INFORMATION SERIES                                   

Vince Hughes & Fran Ridge

Dated 5 April 2021

Fran Ridge:
With a night event, you can rest assured that if the MADAR alarm sounds and a MADAR op goes outside to see if there is a UAP in the sky nearby, there probably will be. Of course that depends on seeing conditions, but if the sky is observable and there is little or no cloud cover obscuring the heavens, somebody will see "something". The question is, what? And if so, how can you tell that the target is a UAP or an IFO? Unlike daylight events where normally a person's attention is attracted to a sound, such as a jet aircraft or an airplane, at night it is the person's peripheral vision that easily picks up the flash of a very distant strobe light or other lit target. Night objects and night lights can be two different things as well, and usually night objects are very interesting. Other than that, the motion of the object almost has to betray it for it to be of real scientific interest. Anomalistic motion means moving in a very unusual way, something that a normal object would or could not do. But even that can be a problem since lights can look like they are jumping around, all this caused by the fact that our eyes move around a lot and without references it can be very deceiving. So, next we will talk about what we need to do about nocturnal targets.

Vince Hughes:
First of all, I am not an expert in night vision but have had some very limited experience with same. So having said that, feel free to use my comments with caution.There are three types of technology available for enhancing our ability to see in low level light. Understanding these three approaches will go a long way in defining the type (and cost) of the equipment you need for your application.

The first type of technology is IR Illumination. This is a system that uses an infrared "flashlight" that produces Infrared light just like a conventional flashlight produces visible light. The infrared light that is produced by an IR Illuminator is just beyond what our human eye can see. The camera portion of the complete system can detect that portion of the spectrum along with the spectrum our eye can see. The camera "sees" images that are lit up by the IR "flashlight" and displays that image on a display screen so our eye can see the objects being illuminated. These type of systems are for close in use where the subject being viewed is within reach of the IR Illuminator's beam of infrared light. Another way to understanding this system is to understand that the camera can detect a light spectrum just a little bit wider than the human eye and the IR light beam is just outside the bandwidth of the human eye. The camera can see it but we can't with our naked eye. These are the cheapest systems available and can be found in the $100 to $500 range. A while back I even saw a kid's toy "Night Vision" device using this technology.

The second technology uses light amplification(also referred to as an "image intensifier") to gather what ever small amount of ambient light might be available and display that amplified image on a display. These are the systems used by the military and law enforcement. They usually present a greenish tinted image onto the display but the amplified images are very good even when the ambient level of light is so low our human eye cannot detect it. The cost of these types of systems are usually very expensive and can range from $800 to over $13,000 depending on the sensitivity and gain of the light amplifier.

The third technology is thermal imaging. These systems can operate in total darkness since they rely on detecting the IR energy given off by objects because of the objects heat temperature. Most all objects we encounter in every day life give off some heat. This means that heat also generates a small amount of infrared radiation. Thermal imaging devices detect this low level of IR energy and perform complex transformations so it can be displayed on a screen so our eye can see the image and make sense of what we are seeing. The complex transformations are needed since our eye has a narrow bandwidth of light it can see whereas the energy given off by objects in nature have a much wider bandwidth of radiated heat energy. Objects that give off more heat (body heat for example) show on the display as bright white. Cooler images will be less bright. An airplane engine will be extremely bright white. The level of brightness in the display provides the contrast our eye and brain need to determine just what we are looking at. The details of the image are certainly not as good as looking through a regular camera of a pair of binoculars but you can tell the difference between a person and an animal. These systems are usually on the expensive side but several companies have come out with units in the $500 range, one company even producing an attachment of a cell phone camera that turns your cell phone into a thermal imaging camera. (No idea how well that works!!!). Companies like FLIR and SEEK Thermal have created several products that are for the consumer market and run in the $300 - $700 range. So that's my two cents worth and the old saying, "You get what you pay for" seems to be valid in this line of products. Hope this helps.

Fran Ridge:
I know even less about night vision but the cameras we are using are the Bushnell Equinox Z and the SyOnyx Aurora.

The Bushnell Equinox Z, comprised of high quality electronics and optics, is a digital night vision viewing system that we use on a tripod and utilizes an infrared sensitive CMOS sensor, providing edge-to-edge resolution and outstanding image quality. Fully multi-coated optics increase light transmission and decrease glare. The Equinox Z 3X30 Digital Night Vision monocular is versatile enough for many applications including hunting, camping, boating/ fishing, caving, paintball, stargazing, rescue/recovery, security surveillance, law enforcement, and video recording in continuously changing light conditions – from dawn to absolute darkness. The 3x30 Equinox Z Digital Night Vision unit also includes a video output port (F) (user switchable to NTSC or PAL standard) which allows connection to video or computer equipment for recording or "live" monitoring. A built-in accessory mounting rail (J) enables the user to attach a more powerful IR illuminator or other compatible accessories. We need the video output so that we can record while we watch the 20" monitor during skywatches. The monitor is attached to a wall-mount bracket on top of its own medium weight tripod.

Bushnell Digital Night Vision products collect existing light through the objective lens. The image is then processed through a digital CMOS sensor module and transferred to the micro liquid crystal display (LCD). Images viewed on the LCD are magnified 3 times (model #260130). All Equinox Z Digital Night Vision models are equipped with a built-in powerful IR (infrared) illuminator (D) that enables clear viewing in low ambient light conditions or even total darkness

The SyOnyx Aurora Sport is the world's first IR action camera with color night vision. You can see the night around you in true color clarity, almost as if it were daytime! Their patented IR sensors enable you to see things the human eye can’t. Record your adventures at any hour. You can use the Aurora smartphone app to remotely view and record live action. Easily download, share and relive your nighttime adventures with friends, family & colleagues. Includes SD card storage functionality. You can get long range IR night vision in monochrome or color.  Moonless starlight capable for peerless night-time performance, as far as the eye can see. Water resistant (IP67 rated) time lapse functionality. Camera can be submerged in water 3 feet for up to 30 minutes & you can turn a whole night into a short, shareable moment, using time-lapse. 1 Lithium-ion battery included. 16mm f/1.4, f2.0, f5.6 lens. 1 year warranty. We use this camera on a short tripod for stability and as a hand-held night vision system.

You need a device using the "image intensifier" from the above discussion.  Unfortunately these tend to be expensive.  They come in three categories of  development progress; Generation 1, Generation 2 and Generation 3.  Gen 2 models are the best for the bucks but you are still talking the $1500 - $2000 range. 

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Fran Ridge