

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Edited by Guest
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