The Sangre de Cristo Lights
Beginning on January 20th, I started photographing the lights we see over the Sangre de Cristo (Blood of Christ) mountain range east of our house.
Doing some research on several Internet mapping pages, this object is approximately 15 miles from us as the crow flies. We have also overlaid images taken of this light on top of a daytime image of the exact same location which shows the size of the main light to be quite large in relationship to the mountain and surrounding terrain. My best guess at this time is that the main light we see is easily 50-100 yards in length. This is purely speculation at this point based on the overlays mentioned above and will require more research.
Canon EOS Rebel XTI DSLR with a 300mm lens, tripod and shutter release cable.
The settings on the camera were as follows:
F/4.5, ISO 400, manual focus with a 30 second exposure.
The blur in these photographs seems to have been caused by the object moving away from the stationary camera, during the exposures. The third photo below is the most compelling to me as there is definitely something unusual going on near the bottom right of the light.
All of the images in this article are direct off the memory card with no modifications unless otherwise noted. Click on each image in this article to enlarge.
After posting the initial article I went back outside and noticed two lights. As I was setting up the camera a third light appeared. The two on the left appeared to be interacting in some way and were moving towards each other then apart (you can see this motion in the 2nd photo below).
The main light on the far right is the only one that remained the entire time. It was somewhat motionless for the most part but you will notice in the first photo below that it moves left and right. The lights went from 2, to 3, back to 2 then down to one (when I first went back outside). In the series below the pattern is 3, 3, 2, 1.
During the time I was taking the last photos, there was also a white light that was observed above, to the right and far off in the night sky. This light was well off the horizon and would behave like a camera flash but with no pattern. It never moved and always appeared in the same location. As we view these lights we often see these flashes.
I marked my location in the dark with two sticks pointing to the exact spot all these lights were observed. We had a period of about a week of rough weather where the mountains were completely obscured by cloud cover. As soon as we had a clear day I took to following photo and marked the approximate location where the main light is observed from what we can tell so far. At random times while the mountains were covered in heavy clouds, you could still see a deep orange glow coming from inside the cloud cover.
On January 27th I took a series of photos that I found quite compelling. As you will see shortly, a 2nd large bright object appeared south of the main light and smaller lights then began traveling between the two. As many as 5 lights were recorded at once.
Initially (as seen here) 2 smaller objects were seen to the far left of the main light. As you will see, these lights eventually multiplied and joined the main light before then interacting with the 2nd large light that appeared.
What I find interesting is what is going on during this time with what we refer to as the main light (because for the most part this is the largest light that stays relatively in the same location). The main light seems to be the hub of all the activity we observe.
Below is a close-up of the main light from the image above. There appears to be something moving around this object in a looping pattern.
It looks like there is a central point just above the main light in what resembles a starfish pattern where whatever is causing the streaks began (or ended).
Next to this image is the same image with the contrast and brightness adjusted showing a very bizarre light pattern and what almost looks like a nucleus.
It was at this point where the smaller lights joined the original 2 smaller lights and they all began to surround the main light. These lights are approximately 15 miles from us so the photo above showing the 2 small lights to the left of the main light could easily be 1/4 to 1/2 mile or more from the main light.
Keep in mind that just moments prior to this photo having been taken two of these lights were well north of the main light; possibly half a mile or more.
You don’t actually see the lights move from far away to nearby, they are just suddenly not where they were and when you take the next photo they are near the main light and no longer far off to the left.
You can visually see that there are no longer lights north of the main light but to the naked eye they just appear to blink out. It’s after you look at the next photo in the series that you notice they are now surrounding the main light.
It was at this time that the 2nd large light appeared well to the south of the main light. I would estimate at least 1/2 a mile. In the series of photos below you will see the 2nd light and then an interaction between this new light and the smaller lights that are near the main light.
What you will see first are 3 lights near the main light. In the next photo the small light on the far left is suddenly right next to the main light and the other 2 small lights have moved slightly to the right. In the last photo you will see that this light is now next to the 2nd large light on the far right. These are 30 second exposures so if the lights moved you should see a streak. Instead it’s in one location and then just appears at least a 1/2 mile away. In each photo below where the lights are in a different location you should see streaks as the lights move from one spot to another but you don’t. It appears almost as if they jump from one location to another.
Then something truly bizarre happened. From my vantage point all I could tell was that both of the main lights seemed to suddenly get very bright and flicker. I could tell something was going on and the following photo seems to verify this. What exactly is going on in this photo I have no idea. I just know that whatever it is it doesn’t seem to be natural in any way.
This photo was taken immediately after the above photo where 2 of the smaller lights were near the main light and 1 was near the 2nd light. Both main lights got very bright and in this photo all 3 smaller lights are now back near the main light.
There is also a loop seen above the 2nd light on the far right. Since this is an open exposure and the loop is very faint, then whatever caused it happened very quickly. If it moved at a normal speed, this loop would be very pronounced and bright. Instead, it looks very much like the swirls around the close-up of the main light shown earlier.
I took this photo around 3:15 AM on the morning of January 26th. I am including it here because it shows how the main light does not always look exactly the same, as you would expect from a normal stationary light source.
These lights are on a steep mountain side in rough terrain and they are moving, at times very rapidly. The smaller lights at times appear to be above the mountain while the main light seems to be on or near the surface most of the time. They power up and power down. Many times the main light comes on and off throughout the night. Some nights they never appear at all.
Recently we recorded images from a different vantage point and after putting on quite a show, the main light slowly faded until it was no longer visible to the naked eye but a 30 second exposure could still pick out a very small amount of light as if it was picking up a heat signature from something that was very hot and slowly cooling down. It never came back on that night. We have included a slide-show of this later in the article.
I call this one now you see it, now you don’t. This is back to back exposures showing the main light vanishing. Normally the main light stays on and the smaller lights will come and go. This is the first time I have photographed the main light going out while the smaller ones remained.
We found a remote spot very close to this area (5 miles or less) and set up our equipment but the lights never showed (although a nearly silent helicopter did and flew directly over us). We will continue to try this location which should give us by far the best images to date. We should also be close enough to tell if there are any sounds associated with these lights.
Jari recently spoke to a Native American and showed him the above images. He stated that his people are well aware of these lights and have been observing them for hundreds of years. Initially I was 70/30 or better in regards to these lights being tied to the government. If what this gentleman says is true, that clearly eliminates a man-made cause for these lights. This also gives us hope that these lights will not suddenly stop appearing in the night sky.
Another reason I lean away from this being tied to the government is the terrain. Checking satellite images and maps we discovered that there are no roads any closer than 5 miles from this location. Due to the steep, unsteady terrain strewn with large boulders, snow, ice and trees, the only 3 possible methods I can come up with to reach this location are on foot, helicopter or horseback. In all the time we have been observing these lights we have only seen the one helicopter and it was approximately 5 miles west of the site. On foot the hike to this summit would be dangerous at best and an almost vertical ascent.
Although initially I would have wagered this phenomena was tied to Los Alamos or a similar government installation. I am now definitely leaning away from this for several reasons. One being that if you know where to look these lights are in plain sight and east of highly traveled Highway 285. Second is the terrain. If you look at satellite images this location is perfect as it would be extremely difficult to get close to it based on the terrain and isolation alone. You are miles from civilization on a very steep and unstable mountain face. Lastly, much of the surrounding area is tribal land where no photographs are allowed. Knowing exactly where you are as you attempt to get closer to the location is extremely important as that’s a whole can of worms we don’t want to open.
At the present time we are limited to taking photos from a distance of 5-15 miles. Once the weathers warms up we will attempt to hike to this location.
If this was blur caused by movement of the tripod, the lights on the right would also show this movement. To me this is a clear indication that the main light on the left is in some sort of motion. The lights on the right move ever so slightly within the frames due to me cropping the 3 photos down by hand as best I could. However, they do not show motion blur or any indication of actual movement at all.
Two other possibilities have been suggested to us. One of them is light refraction. There are a couple of problems with this as I see it. For starters there is no light to refract in this location. It is miles from anything and the nearest city is Santa Fe which is blocked from this location by a large part of the mountain. Santa Fe is basically behind a wall in regards to this location. Another is that the Native American gentleman we spoke to mentioned these lights have been observed for hundreds of years. This also would eliminate light refraction. As you can see from the 30 second exposures, no light other than those of the objects is getting into the exposure. This is pitch black high desert. The photos would show a glow or a halo of light if any were getting to this area.
Another scenario mentioned was ball lightning or lights caused by seismic activity. I checked the faults and folds maps for New Mexico and this area is not on either. New Mexico is not currently a geologically active area, especially in the north. Most of the faults are further south around Albuquerque. One thing to note is that Los Alamos National Laboratories is located in this region. As the home for the Manhattan Project it makes sense that the government would build such a lab in a relatively inactive zone to avoid tremors or quakes while working on the atomic bomb. Also if there was something geologically anomalous taking place in this location my guess is that scientists from the University of New Mexico or elsewhere would be actively studying it.
We noticed a pair of the Sangre de Christo Lights flaring up side-by-side in an area referred to as “Nambé Chutes,” (a desolate and dangerous area for rock slides and avalanches). The 2nd large light goes out soon into the slideshow. The main light will power up and eventually get extremely bright before going out. You will notice that after it goes out there appears to be a cool-down period as if heat is dissipating from the object until it is almost completely undetectable. To the naked eye this cooling down and dimming of the main light was not visible. It appeared that the light had simply gone out. The photos in the slideshow show otherwise.
There are 24 images sequenced at 3 seconds apart of what we witnessed on the mountain over several minutes. You will notice the background star-field appear to move upward as it advances from image to image. The reason each star appears to streak is due to the rotation of the Earth over the 30 second exposure which makes the stars appear to move as the Earth rotates on its axis. Click the box below to see the slide-show.
|[wp_lightbox_special_mp4_video link="http://www.deserthighlandspr.com/media/29Jan2014.mp4" width="850" height="480" source="http://www.deserthighlandspr.com/images/video_overlay_26January2014.png" title="26 January 2014 - The Sangre de Christo Mountain Lights"]|
On February 10th the sky finally cleared up enough to set up the camera again. As luck would have it there was a 3/4 moon directly overhead so the mountains themselves showed up in the photos giving some really valuable perspective.
After standing outside for about 20 minutes the light appeared. What I captured on film is very interesting. The first shot is a perspective shot before the light was visible. What then follows is 6 consecutive 30 second exposures showing movement along the side of the mountain followed by a significant jump on the last 3 frames.
The following is an animated series of these 7 photographs. Click the image below to see the slide-show in the order it was taken.
You can tell from the cloud and star movement that the shots were taken with the same amount of time between each exposure. The main light starts up much higher than we are used to seeing it then near the end appears to jump a great distance down the mountain.
Keep in mind that these mountains are approximately 15 miles away so the distance covered between the 4th and 5th frame is quite far.
From my perspective the light seemed to be in the same location and I didn’t realize it was moving down the mountain until I examined the photographs on the computer.
Below are the larger size images of the 7 photos used above. The very last photo is where I repositioned the camera to get a better look at the light in the last position I saw it in before it went out. Also note in the images below that when the light jumps to this distant location it then appears to move back upwards which is a very strange behavior for something that apparently just descended a steep mountain at a high rate of speed.
This is a daytime shot indicating this jump between the 4th and 5th photos in the series. If this is the same object, then the space between these two images is vast (I estimate over a mile). Zoom in on the first circle and compare a human to the size of one of the trees then look at the second circle to get an idea of the distance involved.
On February 12th the light was again visible and as usual did something unexpected that I had not seen before.
The light started out going in a southerly direction but then changed course and not only went north but went further north than I had ever seen it travel before. In the animation below you will see it start out heading S/SW, change directions, disappear then finally reappear far to the north. I had to rotate the tripod at one point to keep the light in frame. Click the image below to see the animation.
Since the moon has been so bright that the mountains show in the exposures, you can really get a feel for how much ground is being covered.
Another thing that the moonlight shows is the relative size of the light in relationship to the trees on the mountain. In the following two photos I zoomed in on the light to give an idea of just how large the light appears compared to the trees. The images become very grainy but if you focus on a tree you can get an idea of just how large and bright this light appears to be.
You will also notice what looks like some sort of disturbance around the light as if low clouds or snow are being swirled around the light. I find these images interesting due of this vortex effect.
The light seems very wide in these photos. The interesting thing is that this light travels uphill then changes direction and goes back in the direction it came from only much higher up on the mountain.
The width of that valley of snow is 50-100 yards across by my best estimation. The light covers this entire width which seems to indicate it is very large. This area is not a ski resort and there would be no reason to groom the snow in this region. Also the fact that it travels uphill relatively quickly and seems to jump great distances is odd.
In no daytime photos that we have taken and zoomed in on are there any indications of ski-lifts or any other man-made structure other than the towers at the very top of the peak. These towers at the top are very large and have no lights on them which again we find strange. One would assume that the FAA would require towers at that height to have some sort of lights flashing on them. At no time have any of these towers ever lit up or blinked.
In no photographs can you make out distinct or individual headlights of a vehicle. The light also comes on and off all night long appearing in entirely different locations. If this was a vehicle doing something with the snow the lights should remain constant in the black of night as it would make no sense to turn your lights off and drive in a dangerous area in complete darkness. Also last night when these photos were taken, the lights were observed as late as a little after 4 AM.
During the daytime when one would assume some sort of work or maintenance would be taking place, there is never any indication of vehicles or any other activity taking place. Whatever is taking place up there only happens once the sun goes down and continues on and off all night long. The light(s) will also remain motionless in one spot for a long time then suddenly start moving up and down the mountain very quickly.
As mentioned previously, there are no roads to this location. Any machinery would have to arrive there by means of something other than a road.
This is an animation of 2 photos taken on February 14th. I found these two photos interesting because of the light that is cast on the snow of the mountain. The object itself doesn’t seem to change much in the photos but keep an eye on how much of the snow is illuminated.
The light goes from illuminating the top portion of the mountain to lighting it up all the way down as far as you can see. Something about the distance the light shifts seems a little odd since the object itself appears not to move much at all.
I barely noticed this since I was going thru a lot of photos taken that night but this shift in the amount of light cast on the mountain eventually jumped out at me as peculiar.
Based on what I can tell at this time, this is a satellite image of the area in question. This area was selected based on the angle, distance and view of this part of the mountain from the Santa Fe Opera House, north of Santa Fe, New Mexico.
Although this may be a little off from the exact location, the terrain and elevation is consistent with the area where the lights are observed.
Just after dark on February 15th the lights began to glow quite brightly in three locations on the mountain. I went about 2 miles closer to a wide-open area of the desert hoping for some better shots.
The first 70 shots were taken with a setting that only allowed the lights with silhouette of the mountain and the fire break trails. The last 30 were taken with some advanced settings that allowed for much more light to saturate the camera’s sensors to show more detail as to what was happening.
Just before the transition, you will notice a double flare as two of the lights on the top of the mountain began to race toward each other. Just before what looked like it could a collision, a huge double flare shot from each, one red, the other blue with what looks like a plasma, gas or steam. Then later in the sequence you will see the second flare from the light near the top of the mountain. Keep in mind that the barely visible towers are about 100 feet high and the flares seem to almost reached the tops of these towers.
Close-up of both frames that show the flare ups.
The following images were taken on February 16th and again show strange anomalies associated with these lights. In the second to last image the light seems to almost flatten itself to the ground before once again moving to the right and flaring up for the last photo.
Also note in the last 2 images the large unlit towers at the top of the peak and compare the height of these flares to the towers in the very last photo.