What is that?

2008-09-27 15:33:39.000 – Ryan Knapp,  Meteorologist

Hark! What light through yonder window break.

The unknown invokes various emotions from individuals based on their knowledge, beliefs and environment. These emotions include, but are not limited to, fear, happiness, curiosity, hate, love, excitement, or apprehension. Fear of the unseen, happiness about possibly meeting someone new, curiosity from an area we have never been before, hate or love from expanding into areas outside our comfort zone, excitement about what is to come, or apprehension about a negative outcome awaiting us. All valid emotions evoked by big and small events in our lives. The emotions tied to the unknown might come from turning over a car engine for the first time after months of working on it. It might come from exploring a new trail in an area you have never been. It might come from going into a basement without a flashlight for the first time. Or it might be something in the night sky we have never seen before.n

nMost of the time, we will deduce a logical explanation and the unknown will become part of our psyche so that the next time we experience a similar event, the unknown in not as foreign to us. For example, the creaking of floorboards is probably not a ghost but just an old house swaying a bit from winds or settling over time. A weird, quick moving light in the night sky is probably not a UFO but probably an airplane, a satellite, or a blimp. The leaves rustling by your tent at night is probably not Bigfoot but probably a nocturnal woodland creature trying to find some leftovers from your dinner hours prior. All of these are things we cannot physically touch or see but based on knowledge, beliefs and environment we are able to explain what they are. n

nSo what could possibly be unknown on the summit of Mount Washington? Well, a couple things but I will just focus on one that has been stirring a bit of curiosity the past week from people living around the summit. We have been getting an increased amount of emails and phone calls from people about a strange, unknown light they are seeing on the summit at night from time to time. Most people deduce that since there are buildings on the summit, it is just a light that was left on by accident. But others like to wander about in their minds and come up with unique theories. So, I will first explain what it isn’t then provide you with what it is.n

nThe light you are seeing is not a new planet or star that is perfectly aligning itself with the summit once every 100 years. It is not a UFO or a signaling service for a UFO. It is not a party of ghosts collectively passing their time on the summit. It is not a malicious attempt to blind passing planes. It is not a signaling service to people or organizations in the surrounding valleys. It is not a weather instrument or a weather experiment that we are conducting. It is not the US government or its military powers conducting experiments for night operations in foreign countries. It is not being used by neighboring farms to fend off frost or fog. It is not my new headlamp helping me do my nightly observations. It is none of these things. And although these might sound made up, they are not, in my three years here, I have had people (via email, phone and in person) ask these questions about lights they see up here.n

nSo what is it? Sadly it is nothing exciting. It is what I explained two paragraphs ago, it is a light on the summit that has been left on by accident. New Hampshire State Park installed a new light on the side of the building facing in a southeasterly direction. The intention of this light is to be used during the summer months when the Sherman Adams building (the building we are leasing space in) is open to assist tourist in finding the front entrance to the building in thick fog. If you have been here, you might be asking yourself “Really?!?” But, there have been times when I will be out doing an observation and people are amazed to hear that below the observation deck they are standing on are a concession stand, museum, lounge, and gift shops. So, it is the park manager’s intention to use this light to attract tourist to the building like moths to an open flame.n

nDoes it work? I am not sure but the state park employees say it does. Is it a waste of power and resources? If it assists people in the fog, I don’t think so but, if it is left on during a clear night, yes. Are we responsible for this light? No, the observatory is not responsible for this light, it is property of NH State Parks so inquires, complaints, etc should be fielded to them not us. Can we turn it off at night? If a night observer (me or usually Mike F. on the other shift) sees it on, we will try to find a state park employee or turn it off since lights are the enemy of a night observer. Are you sure there is not a more sinister conspiracy connected with this light? Yes, but if you are a conspiracy theorist, nothing I say will change your minds. But, if I can provide a quote by Marie Curie, maybe it will ease your fears and concerns. “Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.”


Ryan Knapp,  Meteorologist

Find Older Posts