What happens in the dark forest while you sleep?

The UA Science: Sky School, a residential science program in multidisciplinary science, is housed at the summit of Tucson’s nearest Sky Island, in an old military base converted to an astronomical observatory. One of the buildings on site, the old enlisted barracks (it was only men up there back then), is condemned and boarded up. No one to my knowledge has been inside in a decade. It is very, very dark if you walk past it on a moonless night to set out a wildlife camera. (I sing to myself if I’m alone.)

Ten days ago, I was up at Sky School with a group of middle schoolers, and walking past the enlisted barracks in the night, we saw a light on in a downstairs window!

I don’t know if some electrical system went haywire, someone had broken in, or the ghosts were out in full force in anticipation of the full moon (this was two days before the lunar eclipse). One week later, I passed by in the dark, and the light was off. Spooky.

Lots of things happen outside while we sleep. Some of them we will never know about. Some of them we lack the olfactory or other senses to detect. But if you could see in infrared like a snake, or echolocation like a bat, or even hear like a fox, here is what you would have seen in a clearing between the telescopes at the summit of Mt. Lemmon last Friday night:

 

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