A Mysterious Light in the Sable Sky, October 2016

Above: A view from the Sable Island Station, roughly towards the northwest, shows a shape like a spinning top glowing in the sky above the Station. Photo Wayne Broomfield (25 second exposure, ISO 100, f/5.6).

In October 2016, Wayne Broomfield spent two weeks on Sable Island working with Parks Canada on infrastructure projects. On a starry night he set up his tripod in the yard between several buildings at the Sable Island Station and manually took a series of digital photos. When Wayne examined the photos, he saw a peculiar but very clear image in the sky—something he hadn’t seen while taking the pictures.

In trying to identify the image, various possibilities were discussed—balloon, bolide, meteor shock wave, or a cloud of exhaust particles from a rocket launch. The photo was forwarded to Gerry Forbes (manager of the Meteorological Service of Canada’s Sable Island operation) and he was able to track down the answer.

A crop and blow-up of the artifact in Wayne’s photograph.

Gerry contacted J Randy Attwood, Executive Director of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada (located in Toronto). Randy Attwood’s response (November 14, 2016):

“Interesting – I saw a picture just like this Friday at an RASC meeting. People thought it was a meteor shock wave. Then I noticed the artifact was exactly opposite the bright light in the picture – and an equal distance from the centre of the image. You can draw a straight line from the light to the artifact to prove it – the line should go thru the centre of the picture and the light and artifact are equal distance from the centre. So the artifact is lens flare.”

Diagram of the effect explained above by Randy Attwood.

Although not as exotic as a bolide or an alien probe, the lens flare is nevertheless remarkable. Thanks to Wayne Broomfield for sharing the image, to Gerry Forbes, and to Randy Attwood for his explanation.

Prepared by Zoe Lucas
Sable Island Institute, August 2018

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