Friday, June 12, 2015

An Amazing Lightshow Courtesy Mother Nature

Synchronous fireflies produce light in their lanterns, the pale area of the abdomen visible on the underside of the insect above.
As lighting people we create, execute, and see amazing things all the time.  But there's one synchronized light show that is just amazing that requires no electricity - not even the northern lights can boast that!

Every year sometime between mid-May and mid-June Mother Nature produces this show year the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Once it starts it sells out instantle for appx two weeks.  No cables, generators, control desks or even wireless DMX.

The artist for this show ist not a hipster band from Brookyn, it's Photinus Carolinus or synchronous fireflies.

Here's more from the website:

"Their light patterns are part of their mating display. Each species of firefly has a characteristic flash pattern that helps its male and female individuals recognize each other. Most species produce a greenish-yellow light; one species has a bluish light. The males fly and flash and the usually stationary females respond with a flash. Peak flashing for synchronous fireflies in the park is normally within a two-week period in late May to mid-June.
The production of light by living organisms is called bioluminescence. Fireflies are a good example of an organism that bioluminesces, but there are others as well, such as certain species of fungus, fish, shrimp, jellyfish, plankton, glowworms, gnats, snails, and springtails.

Bioluminescence involves highly efficient chemical reactions that result in the release of particles of light with little or no emission of heat. Fireflies combine the chemical luciferin and oxygen with the enzyme luciferase in their lanterns (part of their abdomens) to make light. The light produced is referred to as a "cold" light, with nearly 100% of the energy given off as light. In contrast, the energy produced by an incandescent light bulb is approximately 10% light and 90% heat.

No one is sure why the fireflies flash synchronously. Competition between males may be one reason: they all want to be the first to flash. Or perhaps if the males all flash together they have a better chance of being noticed, and the females can make better comparisons.
The fireflies do not always flash in unison. They may flash in waves across hillsides, and at other times will flash randomly. Synchrony occurs in short bursts that end with abrupt periods of darkness.

Timing of the Display
The mating season lasts for approximately two weeks each year. The dates that the fireflies begin to display varies from year to year-scientists haven't figured out why, but it depends at least in part on temperature and soil moisture. It's impossible to predict in advance exactly when the insects will begin flashing each year.

As the season begins, a few insects start flashing, then more join the display as the days pass. They reach a "peak" when the greatest number of insects are displaying. After peak, the numbers gradually decline each day until the mating season is over. Since 1993, this peak date has occurred at various times from the third week of May to the third week in June.

During the two week long mating season, the quality of individual nightly displays can be affected by environmental factors. On misty, drippy evenings following rainfall, the insects may not readily display. Cool temperatures, below 50ยบ Fahrenheit, will also shut down the display for the night. Moon phase has been observed to affect the timing of nightly displays-on nights with a bright moon, the insects may begin flashing a bit later than usual."

Here's a video of it in action.