Picture of a bolt of light

Asked July 29, 2019, 11:57 PM EDT

Hello, I have two photos taken at the same time about 16 years ago (I’m 35 now), while taking a picture into the night sky. It was in Byron, MI October 2003. I was using a 110 camera. At the time of the shot a flash of light zoomed right over my head. There was no thunder or lightning, it was a clear sky night. Nor was there a light bulb of any sort above me. The flash was on, but in the pictures below there’s obvious something coming towards me. You can see a bolt of light which looks like it has a spiral around it. To many years have gone by that I haven’t been able to figure it or or even come close to seeing anyone else have a similar experience. Your help would be greatly appreciated. Gary Woods, Jr

Shiawassee County Michigan

3 Responses

Hi Mr. Woods,

This is a very intriguing pair of photos. While my personal area of expertise is meteorology/climatology, I strongly suspect that what you photographed is a meteor, or more properly in this case, a fireball (brighter than normal meteor) or possibly even an exceptionally bright meteor or bolide. Did you just happen to be taking an image of the night sky at the time? Or did you have time to aim the camera and take the images responding to the initial flash? Do you remember the date it occurred in 2003? It is likely that it was observed by others and should be noted elsewhere. Also, did the fireball move quickly on its path? Or did it pass slowly? The answer may provide a clue as to its origin...natural space debris or for the slow path, possibly earth-origin space junk (eg old satellite). Hope this helps. An astronomer may be able to confirm or provide more details.


Thank you for replying. The reason for taking the picture of the night sky I believe had to do with the northern lights during the late Oct early Nov time of 2003. The flash itself seemed to have zapped right over me, in which I immediately jumped. Do you have any specific individuals that would be interested in looking at these closer? My first initial thought was static electricity.


We would suggest checking with the Astronomy Department. Here is their chairperson's contact information:

Steve Zepf

Professor and Chair

3268 BPS
1 517 884-5617
personal website

Extragalactic astronomy, globular clusters.