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There has been much debate about the representation of orbs, especially after the introduction of digital technology. They come in different colours, sizes and some even appear to take on some very peculiar characteristics. They can appear at random in video footage and still imagery. The more flamboyant explanation suggests that ‘orbs’ are the pre-manifestation of spirits prior to materialisation. This is more of an anecdotal theory. In order to take an objective approach, one must rule out all conventional possibilities before leaning towards the unexplained. There are known cases and documentations of phenomena that fit in that category, but seldom do they appear.

In my experience as a paranormal researcher, at least 95% of orb documentations are explained in conventional terms. Some of the more popular orb effects are created by airborne particles such as dust or fabric. This occurs when the contaminant is within the range of the camera’s depth of field, making it out of focus thus producing an orb-like effect.

It is also worth noting that cameras are infrared sensitive (especially video cameras operating on night mode) and will pick up reflection or refraction in that spectrum.

Other optical effects are on images taken near reflective surfaces, or near direct sunlight. The orb that is created in this instance is caused by lens flare (or even camera interior structure reflection). Lens flare can also enhance minute contamination on the lens itself (dust, dew, hair, compromised lens), producing fuzzy orb-like spots. Some poor quality digital cameras occasionally have pixel drop out during photography. The unit then attempts to compensate for the fault (digital overcompensation) by producing pixels of random colour. This will appear as a kind of circular artefact.

We have all seen video footage in night mode of orb-like anomalies moving hastily around the cameraman, changing course and then disappearing. Most of these orbs are in fact insects that we wouldn’t otherwise see if it weren’t for the cameras infrared function. These are some of the more common forms of conventional explanations.

At closer inspection, some orb photography present (see example) unusual patterns – some even seem to represent faces or other bizarre figures (even occult-like). This is an occurrence that falls under the category of a psychological phenomenon, called pareidolia. The human brain is capable of interpreting certain patterns (ambiguous stimulus) as recognisable forms, like faces, religious icons, etc.

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