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flame pillar
On January 7, 2007, an equipment malfunction triggered an emergency flaring at the Dutch manufacturing company of Dow Chemical in Terneuzen. The huge flame that accompanied the excessive gas emission produced a bright reflection that stirred commotion in the provinces of Zeeland (the Netherlands) and Oost-Vlaanderen (Belgium). Inspired by witnesses who believed that the second coming of Christ was at hand, newspapers and television stations spoke of the return of the Star of Bethlehem. Fortunately, members of the Philippus Langsbergen Observatory in Middelburg were interviewed as well. Since they were acquainted with the phenomenon of gas-flame reflections, their explanations helped put matters to rest.

The picture above was taken by a member of the observatory and published the next day by the local newspaper Provinciale Zeeuwse Courant and de national paper De Telegraaf. See next images for three more pictures of this same reflection taken by other amateur astronomers.

[© Bram DE BUCK, Volkssterrenwacht Philippus Lansbergen]