Analysis of Samples Related to an Unknown Light Source (Long Island, NY August 2, 2009)

Analysis of Samples Related to an Unknown Light Source (Long Island, NY August 2, 2009)

Case File Information

Date of Event / Case File: 08/02/2009

Case File Details


The background as stated by the witness follows:

“I was in bed, all of a sudden my bedroom lite up like a major size spot lite. I put my hand in front of my eyes to block the lite, a few seconds later it vanished. No noise. I didn’t pay much attention to this until a few days later, outside of my house, I have a beautiful tree and the grass is fine, my shrubs are fine, but the soil around the tree is very dry, and every leaf on the tree is burnt to a crisp, not one branch is broken. No burn marks. The tree is perfectly shaped, but every single leaf is burnt. I pick up a leaf and crush it in my hand to dust.”

Following is a hand-drawn map of the site:

Leaves, grass and bark samples were submitted to determine whether there are any anomalies that may be related to the event.


  • The leaf samples from both samplings (#1 leaves from top of the tree, #2 leaves from backside of tree) visually and spectroscopically show with no unusual anomalies. Clearly there is no evidence for heat exposure. Detected are typical cellulose and natural ester. Also, there is same protein material which may be from mold or fungus. There appears to be more mold or fungal material on the leaves from the top of the tree, compared to those from the backside.
  • Dead insect remains were found on the #1 leaves from the top of the tree. These included two exoskeletons from apparent ladybugs which adhered to the leaves. There was also a more intact bee or fly which fell out of the leaves. It is unknown if these insects were a result of the unusual light event, or dead before the event. It is known that internal parasitic fungi attack of the ladybugs could result in leaving the ladybugs exoskeleton along with securing it to the leaf.2 I would recommend that an entomologist examine the insects.
  • Typical insect web material was found on a #2 leaf from the tree backside. The web looked normal.
  • Grass from both samplings (#3 grass sample taken from the area below #1, #4 Grass sample taken from the area below #2) also appear normal. Typical cellulose and natural ester were detected, along with mold or fungal material.
  • The bark contains typical cellulose and lignin material. Mold or fungal material is detected on the exterior of the sample. None is present in the interior.
  • Based on the above conclusions, one highly probable speculation offered is that the tree may have been subjected to a fungal attack. Maples in the New England area have been noted to suffer this fate recently. See selected websites discussing maple tree blights.3 It is possible the fungal attack was in process before the event and only noticed a few days after. It would be wise to more accurately pin down a more precise timing between the noted good health of the tree versus the time the brown dead leaves were observed. If the time between the observation of live healthy green leaves to dead brown leaves was only a few days (two?), as indicated by the witness, then perhaps the light event may have been the cause.

The Analysis



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Originating Organization: Phyllis Budinger

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