Bedil Hunting


I came back to Kuala Lumpur last Tuesday after a two weeks Eid holidays in Kuala Terengganu. I had a wonderful holiday, doing lots of interesting and even ‘adventurous’ activities; among which were ‘Bedil Huntings‘.

On the 5th day of Syawal, my father drove my mum, sisters (Aeshah and Anisah) and brother (Ahmad Ali) to Bukit Pak Apil. All of us were provided with a camera each to try and snap the best bedil photos.

We arrived at the site rather early and since the view from the top of the hill was breathtaking, I spend the time snapping beautiful photos of it. After a while a ‘bedil’ contractor staff arrived accompanied by a policeman. Since ‘bedil’ is explosive, a policeman is needed to escort the contractor and to supervise the operation of ‘bedil’ shooting.

The contractor staff walking up to the site with a policeman escorting him.

The kind policeman told us about the safety procedures during ‘bedil’ shootings and then directed us to the safe site (just in case the ‘bedil’ did not shoot high up in the air as it was supposed to be; but instead explodes on the ground). He also told us that if that happens the flying debris from the explosion could reach as far as 100m away. There were a few unfortunate accidents in the ‘bedil’ shooting history in Kuala Terengganu. So we went to the ‘safe site’ and waited there excitedly.

The contractor staff walking up to the 'bedil shooting base'.

A few minutes to Maghrib, all of us were busy focusing our cameras towards the blue sky, trying to guess the right location of the ‘bedil’. We were really excited. Then, there was a thunderous ‘explosion’ as the bedil shot up to the sky. It was an amazing sight of a beautiful fiery light shooting up in the dusk sky. I managed to snap a photo of it and so did Aeshah.

The beautiful fiery light shot up in the dusk sky

The fire shot up so high up and went directly above our heads as it exploded into a huge firework display like a gigantic colourful umbrella stretching above us, with an amazing display of colourul lights ‘raining’ down as it faded and vanished into the darkening sky. I was too amazed by its size and beauty and was taken by surprise that I forgot to click on the shutter release. So I missed the shot of the climax! It was just like a dream; it all happened as fast as it ended and left us glaring into the sky speechlessly.

Although I missed the shot of the climax, I managed to get this: the smoky remain

We went back to the Bukit Pak Apil for the next two days until the 7th day of Eid which mark the last bedil shooting of this Shawal. On the second day, the only shot I managed to get was a cloud of smoke after the fireworks display ended and on the last day, I managed to snap a photo of the fireworks before it fully expanded. Anyway, during those ‘bedil’ huntings my dad and my little brother managed to snap beautiful photos of blooming fireworks at its peak.

It was an exciting and adventurous experience for all of us. It was something that when the accuracy of the location and timing is vitally important. Just a split seconds makes the whole difference; we may ended up missing the action and snapping photos of fading smoke in the darkening sky instead of an amazing colourful display of lights in the evening sky!

It was a nice experience to go bedil hunting and I hope that we could go back up there again next year to hunt for more bedil photos.

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Aurora Mystery Solved?


I found this article linked from Yahoo.com and thought of sharing it with all of you. The article was taken from news.discovery.com. To see it in its original web page, click here.

Per-Arne-Mikalsen2The mystery shape in the aurora over Andenes, Norway (photograph by Per-Arne Mikalsen)


On Jan. 20, 2010, Per-Arne Mikalsen was photographing a vast aurora erupting over the northern Norwegian town of Andenes.

Because solar activity is on the increase, aurora spotters have many opportunities to see the Northern Lights. On this particular night the aurora was intense, stretching toward the southern latitudes of Norway.

In one of the photographs taken by Mikalsen was an “object” that couldn’t be identified. Although Mikalsen had taken several images at the same location, just one photo showed a mysterious green parachute-like object hanging with the main aurora. (This time, it appears that the Russian military was not involved in the making of this strange shape in the sky.)

At first it seemed easy to dismiss the object as a lens flare or a spot on the camera lens, but after further study it became clear that the answer wasn’t that simple.

Per-Arne-Mikalsen1 The mystery shape in the aurora over Andenes, Norway, wider angle (photograph by Per-Arne Mikalsen)

Also, Mikalsen is no stranger to aurorae, having worked on Andøya Rocket Range (on the island of Andøya) for many years. He’s seen aurorae of all shapes and sizes, but he’d never before seen a structure like this hanging in the sky.

“I have been working the Andøya Rocket Range for 25 years (the 20 last years in the management) and I have become more and more fascinated by the aurora,” Mikalsen told Discovery News. “Photography is a hobby for me.”

According to Mikalsen, as soon as he posted his aurora photographs on the Spaceweather.com Northern Lights Gallery, he received dozens of emails from all over the world requesting more information about the mysterious shape.

So what could it be? In correspondence with Truls Lynne Hansen, lead scientist at the Tromsø Geophysical Observatory, he doubts that the mystery object can be explained by a technical fault.

“Usually such aberrations appear when there is a small and intense source of light in the field of view, or at least so close that the light from it hits the lens,” Hansen explained to me via email. “That seems not to be the case here.”

“Additionally the color of the ‘phenomenon’ is the same as the color in the aurora, the auroral green line from atomic oxygen,” Hansen continued, “so the ‘phenomenon’ is either a genuine auroral feature or a reflection of auroral light somewhere in space.”

Hold on. A reflection of auroral light… in space? That’s impossible.

Or is it?

Diagrama_iridium_flare_grande
How an Iridium flare works with sunlight, but the same should be true for other light sources, such as aurorae (astrosat.net)

The structured shape of the phenomenon, plus its distance from any light sources, seems to indicate that this isn’t an equipment problem. There is also no known aurora that could do this naturally. So that leaves the “reflection from space” argument. What do we have in space that could possibly reflect the green light being emitted by the aurora?

“I agree with Pål Brekke [Senior Advisor at the Norwegian Space Centre] that a reflection from a satellite is a candidate,” said Hansen. “It reminds of the so-called ‘Iridium flares’ — reflections of sunlight from the regularly shaped Iridium satellites.”

Satellite flares are well known by astronomers. As a satellite passes overhead, the conditions may be right for the spacecraft’s solar panels or antennae to reflect sunlight down to the ground. The result is a short-lived burst of light, known as a “flare.”

The network of Iridium communication satellites are best known for their flares, since they have three huge door-sized antennae that act as orbital mirrors. Witnessing an Iridium flare is immensely rewarding; the event can be predicted beforehand because these satellites have orbits that can be tracked.

My personal concern about the satellite flare theory is the question about auroral light intensity. Is the light from a large aurora bright enough to bounce off a satellite and appear as an auroral satellite flare as a point? And in turn produce a parachute-shaped, lens flare-like projection in the photo? I couldn’t imagine even an Iridium satellite amplifying auroral light that much (although a stonking-huge orbital solar power array of the future might do a better job).

“The intensity of an intense aurora is not far from the intensity of moonlight, which is 1/100,000 of sun’s light, and the solar Iridium flares apparently are several orders of magnitude stronger than this ‘auroral flare,’ so the intensity does not immediately exclude the satellite reflection hypothesis,” said Hansen.

A weak auroral flare seems feasible, but as pointed out by astronomer Daniel Fischer via Twitter, the green flare might not have anything to do with reflected aurora light, it could just be the color of the lens coating. The lens flare was therefore the result of internal reflections inside the camera lens caused by the bright lights in the lower left-hand corner of the frame.

“It has the typical caustic shape and it is opposite several bright point lights,” Fischer observed. “Green color could be caused by lens coatings.”

Although more research will need to be done, it certainly seems plausible that Per-Arne Mikalsen serendipitously took a photograph of a satellite flare (possibly an Iridium satellite). What makes this revelation even more exciting is that we’ve never seen an auroral reflection from a satellite before (if it’s not a lens flare, that is). “I have, by the way, never seen or heard of a similar phenomenon,” Hansen said.

If you want to see a bigger version of the phototgraph, please click here. Believe me, the bigger version is just marvellous!