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What Are Those Strange Twinkling Lights on Yosemite’s El Capitan?

Yosemite National Park is a magical place—most everyone who has been there would agree. But just how magical are we talking? A photo shared by the National Park Service (NPS) earlier this month shows a series of lights illuminating El Capitan, a vertical rock formation in Yosemite.

Many of the lights illuminating El Capitan appear in a near-perfect vertical line, though there are a few lights sprinkled elsewhere along the cliff face as well. It’s a puzzling sight, until you realize there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation—and it’s not fairies or extraterrestrials. The lights are actually headlamps from rock climbers who are making their way up El Cap.

“As the stars start to emerge, something else magical and unique to Yosemite Valley begins: lights flicker on from the surrounding cliffs,” says Yosemite National Park on its Facebook page. “During our spring climbing season, many climbers in Yosemite take multiple days to climb the park’s towering cliffs. As these climbers settle down for the night, you can watch their headlamps turn on as the stars come out.”

Eventually, the park says the climbers switch off their headlamps for the night and the only twinkling lights left are the stars. And seeing a starry night sky in a place like Yosemite is probably the closest you can get to real-life magic.

Mystery solved! Have you spent a night under the stars at Yosemite?

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