There’s an interesting story making the rounds on the internet this week. It’s the story of one Hector Siliezar and his trip to El Castillo, a pyramid that once served as a sacred temple to the Mayan god Kukulkan.
Siliezar visited the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza with his wife and kids in 2009. At the time, he took three photos of El Castillo with his iPhone.
Two of the photos are unremarkable, but the third has the internet buzzing.
In that third photo, a powerful light beam seems to shoot up from the pyramid toward the sky as a lightning bolt flashes in the background.
Siliezar says he and his family didn’t see the light beam in person – it only appeared only on camera.
“It was amazing!” he said. “No one, not even the tour guide, had ever seen anything like it before.”
The photo has many wondering if the pyramid light beam was a harbinger of doom – a 2012 doomsday omen of sorts – or just an iPhone glitch.
According to Jonathon Hill, a research technician at the Mars Space Flight Facility at Arizona State University, it is more than likely just a glitch. Hill works with photos of the Martian surface taken by rovers and satellites, as well as data from Earth-orbiting NASA instruments.
He says the “pyramid light beam” in Siliezar’s photo is a classic so-called “artifact” – a distortion in an image.
Hill says it’s not wonder that “of the three images, the ‘light beam’ only occurs in the image with a lightning bolt in the background. The intensity of the lightning flash likely caused the camera’s CCD sensor to behave in an unusual way, either causing an entire column of pixels to offset their values or causing an internal reflection [off of the] camera lens that was recorded by the sensor.”
Either way, he says, some extra brightness would have been added to the pixels in that column in addition to the light hitting them directly from the scene.
Further proof can be found in the fact that the light beam, when isolated in Photoshop, runs absolutely vertical in the image.
“That’s a little suspicious since it’s very unlikely that the gentleman who took this picture would have his handheld iPhone camera positioned exactly parallel to the ‘light beam’ down to the pixel level,” Hill told Life’s Little Mysteries.
So the pyramid light beam is probably just an iPhone-generated optical illusion.
“That being said,” Hill said, “it really is an awesome image!”
So what do you think? Do you buy Hill’s explanation?
More in the video below.