reply to post by Spartanian
Again, good points. And again, my apologies for being so tardy with my reply. I'm as interested as all of you and if we can knock down a theory then
well and good.
Re the fire being in the air rather than near the horizon. If the original fire source was near sea level, then yes, we'd likely have to argue that
what would be seen from distance should be also (usually). But in this case, if we allow Etna for argument, the volcano is almost 11,000 feet high and
any fire rising from its upper crater would add a bit to that as well. So, it makes some modicum of sense that it would appear to be in mid-air.
Re the fairly vertical "beam" (or pillar). Again, if we assume Etna for the argument, it would have depended on the prevailing wind conditions around
Etna at the time the image was taken. In still air, smoke from a very hot source does tend to go straight up for some distance. And again, the fact
that this volcano is more than two miles high has to be taken into account. And sea breezes down near the ground level on Sicily woun't make a lot of
difference atop this volcano.
This is a very large volcano, the biggest in the entire region. I don't know if anyone has calculated how many watts of heat it puts out when it's
erupting but it must be colossal. The volcano's very stratovolcano (classic cone) shape could even help to drag cooler air in from lower down and
create something of a "funnelling" effect. But as the enhanced images I posted show, the smoke plume begins to break up as it rises and even on the
way up there is the sort of randomness within the plume that indicates it's natural and not just a beam of light.
My own feelings? I'm not 100% convinced it's Etna but I'm about 99%, because:
-- it's in the right direction according to what the OP said (basically east from her);
-- the atmospheric conditions for refraction are most ideal over cooler bodies of water in spring, and can extend the range at which objects can be
viewed by 100s of km -- and we have the cooled-down Mediterranean Sea between the OP and Sicily and it's early spring;
-- very bright light sources are more easily viewed from a distance than things which are not so bright;
-- the biggest and highest volcano in the whole region is erupting and sometimes producing very intense light sources;
-- it has recently had eruptions from more than one crater at a time -- and the OP reported sometimes seeing two "columns of fire".
I just apply Occam's Razor and as no-one has suggested anything else that would explain what was seen and captured on camera (as it's not just a
man-made beam of light), I go with what is physically possible, even if very unusual.
Anyway as it's after 1 am I'll leave you all to it. If you figure a better answer, no worries from me. I have no dog in this race, after all. I wasn't
even the first to suggest Etna. I just think it fits. That's all.
edit on 10/4/13 by JustMike because: I forget but it must've been important, I guess.