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The Min Min Lights
A weary traveller treks through outback-Australia near the western Queensland town of Boulia, Turning, he sees odd-shaped lights dancing and hovering in the distance. Sweat pours from his already wet brow. Every bushman knows if the Min-Min Lights ever catch you, you disappear.
Legends of strange nocturnal lights are told around the world. They are called fairy lights, will-o'-the-wisp, the Marfa ghost light. Over the Queensland desert they are the Min-Min Lights. Australian Aboriginals call them the Dead Men's Camp-Fire, which follow travellers for long distances. Some believe they are lights held by evil ghosts of murdered or executed men. Others claim they are birds that glow in the dark to attract insects.
Eyewitness reports describe the Min-Min Lights as fuzzy, roughly circular discs, of white light, or colored light that shifts from red to green, then back again. They hover just off the ground, often rapid shifting like a bee swarm, frequently approaching, then receding.
However, no scientific explanation existed until Queensland University professor Jack Pettigrew became interested. Using hundreds of accounts from indigenous inhabitants, colonists and post-colonial settlers plus his five personal sightings of the Lights, Pettigrew, an expert in vision science, concludes they arise when a cold, dense layer of air forms next to the ground in fair weather with light breezes. Such conditions allow light from natural or human sources to travel hundreds of miles over the horizon to reach an observer without the usual dissipation. This forms a vivid, and often baffling, superior mirage that is commonly called the Fata Morgana for its enchanting magical qualities. Viewed at night, however, the mirage's focused light can terrify when it suddenly bursts into view and appears to follow every move.
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