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 (https://youtu.be/y6gtkJ3s-70).

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. (https://youtu.be/8qQJ2g5h9q8):

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.

49 thoughts on “Single Flashes of Light in Night Sky”

  1. See these every morning at 3am when I rise to stand under the stars before I need to get up. They flash with purpose. They are not of human origins. Usually its a round type flash I see but this morning it was a cigar shaped flash and HUGE. Last month it was a perfectly round ball, bright orange with flames at its front. I’ve seen numerous strange objects but the best by far was a rectangle with the bottom two corners turned up… it flashed accross Perth’s sky a few times then it split in the middle without splitting and both sides started to flap, like a bat or bird, and it flew like that accross the night sky (it was the brightest white colour). They are talking to us and responding to our thoughts. Rise up everyone.

    1. Hello Jon,

      The particular flashes which I’ve imaged are not sprites, elves, halos, jets or gigantic jets. Over the years I’ve imaged all of these TLEs with the same camera which I’ve imaged the flashes in question. Sprites last less than half a frame which is less than 19ms. Whereas the flashes we are discussing here last much longer than half a frame. Also, sprites are much larger than these single flashes. In short, I do not believe that what I’ve imaged and documented in this post are TLEs. What many others have described also don’t sound like TLEs to me. It is possible that some of what people are seeing could be TLEs though, I do agree with that. I just don’t believe that TLEs explain the phenomena. I have a TLE page where I discuss my experiences with these upper atmospheric discharges.

  2. I have seen these single pulses in western PA. also. Very bright and distant.
    They seem to be randomly placed. However, I have seen it twice, maybe three times in one particular area of sky. It has been approximately 2 A.M two of those times.
    The first time I started to take notice of these occurred from said area of sky, at time, about 7 years ago.
    I was standing upon my deck, waiting for my dog. The flash was brilliant and singular. I watched, expecting to see another blink, scanning an area around the single flash. A streak of light passed above me at incredible speed. It seemed to me to have come directly from the area I was watching. It was so rapid, that I did not see its origin, but only passing just above me and going behind me. It quite startled me.
    That whatever I had seen accelerated so fast, I only had seen the latter movement, so to speak.
    I have never witness that type of reaction before or since from a pulse.
    I see more than one in an evening. I watch naked eyes and it cannot be glare or optical refraction.
    Satellite tracking could help me to help solve these. I have not availed myself of that yet. However, that streak of light, seemingly exiting from area of flash, definitely wasn’t a satellite and I was awake and sober. I’ve seen a few things I cannot explain and attempt to dispel what I have. I have absolutely no comprehension of what may have caused what I had seen. There is no way we make ANYTHING that fast.

  3. I see them too, im in Sparta TN, first time was two years ago, same area of sky but not in same place. They were close together about five seconds apart brighter than Jupiter butuch more white. Like a flash. Then I saw them tonight Oct 26, 1st one bright enough to cause me to look up. Then the other two about 5 seconds apart. Not in same spot or linear, more like a triangle formation each time. Just makes me think.

  4. I am so glad that I am not alone in this for the past couple weeks I have been saying really bright flashes of light in the sky and I’ve recorded them too so I know it’s not my eyes theyes they are very fast really really bright huge huge flashes that light up the sky really fast I really fast but there are different types sometimes there was one right behind me in my car I was just turning on my car and it looked like someone was behind me and took a picture Really close to me but there was nobody there. And. And then I constantly get huge flashes in the sky or little flashes but you can tell that they are very far away So I know that they are huge in comparison or far away in comparison to where I am. I. I’m confused as to whether it is there it is something UFO like or or a natural phenomenon every video you had was completely different than different than what I have been experiencing and I can’t find any videos that are similar to what I see I have a video and about 5 recordings of it I’m not sure what to do but I really would love to talk to somebody and get down to it. I live in Reno Nevada and I’m facing towards Area 51 and I wonder. During these times I was actually trying to communicate with UFO’s and I would tell them to make a Flash of light and it would happen and and sometimes our brains trick us but this was actually recorded and that was very shocking to me. Is there anybody who knows about UFO’s that I can talk to too? This is my email if anybody has any knowledge about this

    Moriah_copeland@yahoo.com

  5. I have been witnessing these flashes as well from my backyard in California. Usually a series of flashes about 20 seconds apart and from the same general direction. I was so fascinated, I bought night vision goggles to see if I could see what was creating the flash. On my second night using them, I found the same phenomena. Nothing there. Just flashes. I’m amazed to see all the comments of people seeing this recently.

    I’ve just sent an email to MUFON to see if they have an explanation.

  6. I’m currently camping in Queenstown, NZ. I saw something very similar about an hour ago, just above, and slightly to the left, of Venus. I saw 5 intermittent flashes in exactly the same spot, a few seconds between each flash, and then another two flashes in exactly the same spot about 30 seconds later. I think I saw something similar about three years back when camping just outside of Newcastle in Aus as well. Would love a scientific explanation to this because it’s wigging me out!

    1. It’s 09/13/2021 and I have been seeing these lights since 2014 and have no clue as to what they could be. When I ask others about them they have no idea either. Nobody seems to know! Very weird in opinion as I see them a lot in the same space in the nights shy. Mostly if not always in the area of the sky where there are four stars making a square. Doesn’t freak me out anymore but even after 8 years seeing these I am no closer to a answer. I seen one just last week and more than a few over the summer months!

    2. I think it’s geo-stationary satellites, they’re just shinier than expected. From my garden a couple hours after sunset I can see many of them flashing in a line and in the same places.

      These flashes could only be from a few different things: satellites, geo-stationary satellites, space junk, meteors. The fact that they can be observed to flash multiple times in the same spot makes all but geo-stationary satellites not possible as they would streak or they wouldn’t produce multiple flashes in the same place. It just has to mean that geo-stationary satellites are shiny enough with flat enough edges to appear that bright, but that must be the case.

      I think like others we have just assumed that geo-stationary satellites were far too far away to appear so bright.

  7. Hey! I saw two of these single point flashes in 2018 while I was living in Mt Shasta, CA. Never seen them before or since, which I found odd. I though maybe it was a meteor coming in at such a direct angle to where I was that there was no tail…

    Tonight I came searching because I just saw an extremely bright white flash that lit up the visible night sky of the porch I’m sleeping on. It was followed a few seconds later by a short, single boom. Maybe a transformer blowing? Sky is clear, I’ve seen heat lightning on distant ridges before but this was much much brighter and the sound didn’t sound like thunder.

  8. I saw the flashes tonight. There was 4 or 5 flashes from the same area, a few seconds between flashes. Then it moved right a few degrees as the flash came from there and then left and 2 or 3 more flashes. Then it moved up and it seemed further away because the flashes weren’t as bright. Then 5minutes later 2 more flashes. I cant explain them. I got 3 of the flashes on video.

    1. We saw exactly what you describe in Midcoast Maine, USA tonight a little before 10pm EDT. Not the first time, either. The first time I witnessed anything similar was in 2012 in Tulum, Mexico. We were out on the beach around midnight and I watched a bright white light flash at least 6 times at an almost regular interval of about 8 minutes right at the sky’s zenith. Freaked me out. Started to try to look into it and gave up.

  9. Looking for an explanation of what I saw in the night sky when I let the dogs out about an hour ago in Western Downs, Qld, Australia led me here.
    I saw flashes in different areas, always stationary, never more than 2 flashes in the same spot. Irregular in terms of timing, positions, etc. They occurred S, W, NW & NNW.
    I regularly see shooting stars or satellites, as I always look up, I’ve only lived here for 4 months and am in awe of the sky without the light pollution from where I lived previously.
    It definitely weren’t planes, as there was no quick repetition or movement.
    I have seen the ISS in the past, so I know what that looks like as well and this was nothing like I’ve ever seen before.
    Thought it could be lightning, but dismissed that after longer observation. I watched the sky for about half an hour instead of the usual few minutes.
    Like others who commented, I tried to find if there was anything special going on tonight, but couldn’t and ended up here. I’m glad I found this, as I was starting to doubt my sanity for a split second there.
    I’d love to know what they are…

      1. Same in NW Pennsylvania! I just saw my probably 20th one of these straight up at 1030 pm EST. I live in a rural area so there is very little light pollution. I’ve seen these quick, bright almost like a camera flash many times before. No rhyme or reason…I want to know what these are!

      2. I live in indiana and this is the second time in 2 years I’ve looked up at the sky while driving and on a straight road I look up at the sky and see a ball of light that just shows up then zips off and almost immediately disappears

        1. That sounds like a meteor. My brother lives in Indiana–it seems like there is a lot of space out there away from light pollution to get some great views of the stars. There are several meteor showers a year–and even outside of those, if you spend enough time stargazing, you’ll see them. We just went out last week to stargaze. There are no significant meteor showers currently (that I’m aware of), and collectively, we saw 5 in one hour.

          I think what most people are talking about here are quick, bright pulses–not really a ball, and no streak. The pulse looks almost man-made–like maybe a blinking light on an aircraft. Only it’s not a continuous blink, it’s one quick flash and then gone–so not an airplane. We theorized a reflection from a satellite, but I think it was mentioned somewhere here why that might not be it. It’s a mystery.

  10. I see them frequently in the UK around the Big Dipper between 10 pm and 1 am. Sometimes they flash once, sometimes three to five times in a few seconds but rarely inexactly the same spot and not following a trajectory either – more like camera flashes in a stadium. Occasionally one has pulsed across the sky for a minute or two, changing course a few times before blinking out.

  11. I’ve seen these same flashes. Just saw one tonight, really bright.
    I also saw a meteor shortly afterwards nearby in the sky.

    The flashes are usually very bright and always COOL WHITE like a strobe light.
    I’ve seen a few before where the same area flashed, but also sometimes just singular flashes.

    I’m very well versed in astronomy and satellites.
    I’ve seen iridium flares, the ISS, all sorts of satellites.
    In fact, almost every night I observe at least one satellite.
    And I’m very well versed in aviation and plane spotting.
    I use Stellarium, Night Sky, Star Walk, Flight Radar 24, RadarScope, etc. with pro subscriptions.
    I can estimate speeds and altitudes of aircraft and satellites.

    I believe there are only a few explanations for these flashes.
    Either some sort of satellite propulsion to modify the orbit, or a metereological/astronomical phenomenon of a charged particle or high atmospheric static charge.
    I’ve never seen a warm white or any specific color flash.

    The flashes are always about the same exact duration of less than one second, but likely half a second. There is no fade in or fade out like with satellites or meteors.
    There’s never any movement to them. They’re always stationary in the sky.

    I have also studied the UFO phenomenon fairly extensively and these fit the unidentified qualifier, but there’s likely a very scientific explanation. Though, it is very weird how these are being spotted and why in certain conditions with certain characteristics.

    I would almost describe the flashes as a camera flash if there was an alien tourist hovering above and they wanted to snap a picture over a certain part of Earth for their vacation photo or something. It’s almost exactly how that would go down if that was real. I’m not saying it’s aliens because they wouldn’t need a fill flash or take a photo at high altitude like that, but comically it fits that description.

    Sometimes the flashes are less bright, and I have thought that an atmospheric lensing might be taking place whereby a distant star’s light is focused into a brighter moment of light as the atmosphere aligns all the photos into a more concentrated beam in a specific area. That makes some sense with what is observed, but I’m not sure the really bright flashes could be explained with concentrated photons. They’re too bright to come from fainter stars. Sometimes much brighter than Sirius.

    1. The flashes are always cool white, but not any blue hues.
      I have seen multiple flashes in the same area of the sky, but I cannot recall if I’ve ever seen the precise spot in the sky flash more than once.

      I have now seen them frequently over the past few months.

      I thought maybe these are Starlink orbit maneuvers since there’s so many of those now in orbit. That would also explain why this seems to be a recent phenomenon, although it doesn’t explain why they appear stationary. Starlink satellites are always moving and are not in GSO/GEO. They’re in LEO which requires movement. Even if for a momentary flash, the movement would be perceptible in my opinion.

    2. Thats exactl how i would decribe it a camera flash.. but the one i witnessed flashed then flashed 2 inches from the first Flash literally withing the same second as if i couldnr see the travel inbetween the 2 points. The 2 inches is relative the sky i imagine could be hundreds if not thousands of miles apart.. it was clearly in space.

  12. I found this page because I was trying to figure out what we saw last night. We took the family out to the desert to watch the perseids. We were out for a few hours. In that time, my husband and I both witnessed three instances of these single flashes. They were bright and would just be one single flash, then nothing. We are very curious as to what they could be.

  13. Great to see this. I thought I was going mad. I just happened to go out in the garden the other night as couldn’t sleep. I looked up the clear night sky and was watching the Ursa Major constellation when I noticed a very bright but quick flash in the arm area of the plough. It did not move and looked stationary but was really quick and reminded me of a camera flash in the distance. I am going to look for more now I’ve read this post thank you.

  14. I just saw 5 flashes of light simultaneously all from the same point. after the flash out came a light orb that stayed lit for a short period of time, unlike a shooting star or comets with faster longer streaks and unlike satellites with slower speeds. Each time the flash happened out came one of these orbs? but all the flashes form the same point, so not random, natural and in single file upon entry, almost like craft entering our atmosphere and creating a flash bang? 5 in a row though? WTF did I just see? it was not comets or gravel from say planet X what not, this was more machine like, space force? or?

    1. I’ve witnessed very odd phenomena similar in the respect of the abnormality of what you saw yourself.

      If I watch long enough I’ll see flashing phenomena, satellite-similar phenomena (one course direction but disappearing and reappearing)

      I’ve seen two orbs of light originating from the same point in the sky and splitting into two orbs going opposite directions.

      Two satellite-orbs side by side flashing into the atmosphere and than out again simultaneously right above my head.

      Soooo many occurrences

  15. I’m so excited I found this page, it first saw one of these flashes a year ago. Thought I imagined it. Tonight, having a smoke in the garden at midnight, clear dark sky, I saw a flash in the corner of my eye. As many of you also experienced, I focused on that area and a few seconds later another flash appeared, as visible as any bright star for a split second. Then after a slightly longer period, yet another flash in exactly the same spot! In the Netherlands. I have no knowledge of the cosmos but I was so intrigued and my search brought me here. A logical explanation would be awesome but surely I can’t be the only one with a little bit of hope that it might be something else!

  16. I’ve noticed several flashes exactly like your video tonight in Iowa. Unlike anything I have ever seen before. I seriously thought I’d lost it until it continued. Completely random timing, and in different spots in the sky every time!

  17. I just saw this for the first time last night, it was about 60° up in the night sky. It pulsed every 11 seconds on the dot. My best guess is that it is a geostationary satellite that is rotating, and it makes a full rotation every 11 second, reflecting sunlight off of its dollar array.

  18. I was just outside and observed the flash. Ive seen them numerous times over the past 5 or 6 years but this time… it wasn’t in the sky. The first flash was about 20 feet away directly over my car near the woods. A few seconds later it flashed again but it was directly above my car in the sky about 75 feet. Then it flashed again at the same height but to the left then a final flash even further to the left. I have never seen one low to the ground before so now im completely at a loss as to what it may be.

  19. I’ve seen satellites flash before especially the musk star link satellites. BUT tonight I saw something different. I was looking in the clear sky and saw A bright white flash in the form of a dot Approximately the size of what the moon would be at a pretty high azimuth. Or about the size of the fireworks they used to and a fireworks show, the bright white loud explosive ones. Except for there’s absolutely no sound and it appeared that the flash was probably very very high in atmosphere. Crazy. He has any thoughts.

  20. I had such a weird experience with a single flash just now which lead me to finding this. My dad passed away in December and he and I were both space nerds. We’d always stare at the stars together and track the ISS.. I was just outside, staring at the sky and I said, “Dad, if you can hear me.. give me a sign.. show me a shooting star or something. I’ll stop asking for signs so much if you just give me an obvious sign you can hear me.” Less than a minute later, in the exact spot I was looking I saw one of those single flashes. I’d really love to think that was him and not a coincidence! Whatever it was.. that was pretty awesome!

  21. I am glad I am not the only one. 😂. Short, bright flashes like a camera flash. I see at least one every time I am outside for an hour or so. Usually near to the same position in the sky but tonight I saw 2 in different parts of the sky. Not moving satellites. Not Planes. I have watched the sky for many years but only noticed these in the last 2 years.

  22. Tonight there are pale flashes in the clouds. It isn’t lightening, I’ve checked the radars and weather satellites and there is no storm action or lightning around anywhere near here. I’ve seen them before. Sometimes looks like a camera flash going off extremely bright, even on clear nights, other times like tonight just a pale flash that reflects off the clouds and occasionally even lights up or reflects off surrounding surfaces like a tree or house roof. We’ve seen these flashes for years now during all weathers. Some have been close to the ground. Tonight they are approx 1.5 mins apart seen west, north and east of the yard and have been going for at least a couple of hours. Neighbour has watched them and commented on them several times too. I know the Geminids meteor shower peaked last night but I wasn’t aware it would be visible here in Qld Australia tonight at this time, especially with the cloud cover and light pollution. It isn’t air traffic nor satellites. Who knows. It’s very odd but then we often have odd things happening in this area.

  23. All of these comments make sense as far as being satellite sightings, however I have seen these same random flashes deviate from a straight line and ( 1 ) reverse, (2) turn as much as 90 degrees. My first thoughts were it was a drone, albeit very high. I have been seeing them this year in central Texas.

  24. I have seen these flashes several times the past couple of years. Everyone wants to call them Iridium flares, but what truly boggles my mind, is that sometimes the flashes will be stationary for what seems like several minutes. Other times, they move with almost calculated movements. Mind boggling indeed!

    1. I saw what you are taking about last night. I saw 7 or 8 flashes (about 6/7 seconds apart) of something that was stationary, then it moved slightly, flashed about 5 times, then stopped. I’m still mind-boggled.

  25. I have been seeing these flashes a lot lately! Sometimes there will be two or three in a row in the same spot. I have seen iridium flares and they usually fade in and out and last a bit longer but these are just quick bright flashes. I though maybe they could be meteors hitting this atmosphere head on but what trows me off about that is when they happen two or three times in the same spot.. I don’t think a meteor head on would produce that effect. I would love to know what they are

  26. Hey Joel, Have you considered Iridium flashes. They are very bright. I have seen them on occasion. As the satellite traverses the sky it spins and the antennae catch the sun light and flash extremely bright in comparison to other satellites.

    1. Hi Nor, I sure have. I have video of Iridium flares. In addition, I’ve been able to correlate the flares I see with the predicted flare on planetarium software. The flashes in question are a lot shorter in duration than your typical Iridium flare. I’m reaching the conclusion that these flashes are from tumbling satellites. Either from the many small cube satellites that are up there nowadays or from older decommissioned satellites or space junk.

      1. I have been seeing these flashes quite often lately. I also have seen iridium flares but they usually fade in and out and last a bit longer. One theory is that they are meteorites hitting the atmosphere head on so it’s just a flash instead of a trail but sometimes the flashes happen two or three times in a row right in or right near the same spot so I’m at a loss. I would love to know what they are. I found this just looking online for an answer to the mystery! Thanks!

        1. I also saw these quick bright flashes a couple of nights ago. I saw a very quick flash like a camera light just to the right of where I was looking. I quickly shifted my focus onto that spot and about 5 seconds later saw another flash in the exact same location. Very mysterious.

    2. Hello. I share your curiosity with these flashes of light in the night sky. I have observed artificial satellites for many years now, including the Iridiums and I’m well aware of how they behave to the observer. My conclusion for many of the pinpoint flashes are that they are the result of space junk burning up, which are on a gravitationally caused trajectory directly towards the observer on Earth relatively speaking, as these pieces reach the required velocity for frictional burning up in oxygenated atmosphere, as opposed to meteor objects burning up as the Earth flies through old comet tales and producing the more sweeping light trails in the sky. I know that the”pinpoint” lights that I see are not satellite reflections because I have seen them at a time when the area of sky that I’m looking at is in the umbral (full shadow) part away from the Suns direction where direct solar reflection to the observer on Earth is not possible. I have continued to observe the area of flash, which can be quite bright and even reaching negative magnitudes, but not seen any further light source from the object within the next two minutes following.

      1. I see these flashes all the time. Im so confused about what it is! I’d love to know what it is if someone has a definitive answer

        1. I see these too! I’ve been on the look out ever time…the ones I’ve seen have been flashes of 3 or 4 and in same general area

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