light flashes
Home page

The space shuttle astronauts, flying at high altitudes that took them into the Van Allen belts, reported seeing flashes of light with their eyes closed. This is a reaction of the eyes to the cosmic radiation in the Van Allen belts. Since the Apollo astronauts did not report any such phenomenon, they obviously didn't venture into the Van Allen belts. [Bart Sibrel, AM Coast to Coast, Jan. 6, 2003]

The flashes of light were indeed seen by the Apollo astronauts and were quite thoroughly studied and documented over the course of the Apollo missions. (cf. W. Osborne et al., Biomedical results of Apollo, ch. 2) They were first reported over the radio by the Apollo 11 crew during their return from the moon. Subsequent crews were asked to pay special attention to the phenomena and describe it scientifically. On Apollos 16 and 17, physics experiments involving photographic plates were performed to see whether the flashes were the result of heavy cosmic rays.

The conspiracist's relative ignorance of Apollo science has not only compromised his own claim to expertise, but has compelled him to unwittingly confirm a piece of evidence which suggests Apollo's authenticity. How could NASA researchers have published information on this phenomenon in the 1970s without having sent astronauts beyond low earth orbit to discover it?

Apollo 12 lunar module pilot Alan Bean, in an interview, said that as of his mission the light flashes "hadn't been discovered yet." [Bart Sibrel, Astronauts Gone Wild]

It is unclear what Bean meant by "discovered". It is a matter of relatively undisputable historical record that Apollo 11 astronauts observed the light flashes. If Bean means to say that no observations of the phenomenon were made until after his Apollo 12 mission, then his memory is in error.

The light flash phenomenon wasn't exhaustively discussed scientifically between Apollos 11 and 12. When Al Bean flew his mission, science knew little more about what might be causing the flashes than they did when Apollo 11 reported them, and there were no plans to study them explicitly on Apollo 12. The explicit studies came later.

Either way it is immaterial. Mr. Sibrel simply tries to muddy the waters in order to maintain the semblance of correctness. His original claim remains debunked: the light flashes were observed and studied prior to the high-altitude shuttle flight in question, whether that was first published in 1969 or in 1972. The Apollo crews did report the phenomenon, indicating that they indeed were not limited to low Earth orbit as Sibrel asserts.

Scientific papers published at the time on this phenomenon include:

  1. Benson, R.E.; and Pinsky, L.S. "Biomedical experiments: part c. visual light flash phenomenon." Apollo 16 Preliminary Science Report. NASA SP-315, 1972.
  2. Pinsky, L.S.; Osborne, W.Z.; Bailey, J.V. "Visual light flash phenomenon." Apollo 17 Preliminary Science Report. NASA SP-330, 1973.
  3. Pinsky, L.S. et al. "Light flashes observed by astronauts on Apollo 11 through Apollo 17." Science v. 183, 1974, pp. 957-959.

Prev Next