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Signs Supplement - Strange Clouds

Mysterious Smoke Ring: New Details Emerge
You'd have thought it was the end of the world. Actually, some here thought it was. News 4 WOAI tracked down an explanation for a bizarre sighting in San Antonio's skies. [...]

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Dust cloud in forecast for today

Threat of huge haze prompts health alerts

Houston Chronicle
July 17, 2003

A Saharan dust haze twice the size of Texas is expected to make its way over Houston today and cover the state by the weekend, health officials said Wednesday.

Comment from a Reader: First we have a mysterious smoke ring over San Antonio, Texas, and now a Saharan dust haze? I'm 45 and a native to the Houston area. Never in my life have I heard of these dust storms over the area. The smoke from Mexico has only been reported in the last few years. I've asked around and can't find a single person that has heard of these in the past. If they are so common, then why hasn't anyone noticed them before? A little sky-watching will be in order this weekend.

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Signs staffer, Joe Quinn, photographed a mysterious cloud formation in Ireland shortly after we published Mysterious Smoke Rings or When is a Cloud not a Cloud?

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Cairo's mysterious "black cloud" sparks heated governmental debate

CAIRO (AFP) - The Egyptian government is coming under fire in parliament over its failure to deal with a black cloud of pollution of disputed origin which hangs over Cairo every autumn.

The mysterious cloud which chokes the capital's 16 million inhabitants each October "is striking a mortal blow at the government, which is incapable of facing the problem," Zakaria Azmi, a deputy from the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP), said Wednesday during a debate of the parliamentary health committee. [...]

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Strange Scene over Hawaii from

Comment: Cloud created from a mountain wave or something else? Probably, it is what they say it is, (strangely enough the front page includes an artist rendering of a theoretical, man-made flying saucer) but we should always keep our options open.

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A Hole Punch Cloud Over Alabama
2004 January 12
Astronomy Picture of the Day
Joel Knain

Explanation: What could create a huge hole in the clouds? Such a hole, likely hundreds of meters across, was photographed last month from a driveway near Mobile, Alabama,USA . Very unusual to see, hole-punch clouds like this are still the topic of meteorological speculation. [...]

Comment: The full sized picture to the left is well worth seeing.

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Mystery of circle in the sky
March 2, 2004 07:17
By Jonathan Barnes

A MYSTERIOUS circle in the sky had East Anglians scratching their heads last night.

The giant halo was spotted above the region from about 5.30pm yesterday, leaving people wondering if they had just seen a UFO.

A number of readers contacted the East Anglian Daily Times to report the sightings from towns and villages across Suffolk.
EADT designer, Chris Mills, captured the phenomenon on camera from a spot close to Ipswich Railway Station.

I'd just left the station when I saw a plane in the sky making vapour trails," he said.

But in front of it, and seemingly much lower in the sky, was a perfectly round cloud - like a halo above the area around the Ipswich Town stadium.

I had a camera with me, so I took a picture of it. It's either one for the X Files or means the Blues can do no wrong."

Jim Keating, from Fornham St Martin, spotted the giant halo while driving in Bury St Edmunds at about 6pm.

It was like a vapour trail, but a complete circle and must have been about 20 to 30 metres across. I don't know what it was - I've never seen anything like it before," he said.

Dale Scott also spotted the mysterious ring from his home in Framsden, near Framlingham, and took a couple of pictures on his digital camera.

"It was very strange, like a massive smoke ring in the sky. I've got no idea what it was," he said.

There was speculation whether the halos were rings around the moon, caused by refraction of moonlight from ice crystals in the atmosphere.

Neither EADT weatherman, Ken Blowers, or Roy Gooding, from the Orwell Astronomical Society, could shed any light on the mystery. The National Air Traffic Services could not help either.

But a meteorological officer at Wattisham Airfield said the halo had probably been caused by an aircraft.

"It was a condensation trail that formed an exact circle, which was visible before sunset. We don't think it was a crystal cloud around the sun or the moon," he added.

"We don't think it was anything extra special - it was probably an aircraft having a jolly."

Comment: You can check out this picture from a ring recently made in Virginia from a vapor trail of a plane, but this one appearance does not explain away other occurrences.

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More Mystery Smoke Rings

Nasa has a department called the Microgravity Science Division at the Glenn Research Center. According to the web site it has responsibility for:

"planning, advocating, directing, and implementing space experiments in technology and microgravity science.

This Division both conducts and sponsors ground-based scientific and technology studies that may lead to experiments in space. The focus of these efforts is to enhance the understanding of the role of gravity in a wide range of physical processes (ie. materials science, power, propulsion, combustion, fluid physics, plasma physics, etc.) This work is carried out by scientists in the external community and by scientists in this Division as well as in other Center organizations. The technology experiments for which the Division is responsible provide enabling technology for future space missions including the Space Station and the planned programs in Human Exploration and Development of Space Enterprise. A very significant and substantial part of the Division's effort is the design, buildup, testing, and integration of hardware for experiment packages to be! launched aboard the Space Shuttle."

This NASA division had a booth at the 2001 Cleveland air show. The NASA team took pictures of the air show and published them on the "outreach" section of their website. Among the collection of images, two very strange"smoke ring" formations appear. Even more strange is the fact that the NASA Microgravity Science Division, offers no explanation of what these strange formations are, other than to state that one is a "special effect, that hoovers above the NASA tent" and the other as having been "left by an airship". We assume that the term "hoovers" is a typo for "hovers", although, in British English the verb "to hoover", taken from the brand of vacuum cleaners "Hoover", means to "suck up with a vacuum cleaner".

Note in the above image that another much less defined ring is visible to the upper right of the first ring.

The above image is the one that NASA simply calls a "special effect" as it "hoovers above the NASA tent" at the airshow

Can we ignore the fact that the NASA team that attended the Airshow and took the above pictures are involved in "microgravity" research?

Whatever the origin of these "mobile smoke rings", it appears that they are a fairly rare, but not unprecedented, phenomena. Similar "smoke rings" were observed in San Antonio in September of 2003 during a thunderstorm. At the time, the US National Weather Service claimed that the phenomena is caused by an exploding "thunderbolt", yet, as can been seen from the pictures of the Cleveland Airshow, there was hardly a cloud in the sky that day. Perhaps we are talking about two different phenomena, despite the striking similarities, or perhaps the US National Weather Service had no idea what caused the smoke rings in San Antonio and simply offered the public the first plausible explanation they could think of. Almost 50 years ago, very similar smoke rings were observed over a US military base.

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Mystery Utah Explosions Cause Huge Mushroom Clouds
From Brian Justice

Note - Thanks for George Paxinos for sending this in. It came from one Brian Justice. If anyone has any knowledge of what these three LARGE explosions were caused by... each resulting in a huge mushroom cloud... please let us know right away. Something is going on underground in Utah. -ed

Mushroom Cloud

On our way back home from a family drive on 8-29-04, my wife and I noticed a peculiar mushroom cloud just east of our home in Wellington, UT

We ran into the house and brought our both of our digital cameras and started snapping pictures. Within 2 hours there were three different "explosions" resulting in mushroom clouds.

We emailed a local news station; they looked into the pictures but to no avail. There were truck drivers parked at the gas station just down from our home, the drivers did not dare drive the road for fear of whatever was happening out there.

Pretty scary afternoon, especially during this time of heightened alert in our nation.

Comment: See the other photo of one of the explosions here.

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'Mystery Cloud' Appears Over Eastern U.S. And Canada
By Joe Rao's Night Sky Columnist
01 September 2004 07:44 am ET

Anyone who lives in the eastern part of the United States or Canada and gazing skyward on Tuesday evening may have noticed something strange in their west-northwest sky.

At around 9 p.m. EDT, a small, bright, silvery circular cloud of light suddenly appeared. Over the next 25 minutes, the cloud appeared to gradually expand and fade, finally becoming invisible to the unaided eye. Those who saw it, wondered exactly what it might have been.

John Bortle, a well-known amateur astronomer with over four-decades of experience of sky observing first caught sight of the cloud at 9:03 p.m. EDT from his home in Stormville, New York. Initially, he thought the cloud was as bright as zero or first magnitude and upon examining it carefully with binoculars, thought that it " ... resembled the petals of a day lily." By 9:30 p.m., he reported that the cloud had faded completely from his view.

From the North Fork of Long Island, Bill Bogardus and his wife were out observing when they took note of the cloud " ... about the size of the moon" in the northwest sky. "It was a roundish, yet not all that round, object drifting towards our location very slowly, slower that most satellites because it took at least twenty minutes to move from where we first saw it to pretty much our zenith."

After studying it for a while through an 8-inch telescope, Bogardus noticed two points of light, " ... like a satellite would appear, in line and above a jet of gas that seemed to come from them."

Observing from Ithaca, New York, Joseph Storch used 7x50 binoculars on the cloud and reported a star-like point or nucleus and four butterfly shaped petals radiating outward.

Other reports, received as far west as Toronto tell of people who initially thought that what they were seeing was the moon behind a cloud. Typical was the comment: "For a second I thought it was the moon, then I realized the moon was in the east."

What was it?

Not a few people who saw this strange, expanding cloud thought that it might have been an atmospheric experiment sent aloft by a sounding rocket. Over the years, those living along the US East Coast have been accustomed to occasionally seeing unusual brightly colored clouds caused when exotic chemicals such as barium and trimethylaluminum were released into the Earth's ionosphere by rockets launched from NASA's Wallops Island, Virginia site.

However, in this case it was the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office -- not NASA -- that was responsible for the unusual cloud formation on Tuesday night.

It was a fuel dump of the Centaur stage involved in the NRO-1 satellite launch from Cape Canaveral late Tuesday afternoon. Dumping excess fuel is the usual practice for all Centaur-booster assisted launches. It happens after spacecraft separation; the fuel bleeding off from a Centaur upper rocket stage on its second orbit after launch. Being just after nightfall, the cloud of fuel was still sunlit at that altitude.

And those who were fortuitously outside when the dump occurred, were the ones who saw this very unusual sight!

Comment: They are dumping stuff in the atmosphere with all the warnings about global warming???

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