All those broadcast towers

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eorange

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I was in North Myrtle beach this past week, and from the 16th floor of my condo...I could not believe how many towers with blinking red lights I saw at nighttime in the S - SW direction on the horizon. On one clear night I think I counted 21 of them. Some of them were just faint red blinks right on the horizon, and others were closer that I could see with multiple lights on the tower. But the horizon was covered with them.

What are all those towers, and how far out was I seeing?
 

jeffmulter

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Any chance some of the lights were ships waiting for permission to enter the Wilmington port to load or unload containers ?

Another possibility - maybe - would be wind turbines used to generate electricity. I presume they require safety lighting at night if they are above a specified height.


Either of the above possibilities is only a guess.
 

mmckenna

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Any chance some of the lights were ships waiting for permission to enter the Wilmington port to load or unload containers ?

Another possibility - maybe - would be wind turbines used to generate electricity. I presume they require safety lighting at night if they are above a specified height.


Either of the above possibilities is only a guess.
Ships would not have flashing red lamps. That's not one of the standard light configurations for ships.
Navigational buoys would, but they are pretty dim compared to tower lighting.

As for the wind turbines, that's a good point.
I was recently in Utah and California around some wind farms. Both sites I was at had most of the red flashing aircraft warning beacons on all the towers flashing in sync. From several miles away it took me a while to figure out what I was looking at. Having a few hundred red lights spread across the horizon in the middle of the night all flashing in unison was pretty creepy.
 

k3sls

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Looking S-SW from MB would in the direction of Charleston and westward. No significant numbers of wind turbines on land or sea (yet) in that direction. I'm pretty sure you were seeing broadcast and cellular. commercial towers. This sectional chart image will give you an idea of the registered towers in the area. Zoom in and look for the /\/\ and /\ figures. The blue numerals next to each tower indicate height.
 

eorange

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Thanks for the chart. As I look at the towers, I see quite a few from 300 to 500+ feet, in a rough sort of a linear arrangement. Projecting those on a horizon view could certainly fit what I saw.

Sounds strange, but it was kind of mesmerizing just watching all those red lights dotting the entire expanse of the horizon. There was beer involved, but still :p

Regarding windmill farms: I read that all windmill lights blink in unison to give pilots a non-distracting visualization of the field they're about to fly over. And the flashing lights are all synchronized using GPS PPS signals.
 

mmckenna

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Regarding windmill farms: I read that all windmill lights blink in unison to give pilots a non-distracting visualization of the field they're about to fly over. And the flashing lights are all synchronized using GPS PPS signals.
Thanks, I figured it was something like GPS timing. Trying to distribute that much power to all those towers from a centralized controller would have been a pain.
 

brian

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Some (many?) of the high-rise hotels and condos along the Grand Strand have red lights on the top. Maybe that accounts for some of what you saw.
 

k3sls

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Some (many?) of the high-rise hotels and condos along the Grand Strand have red lights on the top. Maybe that accounts for some of what you saw.
Very possible. All structures (obstructions) exceeding 200' require lighting, under 200' may require lighting (based on FAA review). As they go higher, guying must be considered as well. If you observe a "Christmas Tree" effect, you're probably looking at a 500-2000' tower with additional lighting on the guying obstruction.

For those interested, check section 2.x of this document:
https://www.faa.gov/documentLibrary/media/Advisory_Circular/AC_70_7460-1L_Change_1_Obstruction_Marking_and_Lighting_10062016.pdf
 

eorange

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My condo was just a few hundred feet south of the Apache pier. This picture is my estimate of the viewing field I had from my 16th floor balcony. I kept wondering how far out on the horizon I was actually seeing. The landscape was extremely flat:
 

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k3sls

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If you assume the 16th floor is about 160' above ground level, the horizon is about 15.5 miles. You may have seen structure tops beyond that distance in good conditions.
 
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