The ‘Weird’ Lights: What is THAT in the sky?

Over the last few weeks, parts of Southern, Central, and Northern Trinidad have noticed some unusual lights in the night sky. For some, it is a singular, moving light on clouds. For others, multiple, circular areas of light are seen moving on clouds.

We specify on clouds rather than behind clouds because light is usually associated with a celestial event when we think of light moving in the sky.

@mr.daniel034 ALIENS IN TRINIDAD #UFO ♬ original sound – Mr.Daniel034(Valoucian)

While many have claimed these lights have ties to extraterrestrial life, it has a much simpler (and earthly) origin. They are spotlights or very bright flashlights shining into the night sky. For the older generations, nightclubs like Screamers in South Trinidad or Zen in Northern Trinidad utilized these lights on the night an event was held.

For those that are seeing these lights in Southern Trinidad, most reports from the San Fernando area may be associated with events being held at the Southern Academy of Performing Arts or from the Anand’s Low Price Supermarket in Debe. The light sources in other parts of South, Central, and North Trinidad are yet to be ascertained but are generally associated with parties or events being held in the area. However, on February 5th, 2022, these spotlights were shining into the skies near Caroni and Warren – near the Piarco International Airport.

Shining a spotlight into the night sky isn’t illegal, but aiming it at an aircraft or shining a laser could land you in some hot water with the law.

Even though the laser projects a small, millimeter-sized dot close up, the beam can be many inches across at longer distances. When the beam hits the windscreen of a cockpit, or the bubble of a helicopter, imperfections in and on the glass spread the light out even more.

Laser light in the pilot’s eyes causes glare (inability to see past the light). Higher power levels can also cause temporary flash blindness and afterimages (like when you look at a bright camera flash, and cannot see for many seconds afterward).

A pilot being targeted may also be worried about eye damage and eye injuries, and the possibility of the laser being an aiming device on a weapon. A worried pilot is a distracted pilot — not a good thing during critical flight phases such as landings, takeoffs, and emergency maneuvers.

According to the Ministry of National Security, “The shining of laser lights during aircraft landing or taking off is strictly prohibited by law. Persons caught so doing will be arrested and may be prosecuted in the Courts.” Specifically, in the Civil Aviation [(No. 8) Aviation Security] (Amendment) Regulations, 2011:

3A – (1) Notwithstanding the requirements of regulation 3, a person shall not recklessly or negligently perform any act, whether onboard an aircraft or outside an aircraft, that is likely to endanger or endangers an aircraft or a person on board an aircraft.
– (2) An act under sub-regulation (1) that is likely to endanger or endangers an aircraft or a person on
board an aircraft, includes but is not limited to the following:
—— (a) a radio transmission that affects a communication, navigation, or automatic flight guidance systems of an aircraft; and
—— (b) a laser light source, fireworks, flares, or other light sources directed at an aircraft that may affect a flight crew member in the performance of his duties.
– (3) A person who contravenes sub-regulation (2) commits an offense and shall be liable on summary conviction to a fine of ten thousand dollars and to imprisonment of one year.”

Outside of the Civil Aviation Regulations, 2011, there are no light pollution rules in Trinidad and Tobago, though it has been promised since 2018.

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