Single Flashes of Light in Night Sky

For a number of years now I have been using a Watec 902H low light CCTV camera for monitoring lightning related phenomena. Over the years I’ve recorded many “single flashes of light” that are NOT airplanes. I’ve purposely setup my capture software to record 30 head frames and 120 tail frames. This is to ensure that when I record a flash, I give the recording long enough to record any subsequent strobe flashes from the airplane, if that’s what it is that I’m capturing. These flashes only occur once during the recordings. Usually they are seen during clear nights. This would imply that they are most likely satellites or space junk. When I record a flash I always check on Stellarium (planetarium software) to see if there were any known satellites at the spot of the flash during the time recorded. In some cases I find a match (usually an Iridium satellite) for the flash confirming that it was a satellite that caused it. Other times though, there is no known satellite near the location of the flash. Of course, this doesn’t mean that it couldn’t be a satellite that isn’t in the NORAD element files used by Stellarium or a piece of space junk.

Here are a number of satellite examples. The first two are Iridium flares and the rest are of other satellites. In every case you can see a trajectory for the object. In other words there is movement evident while it’s visible.

Here is a recording of airplanes flying overhead.

The flashes in question are not cosmic rays hitting the CCD chip. Cosmic rays only last ONE frame as opposed to the hundreds of milliseconds for the flashes. Cosmic Ray example (

Cosmic Ray example

Here are a number of flashes that do not fit any of the above examples. On the first clip there is a cosmic ray detected by the CCD as well. Can you spot it?

Sometimes though I record a flash during overcast conditions like this example. (

Flash during overcast evening

I’m not sure what to make of some of these flashes, particularly the ones that occur during overcast conditions. They are most curious indeed.

If anyone has insight into what these might be please leave a comment.

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