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Thread: Moving Stars and Mass Hysteria

  1. #1
    I dont' know if this qualifies for a mass hysteria, but listen to this. In Novemebr of 2001, My brother, two cousins and I were leaving the field after a day of deer hunting. It was dark and we were standing around the trucks talking. After a while my one cousin said he could see a star moving. We stood around looking at it. It did appear to be moving, not much, but about a degree across the sky in circles or random patterns.

    I couldn't see it moving at first, but as they talked and shouted: "it's moving left" or "it's circling", I thought I could see movement. Well, being astronomy minded, I took out a napkin and pen and jotted down a little star chart for later identification.

    Turns out it was the star Formalhaut. It wasn't moving. And I could still swear it was moving and they all say I'm a liar.
    I was wondering what conditions could actually make a star appear to move like that. Notes: no other stars appeared to move, it was low on the horizon, there were some trees in the way.

    The only thing I can think of is that our eyes locked onto the trees as a coordinate system, as they moved it appeared the stars were moving. This seems unlikely, however, as the trees weren't really visible. It was very dark.
    Thanks for any help,
    Mongo

  2. #2
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    I'm not sure if this is the explanation for what you saw, but it's a candidate.

    Most people don't realize it, but out eyes are moving all the time. These micro-tremors are fairly small, and our brains normally cancel out the effect when there's a good solid reference (like the walls and floor of a room, or a well-defined, fixed object in the field of view).

    But when you're looking at an essentially black field with scattered bright points, there's not enough of a reference, so your brain can't cancel out the random motions. It's very easy to think that objects are moving when they're not.

    As to why our eyes do this, I'm not sure, but as an engineer I would guess that it is beneficial to our perception of moving objects. It reminds me of an underdamped feedback system, in which you tend to get very rapid response to changes, but at the cost of some "overshoot and ringing".

    In visual terms, you'd get very quick detection of motion at the cost of some uncertainty in its location. But after you run it through the "motion cancelling" filter in our brain, the visual field seems stable, except for objects that are really in motion, or in special circumstances like those you describe.

    If this theory is correct, you'd expect the "moving stars" effect to be less pronounced when there was a more visible reference in the field of view... that is, if those trees were more clearly visible.

  3. #3
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    <Quote>"The only thing I can think of is that our eyes locked onto the trees as a coordinate system, as they moved it appeared the stars were moving. This seems unlikely, however, as the trees weren't really visible. It was very dark."</Quote>

    Most likely the trees even though it was dark, however if there were clouds nearby this could also be the cause. A few weeks ago I thought I saw the ISS... turned out to be Jupiter with clouds moving quickly around it after a few more seconds of inspection... I think I just wanted to see ISS again and as I was half asleep, I jumped to conclusions...

  4. #4
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    On 2002-01-28 15:35, Donnie B. wrote:
    As to why our eyes do this, I'm not sure, but as an engineer I would guess that it is beneficial to our perception of moving objects. It reminds me of an underdamped feedback system, in which you tend to get very rapid response to changes, but at the cost of some "overshoot and ringing".
    The explanation I've usually heard is that the movement keeps the retina (and associated "machinery") from desensitizing - if one gives a nerve cell the same stimulus for a long time, it stops reacting. So you wouldn't be able to see anything until you moved your eyes!

    Everything I need to know I learned through Googling.

  5. #5
    Now, my family were the ones who could obviously see the movement. When one of them said it was moving, the others would agree, and I would say "Where?".

    Of course, I'm experienced with looking at the night sky and actually know what I'm looking at, though it still appeared to move occasionally even to me. But it still seems strange that my cousin just happened to notice it. Believe me, after a day of hunting, you aren't really concerned with anything but food or sleep.

    I'm starting to lean toward the tree idea. Or maybe a special arrangement of black holes was in the area of the light coming from Formalhaut.

    Mongo

  6. #6
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    You say it was low in the sky. A possibility is that it was undulations in the layers of air you were looking through. As you would see an object on the bottom of a swimming pool move as the surface undulates with waves so the stars can wobble as their light is refracted through the air.

    SAMU

  7. #7
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    Have you ever stood in the middle of a very dark room, where the only visible light is a red l.e.d.? It's wonderful; after a few minutes, that puppy is FLYING! It looks like it's moving everywhichaway! It's just the brain trying to make sense of an image, but, wow, it's impressive (and humbling: we are, by our nature, very poor at certain kinds of observation.)

    Silas

  8. #8
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    I would like to confirm I have just seen something similar.

    After a meal I went outside for a smoke, I generally look up and gaze at the stars. I noticed a very faint object lit up just like a jet but didn't hear anything such as the turbine engines which suggests it was very very high. As I watched it move south it suddenly lit up very bright and then shortly after the light went off. It continued to move south and then stopped south-east of another star. It has been sitting there without any movement for the past 30 minutes. I have noticed 2 shooting stars to the east and west of this moving object.

    I love astronomy, and I can identify some constellations but I can't identify every star in the sky so all I can say is its about 60-80 degress in the south-eastern portion of the sky. It is sitting south-south-east below another more faint star. It seems to be have blinking red lights on the outer edges and 2 blue lights toward the center.

    If whatever this is really is a star then it should be possible to find on a star chart but if it was actually moving then it shouldn't show up on star charts.

    *UPDATE*

    I keep looking outside to see if its there, and it is. It even seems to be moving at the same pace with all the other stars and its pretty much straight up in the sky but still in the south-eastern portion of the sky. I can't believe what I saw is just turning out to look like another star...

  9. #9
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    It's about an hour or so later and the stars have moved and some clouds have made it difficult to observe what I was observing earlier.

    Although, as the clouds were passing by I saw a very visible bright flash below the original object I was looking at.

    Also, the original object I was looking at is now in a different position according to the star it was nearby. Earlier it was to the south-east of the star above, but now it is to the south-west of the star above.

    This cannot be a star or else it would be moving at the same pace as all the other stars.

  10. #10
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    I dunno

    I was searching around on the internet too try and explain what i saw one night. I was on a cruise ship in the bahamas, on the top deck with about 10 other people. As we were laying there i noticed a slow miving star, i made an attempt to point it out when all the sudden it darted right then left then up, basically zig zagging through the sky and then seemed to warp back out into the dark. At that same moment 4 other people stood up and in amazment. I understand this theory of rapid eye movement...but to have that strange patten be seen by 5 different people at the same time blows my mind.....if anyone has any other theorys i'd like to hear em.

  11. #11
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    I hate to say it but: if you sit outside on a clear nite and look beyond the trees with your naked eye, eventually you will see what look like stars moving across the sky; "moving stars" no other explanation? too slow for "shooting stars" and too fast for satellites, but yet they weave too. Do it and if nothing the first time try again a few times, youll see them, and im a rational individual talking im not crazy, but look and youll see.

  12. #12
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    Me and 7 other people have actually witnessed this "moving star phenomenon", and i believe it has nothing to do with your brain. These stars move slow and some in patterns. One strange pattern we seen was a circle, then they straightened out into a line. It may seem crazy, but we all seen them.

  13. #13
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    Hello, I just signed up for this site. im not eve sure what it is all about but I wanted to post on this topic. I have also seen stars do some pretty crazy things. Back around 2000-2003 I used to see a lot of weird things happen with stars. there would be unusually bright stars out and then I would go inside for a few minutes, come back out and it would be gone. One night I was outside with some friends and some friends of theirs and I was looking up at the stars as I often do and I saw a star zig zag up, down, left & right at a very fast pase. then it stopped and faded out like a halogen light bulb. It looked just like a star. it was very high up in the sky on a crystal clear night. it was the exact same color as regular blue-ish star.

  14. #14
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    The phenomenon which Donnie B described is called autokinesis. It can make a star, or stars, appear to move in random jerky patterns.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Autokinesis
    When a small, dim, and fixed light source remains within visual range for an extended period of time, this phenomenon can occur, making it appear as if the light source were moving.

  15. #15
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    Question

    If i were by myself when i experienced "AutoKinesis" i would easily accept it. But i was with at least 4 other people that saw the exact same thing at the exact same time. And we stayed out the rest of the night and did not see anything else. I guess my question is can 4 different people experience autokinesis at the same time?

  16. #16
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    From the link that eburacum45 gave
    A stationary light stared at for 6 to 12 seconds in the dark will appear to move. This phenomenon can cause considerable confusion for pilots, especially those flying in formation or rejoining on a refueling tanker at night.
    So yes, if all four people were doing the same thing, staring at a stationary light for 6 to 12 seconds, all four could see the same effect. Why not?
    At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)

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  17. #17
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    After the last shuttle launch, I heard that the shuttle would be visible overhead at a certain time. I went outside to check it out. Looking... looking... then straight overhead, head tilted way back, I thought I saw it... slowly moving farther behind me. I thought I'd turn around so I didn't fall flat on my back. Now where the heck did that go? Then suddenly, here comes the shuttle. Unmistakable. It was very bright and really moving along. It almost looked like an airplane cruising along - with no noise. I figured I hallucinated the "moving star." I think the power of suggestion comes into play in such an instance.
    Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.

  18. #18
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    I know 3 people who saw these moving stars too on three separate occasions. I myself saw something that looked exactly like a moving star only it was the middle of the day and sunny out so I don't if its the same thing it was also the only one in the sky. Anyone ever see a moving morning star?

  19. #19
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    Venus, the Morning Star, has been observed to move due to autokinesis on occasion, so yes, definitely.

  20. #20
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    thanks eburacum45 thats interesting to know however this star made a large, and quicker than a plane, rectangular trip through the sky. I and another person with me at the time were able to keep our eyes on it the entire time and trace it along with our fingers. This was in Central Park New York so we finally lost it over the tree line but the area we were at had no trees it was a large clearing.

  21. #21
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    Quote Originally Posted by Phomalhaut View Post
    thanks eburacum45 thats interesting to know however this star made a large, and quicker than a plane, rectangular trip through the sky. I and another person with me at the time were able to keep our eyes on it the entire time and trace it along with our fingers. This was in Central Park New York so we finally lost it over the tree line but the area we were at had no trees it was a large clearing.
    A "rectangular trip through the sky"? You mean its path actually formed the shape of a rectangle? How big an area of the sky did this rectangle cover? Was it a sunny day and what time of day was it? Might it have been an airplane at high altitude, maybe in a holding pattern?
    At night the stars put on a show for free (Carole King)

    All moderation in purple - The rules

  22. #22
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    Well more of an open rectangle missing one of its short lines from my view the bottom part. It was sunny and very clear not one cloud at all 85 degrees that day and maybe around 1:30 to 2:30 it was April 22nd of this year. I don't know if the day matters any. It was not an airplane it was much too high and much to fast.

  23. #23
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    How can you tell how high it was?

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by MongotheGreat View Post
    My brother, two cousins and I were leaving the field after a day of deer hunting. It was dark and
    Sure they didn't have any flasks they had been sneaking sips out of? Not to be rude or anything... but since they thought it was moving (and I know what happens when my family goes hunting) and you didn't... it's a possible explanation.

  25. #25
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    I think what you and the others observed was real. The star probably did appear to be moving as it was no doubt atmospheric refraction, bending the light and some kind of undulating inversion layer making it appear to move. It is all too common for low altitude stars. The position of the star itself was probably off by several arcminutes perhaps even a degree or so due to the refraction. Now if you saw the same thing directly overhead, that would be something to make you question your sobreity.


    -Veeger

  26. #26
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    well I'm just taking a guess because all I have to compare it up against are planes and satellites which I have seen go very high up but this was about as high or higher than a satellite visible from New York which is pretty hard to see from here but I don't know maybe over 50,000 feet? I'm just guessing

  27. #27
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    ive seen this or something like it 3 times now. usually night fishing or just sitting outside looking at the stars. ive seen them move mostly in an s shape like a snake would crawl. but this is no trick on the mind because i sat and watched it move around the sky for a couple hours once. and not just in a small area it would move great distances passing other stars. i tried to find a pattern in timing or where and when they moved but it seemed to be random. it looks so slow you cant notice it unless u pay attention but must be moving pretty fast too be so far away. ive seen it move in circular motions too but not as much as the s shape. it would fade and grow in brightness. sometimes dissappear and pop up in another part of the sky and do the same thing. it would either fade away and i could not find it again or just stop moving long enough for me to loose interest. if anybody has information on this or has seen it too. contact me through myspace.com/smitheryscrunchy. thanks

  28. #28
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    if its autokinesis, why have has there only been one star doing this when there were billions? should i just be able to take my eye off it and it return to its position earlier? and shouldnt i be able to focus on any other star and make it do the same thing?

  29. #29
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    I suspect that the different response times of your colour receptors and black and white receptors in your eye might have something to do with it. If a star is bright enough to trigger colour perception, the image you register will be the colour one; this will twitch about with a slightly different delay time to the twitching of the dimmer stars, which will only be seen by the black and white receptors. Your visual cortex will probably interpret the dimmer stars as being stationary, making the brighter star seem to move independently.

  30. #30
    You can make an experiment - after all, if you are into astronomy, than you more or less have an interest in science - and science is experiment )
    Gather your friends, choose any star and stare at it for some time and see if the effect occurs again.

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