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Mystery surrounds Australia's Min Min Lights

Posted on Tuesday, 6 December, 2016 | Comment icon 31 comments

The phenomenon is popular with tourists. Image Credit: CC BY-SA 3.0
Strange balls of light have puzzled visitors and locals alike in Western Queensland for over a century.
These eerie glowing orbs, which the local Aborginal people believe to be the spirits of the deceased, are said to follow unsuspecting travellers and can even reduce grown men to tears.

One witness - Genevieve Hammond - had been out camping with her husband in Queensland's Channel Country on a particularly clear and cold night when she encountered the phenomenon.

"We were on a remote cattle station," she said. "We were camping out and we saw this greenish oval shaped blurry light bobbing up and down. It was parallel to the horizon, about a kilometre away, and seemed to be a metre from the ground. It moved very slowly to the left and then came back on itself and it went on like this for about 15 minutes. It was silent and very eerie."

"It couldn't have been anything else, there's no other explanation, it was the Min Min light."

Possible explanations for the phenomenon range from UFOs to fireflies and swamp gas, but now according to Jack Pettigrew, a neuroscientist at the University of Queensland, the strange lights could actually be a nocturnal version of the Fata Morgana mirage - a rare optical illusion that can make ocean-going ships appear to be floating above the horizon.

"I experienced the phenomenon myself as well as hearing about it from graziers," he said. "We were surprised that the bright spot of light was still there when we turned off the headlights."

Source: | Comments (31)

Tags: Min Min Lights, Australia

Recent comments on this story
Comment icon #22 Posted by Habitat on 10 December, 2016, 0:53
It has long been known that fish and marine mammals are far more efficient in lessening the retarding frictional drag, than man-made structures like boats can. 
Comment icon #23 Posted by back to earth on 10 December, 2016, 1:51
Really ?     
Comment icon #24 Posted by Habitat on 10 December, 2016, 2:00
Very much so. Man-made objects are nowhere near as 'slippery" through the water, and I am relatively well informed on this subject.
Comment icon #25 Posted by back to earth on 10 December, 2016, 2:19
I would have thought the hydroplanes that lift the hull out the water, and hence totally eliminating any hull drag (except through the air ) would be less drag on the hull than  any surface or undersurface shape,  man made or animal . producing drag  ?   
Comment icon #26 Posted by Habitat on 10 December, 2016, 2:25
Hydrofoils certainly have introduced substantial gains for certain specialized uses, but there is still the problem of propulsive losses through underwater drives. The Boeing Jetfoil is an attempt to beat that, but it remains a highly specialized application. And of course hydrofoil craft are quite weight sensitive, which means load-carrying is basically restricted to passengers, not any substantial freight load.
Comment icon #27 Posted by back to earth on 10 December, 2016, 2:33
How does the  problem of propulsive losses through underwater drives and being  weight sensitive, which means load-carrying is basically restricted to passengers, not any substantial freight load -  effect the fact that when the hull IS out of the water and moving , there is  virtually  zero water-drag  ?   
Comment icon #28 Posted by Habitat on 10 December, 2016, 2:51
propellors are about 50% efficient, and struts and drive elements, rudders have losses, both skin friction and form resistance, your foils also have substantial drag, but it is true that foils, although they have many practical problems, (imagine a collision with a shipping container at high speed, which could be catastrophic to a structure engineered for drag minimization) allow speeds ( look at foiled sail catamarans) that other similarly powered boats cannot achieve. You have to realise that frictional drag increases as the square of speed, so although the hull is lifted clear, to double th... [More]
Comment icon #29 Posted by back to earth on 10 December, 2016, 3:02
... so, a large load would create as much as , or more drag , on  what IS undersurface , than if it was just a hull undersurface without the hyrdoplane rig ?  Those hydroplane ferries ca get pretty big and carry a lot of passengers , do you mean a lot more than that, like a some type of  freighter with a LOT of cargo  ? 
Comment icon #30 Posted by Habitat on 10 December, 2016, 3:09
A large load would require larger foils with more drag, more weight ( the foils themselves are highly loaded, and need robust construction). you get into a spiral where it no longer works. It is extraordinarily power-consuming to travel at high speed through the water, hydrofoils and surface-effect ships are most effective at it, provided weight is restricted, because the vessel is largely out of the water. But we won't be going cruising with on-board ball-rooms in a hydrofoil, the weight kills it.
Comment icon #31 Posted by Codenwarra on 16 December, 2016, 17:24
There is nothing new about the Min Min light, it's been talked about since the 1960s if not much earlier.  Over very flat, arid or semi arid country hundreds of miles from the sea.  Named for the locality called Min Min about 22.778 south latitude, 140.703 long, according to Google Earth, Queensland Channel Country. 

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