Sunday, May 29, 2005

A pair of glows in the night

After a few days of good weather, Mount St Helens was obscured by clouds for most of last night. Only occasionally did the clouds part briefly to give us a view of the glow from the lavadome and the mystery little glow on the western flank. See the image below.

On Wednesday, Thursday and Friday nights the two glows were fairly bright and easily seen in the enhanced images of the crater. There's still really no explanation for the bright spot on the western flank of the mountain, and so far the USGS hasn't posted any new images of the area.

One thought does occur to me though. Looking at the clear daytime images from late April (before the anomalous glow appeared) the area where its located seemed to have less snow cover than it has on present daytime images. I wonder if a slab of snow/ice has formed that it sitting at just the right angle to reflect light to the Volcanocam? Of course, the real question then becomes, what is the source of bright infra-red light?

16 images from the Volcanocam from last night, combined to show the glow from the lavadome and the anomalous little glow on the western flank of Mount St Helens.

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Mystery glow returns

The mystery glow on the western flank of Mount St Helens returned again last night. It only appeared intermittently and was really only visible in the enhanced images, but it was there!

The other interesting news is the appearance of the moon skirting the Volcanocam's view of the mountain the last couple of nights. It looked quite spectacular, especially on Tuesday night.

Monday, May 23, 2005

What caused the mystery glow on Mount St Helens?

The mystery of the anomalous glow on Mount St Helens continues. It seems that none of the obvious explanations for the cause of the glow can expain what caused the bright spots on the Volcanocam images of the western flank of the crater.

So the question remains, what was the cause?

Saturday, May 21, 2005

Thar she blows...

Just before dawn this morning there was a major outburst of activity recorded on the images from the US Forest Service Volcanocam. Presumably the bright glow was caused by a rock fall/landslide from the spine of the ever fracturing lavadome.

There was also no sign of the anomalous glow on the west flank of the crater. The advice I have from an engineer that works in designing and manufacturing CCD cameras is that the source of this mystery glow was not a defective pixel.

It has appeared a couple of times since, but very faintly. The brightness of this glow also appears to be attenuated by thick clouds between the camera and the crater. So it seems that whatever the cause, it was the result of something actually on the side of the mountain and glowing in the near infra-red part of the spectrum.

Wednesday, May 18, 2005

25 years ago today

Twenty-five years ago today, Mount St Helens blew its top in one of the most violent volcanic eruptions of the last century. There are images and videos of the event.

Surprisingly, given the total devastation caused by the eruption, life has rebounded remarkably over the last 25 years.

The current eruptive phase has thankfully not been anywhere near as destructive as those events from 1980. But the mountain is once again rumbling and it is probably best to treat it with the respect it deserves.

Thursday, May 12, 2005

The mystery continues...

The anomalous glow on the west flank of the crater at Mount St Helens made a re-appearance last night. I have received some advice from an engineer that works with CCD cameras and his opinion is that the bright spots on the images are unlikely to be a defective pixel. More info soon...

Sunday, May 08, 2005

A close up view of the mystery glow

The general consensus seems to be that the mystery glow that appeared on the west flank of the mountain on Tuesday and Wednesday nights was not due to volcanic activity.

That leaves the question open as to what it was. The most popular theory is that it was due to a defective (hot) pixel on the Volcanocam CCD camera. Other explanations have ranged from a (very large) campfire, someone aiming an infra-red laser at the mountain and electronic equipment from the USGS. The USGS didn't have any equipment there so we can rule that one out.

In order to get a better sense of whether it was a bad pixel I enlarged and cropped the images over the two nights and converted them into a simple animation. The image below is a composite image generated by stacking the images from the two nights.

From the animation it is obvious that the bright spot varied from a few pixels to many pixels over the course of the two nights. Also, since then the bright spot has disappeared from the volcanocam images. So if it was a defective pixel, it is an intermittent problem with the camera.

I don't know enough about the details of the behaviour of dying pixels on a CCD to say whether this behaviour is consistent with a bad pixel, or indicated that the camera was recording something real on the side of the crater.

Any thoughts?

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

Mysterious glow on the west flank of Mount St Helens

On the images from the Volcanocam from last night there was something new and unexpected.

The usual glow from the lavadome appeared briefly just after sunset for about an hour. But then a small bright glow appeared on the west flank of the crater.

So far the source of the glow is a complete mystery. Such a bright infra-red response is unlikely to be caused by a campfire, unless it was a really large bonfire. It could be due to a defective pixel on the Volcanocam camera, but that seems unlikely due to the fact the intensity of the spot changes over the course of the night. There is also the distant and unlikely possibility that it indicates the location of a new volcanic vent appearing on the side of the crater.

Stay tuned for further developments....

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