This is a view of the 9/11 memorial lights. There's something floating in them, gliding slowly with an eerie glow, giving them the look of unearthly portals to another dimension. Spooky, but it has a natural explanation. Updated with video:
Robert Bejarano—this week's Shooting Challenge winner—took the picture and video above.
They were thousands of birds, trapped into the beams, confused by the intense light while trying to go over New York City, en route to warmer climates. The birds saw the intense light from the distance and, lacking any other navigational reference in the sky, they went into it.
According to John Rowden, citizen science director at the Audubon Society's New York chapter, "it has only happened once before. It's a confluence of circumstances that come together to cause this. Some of it has to do with meteorological conditions, and some with the phase of the moon."
Image of the lights from afar, by Timothy Schubert.
About 10,000 birds were estimated to enter the beams, wasting time and energy that now can't be used in their migratory trip. From the ground, people were surprised and confused by the display. Nobody could tell what the swarm of glowing points were. Ornithology experts recorded the bird voices, as they called in the middle of the night.
To liberate the birds, the NYC authorities had to turn off the beams five times over the night. By dawn, on September 12, all the birds were gone, on their way to their winter promised land. [Gizmodo and Wired]