A photographer from Forks, Washington, visited the coast this week to take pictures of the last lunar eclipse of the year. However, he encountered a sight that left him far more shocked than the astronomical phenomenon he was there for.
As professional photographer Mathew Nichols set up his equipment to begin immortalizing what would be the last lunar eclipse of the year, he noticed a strange green light on the ground that looked like the set of a science fiction movie reported by Fox Weather.
From one minute to the next, fluorescent green spots began to appear that actually looked like the product of some kind of nuclear accident, but it was later confirmed that it was some kind of “bioluminescent fungus” known as “foxfire.”
Nichols has on other occasions taken photographs of luminescent algae in the sea, especially very common ones that emit a faint blue glow.
“Bioluminescence is when living organisms produce light so they have the chemistry within their cells, their bodies to have a chemical reaction that involves release of energy comes out as light that we can see,” explained Michael Latz, a marine biologist at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography through the University of California, San Diego.
That same night, as clouds were hindering the ability to take good images of the moon, the photographer began pointing his lens out to sea in search of some kind of luminescence.
But he never imagined the spectacle he would eventually witness.
“I realized the clouds were not going to give me a view (of the eclipse),” Nichols told FOX Weather. “So, I pointed my camera toward the ocean, hoping the peak of the eclipse would block out enough moonlight to see if there was any bioluminescence in the water.”
Eventually, the show began, but it was neither in the sky nor deep in the sea, but over the shore and a few spots on the water.
“At first, I thought someone left lanterns,” he said. Then upon further investigation, I found it was a bioluminescent fungus growing all over some of the driftwood that had washed up from the storm!!”
“It looked like something straight out of ‘Avatar,'” Nichols said. “They were glowing bright green, extremely visible to the naked eye.”
The curious thing is that as soon as the eclipse was over, the spots began to subside until they finally disappeared into the darkness of the night.
Nichols has sent a mushroom sample to a mycologist to identify and learn more about this glowing phenomenon.
So far, what experts say is that this type of fungus commonly grows on dead wood in forests, mainly where the soil is moist or wet, although it can also grow in other habitats such as on coasts; this type of fungus predominates in the tropics and does not appear to be offensive to local wildlife.