What the eyes can't see

24th May 2024. Reading Time: 5 minutes General, Stuff paranormal investigators need to know. 2114 page views. 0 comments.

After a recent experience with Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) in person, discussions soon turned to what we could see with our eyes compared to what was shown on a camera or mobile phone. It makes me wonder, just what is there that the eyes don't see?

After a recent experience with Aurora Australis (Southern Lights) in person, discussions soon turned to what we could see with our eyes compared to what was shown on a camera or mobile phone.  It makes me wonder, just what is there that the eyes don't see?  To discuss this topic, first we need to look at how we see colour in the first place.

How do we see colour?

The retina inside our eye detects these changes in light through what is called cones and rods.  There are three types of cones that are sensitive to different wavelengths of light.  This is how we can detect colour.  Sometimes, a person's cones are not functioning as they should and this is where colour blindness can come in.  There are four main types of colourblindness that affect approximately 8-10% of the population.  Some people may not be able to receive red light, others blue light which some can only see in Black and White.

Image Source: http://www.theinkrag.com/colour_blindness/monochromacy.html

The rods in our eyes are the ones that are sensitive to light.  They don't interpret colour, only light.  Adaptation is what is referred to when the retina which is inside the eye adjusts to different levels of light.  We are all capable of a certain degree of natural night vision.  Think about when you are in a paranormal investigation and you are in a room and then turn out the lights.  In the beginning, it seems like you are in pitch-black darkness.  The longer you are in the room, your eyes begin to adjust and you can start seeing items in the dark a lot more clearly.  Typically it can take a person 20 - 30 minutes to properly adjust, however it is said that it really takes 2 hours for the process to happen properly.

When we experience something such as Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) and Aurora Australis (Southern Lights), these natural phenomena are made from electromagnetic radiation.  The adaptation process means that we can see and process light a bit better at night, but only see in black and white and shades of gray.  The light is often too faint.  Our cameras don't have the same limitations as the human eye.  They can be programmed to let in more light (such as a phone in night vision mode).  This is essentially why so many people took amazing photos of the aurora but only reported seeing a small tinge in the sky.

According to NASA:

The visible light spectrum is the segment of the electromagnetic spectrum that the human eye can view. More simply, this range of wavelengths is called visible light. Typically, the human eye can detect wavelengths from 380 to 700 nanometers.

All electromagnetic radiation is light, but we can only see a small portion of this radiation—the portion we call visible light. Cone-shaped cells in our eyes act as receivers tuned to the wavelengths in this narrow band of the spectrum. Other portions of the spectrum have wavelengths too large or too small and energetic for the biological limitations of our perception.

As the full spectrum of visible light travels through a prism, the wavelengths separate into the colors of the rainbow because each color is a different wavelength. Violet has the shortest wavelength, at around 380 nanometers, and red has the longest wavelength, at around 700 nanometers.


On each end of the spectrum beyond what the human eye can see, you have infrared and ultraviolet light.  The human eye cannot see these, yet many cameras and devices can.  

Visible Light and the Paranormal

We know that in paranormal investigations, people will often film using night vision and cameras modified to detect more ultraviolet and infrared light.  It is why you see videos where people are in a hue of green or purple.  The theory is pretty simple.  If devices are capturing light at a range outside of what the human eye can see, maybe they might be able to see a spirit or ghost.  I suppose for me it was put into perspective when I like many experienced the Aurora a few weekends ago.  I couldn't see much with my eyes, maybe a dark purple tinge in the sky, but if I didn't know to look I would have been none the wiser.  What my iPhone 13 Pro could see however was very different.  This is what I captured by keeping the sensor open for 3 seconds (night vision mode).

Image by Sarah LLIFS

To the human eye, it certainly was not as bright and beautiful as the picture shows.  In fact, I saw on social media a lot of disappointment from people who were seeing all these amazing photos unaware that it didn't look like that to the naked eye. They didn't know that they would need a camera or phone to be able to see it in its full glory.  Regardless of how I viewed it, for me It was a bucket list moment and in a way a little humbling.  I felt incredibly small in what felt like a huge universe of things I could not see and did not yet understand.  It then had me thinking about the paranormal in the same vein.  Just what is right in front of our eyes that we cannot see?  Maybe it is at a rate that is far beyond what even a camera can detect.  Maybe there is nothing there at all.  That is what makes it all the more interesting to me.  I like to think there is something out there that I cannot see because in a lot of ways, I feel it is there.  A gut feeling I guess.  There was a time when we would not have been able to see Auroras because the technology was not there.  Perhaps the technology just isn't there yet to see something paranormal, or maybe and this is what I think anyway is that we just aren't supposed to see it.  To me, much like the Aurora was, the paranormal is one of the mysteries that I think is very personal and will remain that way.  That is why we all perceive it so very differently.  Regardless of what really is out there, for one night, many across the World were completely united.  It didn't matter what they believed, who they are or even where they were. For one night we all got to experience some magic and that in itself was paranormal as it is certainly for many a once-in-a-lifetime event.

Here are some articles on similar topics you may enjoy

LiDAR, FACE ID Technology and the paranormal

Dark Adaptation

Will HADAR be the next big thing in paranormal investigating?

Paranormal or trick of the eye?






If you enjoy LLIFS, consider buying me a book (otherwise known as buy me a coffee but I don't drink coffee and I LOVE books). Your donation helps to fund the LLIFS website so everyone can continue to access great paranormal content and resources for FREE!

Follow LLIFS on Facebook

Don't forget to follow the Facebook page for regular updates 

Mailing List

Join the mailing list to receive weekly updates of NEW articles.  Never miss an article again!

Haunted Magazine

Buy the latest and past issues Haunted Magazine

Books by LLIFS

Check out the books written by LLIFS