Sunday, March 31, 2013

Glowing Tree or Electric Light?

In August of 2011, I stayed at the Wikiup B&B (which has a guest room named after me -- "Garrett's Stargazer"). I was stargazing from the Wikiup's backyard, which overlooks woodlands and scrub habitat, and in the nearly pitch black night I could make out a glowing tree (my Moses moment). I photographed it that night and then again the next day. 

As a child, I encountered a decaying stump that glowed with a greenish color. I put a piece of the stump into my shirt pocket and I could still see the glow and grain of the wood through my shirt material. Unfortunately, the bioluminescence was ephemeral, and the following night, the chip had about a fourth of its radiance. By the next night, it was out like a dead lightbulb.

Upon seeing the glow in the Julian night, I was reminded of that glowing chip. Was this bioluminescence or a dead tree catching someone's distant mercury vapor lamp? Mercury vapor shows up green in photos, and as they are ubiquitous, it seemed the more likely explanation. I looked and couldn't find a light source, so there either was none (very possible at this location) or it was hidden from view. I also took longer exposures hoping to reveal the spill of a light onto other parts of the scene. E.g., a shadow would suggest an electric light was the cause. Since the tree was separated from me by a ravine and barbed wire, I couldn't investigate further, so this remains an unsolved mystery.


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