Min Min is an unexplained light phenomenon that has often been reported in outback Australia.
Stories about the lights can be found in Aboriginal myths predating European settlement and have since become part of wider Australian folklore. Indigenous Australians hold that the number of sightings has increased in conjunction with the ingression of Europeans into the outback. While it has been claimed that the first recorded sighting dates to 1838, in the book Six Months in South Australia, the event described is likely to be a different phenomenon.
The name Min Min derives from a small settlement of the same name located between the outback towns of Boulia and Winton, where the light was observed by a stockman in 1918.
According to folklore, the lights sometimes follow or approach people and disappear when fired upon, sometimes very rapidly, only to reappear later on, and anyone who chases the lights and catches them will never return to tell the tale.
Reports of the phenomenon are widespread throughout Australia as well as in Saudi Arabia as people name this phenomenon “abu fanoos” “ابو فانوس” which means the man with the lamp in Arabic. The lights have been reported from as far south as Brewarrina in western New South Wales, to as far north as Boulia in northern Queensland and near Rub’ al Khali desert in Saudi Arabia. The majority of sightings are reported to have occurred in Channel Country. Another district where Min Min lights are often reported is Yunta, South Australia, which is centred within a low-lying basin known for recording extreme cold.
Appearance and behaviour
Accounts of the light appearances vary, though they are most commonly described as being fuzzy, disc-shaped lights that appear to hover just above the horizon. They are often described as being white, though some accounts describe them as changing colour from white to red to green and back again. Some accounts describe them as being dim; others describe them as being bright enough to illuminate the ground under them and to cause nearby objects to throw clearly defined shadows.
Some witnesses describe the light as appearing to approach them several times before retreating. Others report that the lights were able to keep pace with them when they were in a moving motor vehicle.
There remains debate over whether the Min Min lights are a real phenomenon, and if so, what their source might be. Various hypotheses have been put forward to explain the lights, including:
It has been hypothesized that the lights may be the result of insects swarming that have taken on bioluminescent characteristics after being contaminated by naturally occurring agents found in local fungi, or of species of owl with their own naturally occurring source of bioluminescence. To date, no one has captured or observed an animal with these characteristics. There is also no known bioluminescent source bright enough.
A second hypothesis is that the lights are the result of known geophysical phenomena, such as piezoelectrics or marsh gas. However, lights are often reported in areas without geological conditions favourable to these phenomena.
Neuroscientist Jack Pettigrew has suggested that the Min Min lights are a form of Fata Morgana mirage, which causes remote lights or objects to appear above the horizon. This can result in an object which is normally below the horizon being visible.