This is an iPhone photo taken by holding the phone to the eyepiece of a 90 mm ETX Meade Telescope on Andrews Point pointing due North. What is it? Be specific. Send your answer in a comment but also explain why the telescope trained on the same spot in the middle of the night sees absolutely nothing.

Come up with the two part answer you get a crumpled Red GMG bumper sticker and the accolades of GMG fandom.


  • It’s the Seabrook nuclear facility, isn’t it? I would imagine they don’t light it at night as it is considered a high risk target for an attack.


  • Isle of Shoals, no one lives there in the winter?


  • Wow, four responses in the first 30 minutes. All different. Some are warmer than others but none are spot on yet. I might also not know the correct answer. One may already be right.

    I will not release any answers until 1400 hours tomorrow to give everyone a fair shot but first in with the most correct answer walks away with the fame and fortune.

    A link to a photo with the same outline thus helping the judge out will assist you in becoming the winner.


  • My guess is that you are looking at the Isle of Shoals, and the islands in front of it in line of site – White Island, Star Island and Smutty Nose Island. The tall Structure on the left is the lighthouse on White Island and the little pointed white structure on the right is the Star Island Chapel Steeple.

    You can’t see it at night in winter is because it is beyond the horizon. The only reason you see it during the day is because heat from the sun creates a pocket of warmer air at sea level that distorts the light to bend around the curvature of the earth. So basically during the day you are seeing a sort of reflection. I think the technical term for it is refraction. In the summer, you may be able to see it at night when the water temperature is equal to or greater than the air temperature due to the same effect.


  • With that answer of Bill O’Connor’s it is game over, he wins game, set, and match. I really didn’t know why I could not see the flash of the lighthouse lately but this explanation wraps it up.

    Joey, what does Bill win?


  • Will Bloombergh

    Isles of Shoals. White Island is the lighthouse on the left.
    Star Island is the Hotel and other buildings. Smuttynose on the right.
    You might even see some of Appledore Island, where the UNH Marine lab is located.
    A fun day trip by ferry from Portsmouth, NH.
    The islands are approx 20 miles north of Cape Ann.
    The curvature of the Earth is such that the horizon is 15 miles away at sea level.


  • Guess I will have to go into alot more detail next time. Time and location wise I had it! Really wanted that old crumpled bumper sticker.


  • I was surprised that indeed, the curvature of the earth likely blots out the lighthouse when there is not heated air to cause refraction.

    Boatsafe has a calculator:

    The lighthouse is 85 feet tall. My telescope is around 35 feet above sea level. So add 85+35= 120 feet which when put in the calculator for height of eye determines am 0bject 14.74 miles away could be seen.

    The lighthouse is 19.7 miles from the telescope so I cannot see it without some refraction.The lighthouse has a new eight stack LED light. I’ll have to wait for a warm summer night before I see it again.


    • Refraction also magnifies what you are looking at, which is why the sun and moon look larger when rising and setting. Actually, when looking at a sunset, by the time the bottom of the sun touches the visible horizon from your perspective, it is already below the horizon in realty and you are looking at a refracted image of the sun.


  • I knew that…lol…


  • So cool to learn all this stuff!


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