Section 1 (Orbs and how they are created)
Orbs are a very controversial item in the paranormal
investigation field. The fact is that all "orbs" are
caused by dust, water droplets or other airborne particles. There's dust
in the air all the time, even if you can't see it. The amount and type
of dust varies a lot and depends on many factors, including source, climate,
wind direction and activity.
Dust is generated from a range of human activities and natural sources.
It may be made up of soil, pollen, volcanic emissions, vehicle exhaust,
smoke, or any other particles small enough to be suspended or carried
by wind. The stronger the wind, the larger the particles lifted, and the
more dust carried. Clean rooms are used for testing purposes where dust
must be monitored to ensure that no data is contaminated. They have classifications
that are standardized classes based on airborne particle counts. For example,
a class 100 clean room can have 750 particles per cubic foot that measure
0.2 µm, 300 at 0.3 µm and so on. If clean rooms can have that
many particles in the air, think of what a typical living area may have.
Another common misconception is that orbs are caused by dust in the camera
or on the lens. This is false, as dust orbs are caused by airborne dust
particles directly in front of the camera lens.
So how does this happen?
UV light from your camera's flash illuminates
the dust and is then recorded by the camera's CCD. The same phenomena
can occur in NightShot video, except this time is light from the
IR emitter bouncing off the airborne particles.
The image on the left shows how dust approaching the inverted focal
point of the lens look more like an orb. The camera lens's
inverted focal point is the point that an object must be past to
be in-focus. The closer they get to the lens the more they blur
and become less distinct while dust particles near the focal point
appear to be in focus and show apparent details such as a nucleus
and rings (this is discussed in the next section). Dust past the
focal point may or may not be recorded and if they are they simply
look like white specks of light in your photograph. This is illustrated
by the lower left picture. The crucial factor in the equation is
the UV light source from your camera's flash. Digital cameras are
sensitive to the UV and IR spectrums of light and this is why digital
cameras are more likely to capture "orbs' than 35mm cameras.
Snow, rain and pollen are also subject to this type of photographic
This problem is compounded by the fact that digital cameras have an extended depth of field, which makes airborne particles even more visible than 35mm cameras. The circle of confusion, an optical spot caused by a cone of light rays from a lens not coming to a perfect focus when imaging a point source, is yet another factor that can cause "orbs".
Lens flare is another phenomena that can cause
orb like images. A camera lens has a number of elements that work together
to focus an image onto film. The insides of lenses are coated with an
anti-reflective material to help reduce the amount of secondary reflections
known as ghost. In the case where bright lights are facing the lens, the
lens coating is not fully effective and secondary reflections occur producing
what are known as lens flares. You can learn more about lens flares
Section 2. Debunking orbs in photographs using science.
Huygen's Principle predicts the future position
of a wave when its earlier position is known. "Every point
on a wave front can be considered as a source of tiny wavelets that
spread out in the forward direction at the speed of the wave itself.
The new wave front is the envelope of all the wavelets - that is,
tangent to them." This principle explains what happens when
a wave hits an obstacle and the wave fronts are partially obstructed.
It predicts that waves bend behind an obstacle, or diffract. Since
diffraction only occurs for waves, not for particles, it verifies
the wave nature of light.
Diffraction is the spreading of light around
the edges of a barrier. These form patterns called diffraction rings.
In diffraction, the intensity of the bright lines (or fringes) is
greatest for the central bright spot and decreases for the higher
Except for the central bright spot, the position of the
fringe depends upon the wavelength of light. As Young found, the
central bright spot appears as the original, undiffracted light.
The higher order fringes, contain a spectrum of the light colors
comprising the original light. Their position depends upon their
wavelength. Young proved that one color of light is distinguished
from another color by wavelength.
Dust orbs have certain
characteristics, such as possessing some sort of nucleus, and elongation
around the central axis towards the edges of the photos. These are
the diffraction rings. A simple way of thinking about it is to consider
a drop of water hitting a pond. Ripples are produced as the drop strikes
the pond's surface. Light behaves in a similar fashion. The problem
is that the ability to see
the diffraction rings is dependent on the resolution of the photograph
and if the "orb" is in focus (not to close to the lens).
The image on the left shows a typical diffraction ring pattern that
is found in dust particles.
When light interferes, the light waves produce
alternating bright and dark bands of colors (interference fringes); nodal
lines appear as dark bands and antinodal lines appear as bright bands.
Violet light (with the shortest wavelength) is the least diffracted and
red light (with the longest wavelength)is the most diffracted.
Angstrom: 1 A = 1 x 10-10 m
1. Spectrum types: Continuous
* produced by white light
* contains all the colors in the rainbow
* red light is diffracted the most and blue (violet) light is diffracted
2. Absorption (dark line)
* consists of dark lines on a continuous spectrum background
* energy is absorbed at characteristic frequencies
3. Emission (bright line)
4. Energy is emitted at characteristic frequencies
Generally speaking, if you see
diffraction rings, it is definitely dust as this phenomena
occurs (in a photographic sense) only in very small and microscopic
There are other signs to look for as well.
A corona is produced by diffraction of light by small particles. Every
point on the illuminated surface is a source of scattered outgoing
spherical waves ( Huygens-Fresnel Principle ).
Scattering from only two points is shown on the diagram. Along the
central axis, the incident light direction, the crests of the two
scattered waves always coincide to form a region where the light is
Moving away from the axis, there is a direction
where the crests again coincide to give beams of enhanced brightness
at an angle to the incident light. In between there is a region
where crests of one wave coincide with those of opposite amplitude
of the other. The two waves cancel and there is darkness in those
There is a another coincidence of wave crests
at a larger angle and the light intensity is again enhanced. With
increasing angular distance from the axis there are alternating
bright and dark regions, a diffraction pattern.
In reality, light is scattered from all around
the particle periphery and other low intensity waves arise from reflection
and transmission through the particle. The net wave amplitude at any point
is the sum of the amplitude vectors, not intensities, of all the individual
waves. The result is a very bright central region surrounded by less bright
rings, a corona.
Corona formation, to a good approximation, needs
no knowledge of the particle's interior because the surface scattered
waves predominate. It could be water, ink or coal - the pattern is almost
the same. It depends primarily on the particle's size, shape and the wavelength
of the light.
There is no need for the particle to be transparent
nor even spherical. Small ice crystals, pollen grains and large dust particles
all form corona. A white light corona is the sum of all the corona contributions
from each spectral color.
Usually there will be more than one dust orbs in
the photos, and you get them most of the time at the location. Note that
dust orbs are more likely to show up in a large number when you disturb
the environment, such as when you just step into an empty room. You can
analyze this effect in an image editing program by simply increasing the
brightness of the photo.
A. Particle is overexposed by camera flash and/or in the camera's circle of confusion. No diffraction rings are visible.
B. Particle (pollen spore) is outside of the circle of confusion and far enough away from the lens to be in focus.
C. Particle is in motion and is within the camera's circle of confusion.
D and E. Particle colors are determined by the spectral wavelengths that they can refract. Generally, blue particles are refracting Ultraviolet light while red ones are refracting a greater degree of infrared light. Photoluminescence and the optics of the camera are also factors that can affect colors.
Some photographs show geometric shapes, such as
diamonds and octagon . This is caused by a lens curvature error known
as "Coma", cameras with very small lenses and short focal lengths
(such as digital cameras) are more prone to coma than other cameras with
longer focal length lenses, such as SLR cameras.
When an object with a
similar shape as the aperture of the camera lens is brought out-of-focus,
the object will begin to take the shape of the aperture. In other words,
if the aperture of the camera is an octagon, an out-of-focus dust orb
will begin to take the shape of an octagon, particularly towards the center
of the image.
Summary: "Orbs" are not ghosts!