What is this?

I was looking at the Boomershoot webcam image for this evening and saw things I have no idea what they are.


What are those lines? The images just one minute before and after don’t have them. There are several images with strange lines in them:



The camera is in IR mode with an IR illuminator.So that changes things some. I thought maybe it was snow or hail or even raindrops being blown by a strong wind. But the wind never even gusted over 7.6 MPH in that time frame. And I would expect there would similar lines in adjacent frame (admittedly one minute apart). But there aren’t. But the wind was coming from about the correct direction for each of the lines to be following the wind. The temperature ranged from about 48 F to 49 F. Insects are going to be a bit sluggish at that temperature.

There was one similar event on the previous night:


Any ideas?

Update: Rain. Shortly after seeing many images similar to the one below the weather station reported a small amount (0.01 inches) of precipitation.



15 thoughts on “What is this?

  1. _101 and _031 look like condensation on the lens, with the IR illuminator reflecting off a droplet. all of them are more or less straight depending on the distance from the center of the lens. _158 seems to point right at the moon, which leads me to think all of them are internal reflections. to the lens.

    Did you clean the lens with an overly-abrasive cloth, possibly?

    • I don’t think I have ever cleaned the lens.

      If they are internal reflections why did they appear in only about one out a hundred images? And why was there only one on the previous night when there was a mostly clear sky and a nearly full moon and yet so many more tonight when the sky was cloudy?

  2. I’m having a hard time with the scale of the photographs, but the arc that the lines follow appear to be almost parabolic. It’s as though something had been launched with just enough force to send it sailing upwards and in front of the camera with the arc “leaning” to the left. But I’m at a complete loss as to what could be popping up out of the ground with enough force to send it sailing along, and enough thermal energy to make it appear in the IR spectrum.

    Does anybody know if there’s some kind of seed that can pop open with enough force to send it soaring like that? Or maybe somebody tossing a cigarette butt out in front of the camera in the middle of the night?

  3. Spider webs. It’s about the time of year for spiders to parachute across the landscape.

  4. Forgot to include a link with my comment, dunno if adding it will get this caught in your spam filter. But, check Wikipedia’s entry on Ballooning_(spider)

  5. Length of exposure might be helpful.

    Bug activity is very low to nonexistent at less than 50 degrees as Joe notes.

    What about night flying birds? Since we have no sense of scale they could be near or far in relation to the lighter vs fainter lines.

  6. FWIW, our video system will sometimes look like there’s a snowstorm hitting while a naked eye view sees nuthin’. Bugs or dust or almost-invisible drizzle in our case. Dunno what your mystery rays are; they look a lot like strands from a spider.

  7. Birds, bats, bugs, anything that flies and either reflects or emits IR.

    That or it’s conclusive proof of either interstellar alien life or divine intervention. Whichever one is more plausible. Anything we don’t immediately understand will be attributed to one of the latter, and since we didn’t immediately understand this one it is therefore, ipso facto, either aliens or divine intervention. QED.

  8. Might be the built-in IR LEDs/CCD being fickle. You’d have to disable them and use some external IR illumination to find out. From my quick research, it seems that some of the cheaper stuff, especially CCTV equipment, will look like a snowstorm or bug swarm due to artifacts caused by low end components. Since it’s taking stills, a floating blotch would look like a streak. From a Tom’s Hardware forum post:

    most likely caused by the ir led’s themselves, go outside without turning on your porch light and stare closely into the camera, if you see the ir led’s flickering up like the image then thats your problem, glass in front of the leds will also produce this effect

    this is a problem with many cheap “night vision” cameras on the market, although ir leds do work to illuminate the night for cctv, the cameras that have them built in are built like garbage in 90% of the cases, the ir illumination actually causes a reflective effect on the image, good ir cameras have ir cut off filter that filter out the reflections, the best way to utilize infrared for night time illumination is to use a good day/night camera with ir filter lens built in (color day- black and white night) without ir leds and use a separate ir illumination modules or ir lamps.

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