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Fire in the Sky


New 'Hot-Spot' on the Sun - AR11226

"This morning I pointed my solar telescope through a gap in the clouds to look at the new 'hot-spot' on the sun - AR11226," reports Pete Lawrence of Selsey, UK. "Wow! I'm glad I did. The bright flaring regions within the sunspot group are incredible." Caught in mid-eruption, the active region nearly saturated his camera:
© Pete Lawrence - Selsey, UK

"A white light image of the region shows the underlying sunspot complex," says Lawrence. "Impressive!"

Sunspot 1226 and another unnumbered sunspot trailing behind it are responsible for this weekend's sudden surge of solar activity. The sunspots are crackling with C- and M-class solar flares. So far, none of the blasts has been geo-effective, but this could change in the days ahead as the active region turns toward Earth.


Comet McNaught Caught Between Fireworks and Lightning

Sometimes the sky itself is the best show in town. In January 2007, people from Perth, Australia gathered on a local beach to watch a sky light up with delights near and far. Nearby, fireworks exploded as part of Australia Day celebrations. On the far right, lightning from a thunderstorm flashed in the distance.

© Antti Kemppainen
Near the image center, though, seen through clouds, was the most unusual sight of all: Comet McNaught. The photogenic comet was so bright that it even remained visible though the din of Earthly flashes. Comet McNaught has now returned to the outer Solar System and is now only visible with a large telescope. The above image is actually a three photograph panorama digitally processed to reduce red reflections from the exploding firework.


Geomagnetic Storms On The Way

A stream of high-speed solar wind is buffeting Earth's magnetic field and stirring up geomagnetic storms. At this time of year, the midnight sun interferes with the visibility of Northern Lights over Alaska and Scandinavia, but the situation is different on the other side of Earth. Southern Lights were on full display this morning in the dark autumn skies of Queenstown, New Zealand:

© Minoru Yoneto
Image taken: May 29, 2011
Location: Queenstown, New Zealand
"I actually missed the most intense part of the display," says photographer Minoru Yoneto. But as this 30-second exposure shows, "better late than never!"

High-latitude sky watchers should remain alert for auroras as the solar wind continues to blow. NOAA forecasters estimate a 20% - 25% chance of geomagnetic storms in the next 24 hours.


No Surprises There: Philadelphia, US: Mystery Boom Caused by Earthquake: USGS

© Chopper 10
People were out on the sidewalks as emergency vehicles blocked off streets -- everyone trying to figure out what caused loud bangs in Northeast Philly Friday night.
A loud bang in Northeast Philadelphia on Friday night was caused by a 1.7 magnitude earthquake, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

Comment: Interesting. Considering U.S. Geological Survey's claims, we have to ask how come Japan's 9.8 magnitude earthquake wasn't followed by terrible and deafening explosions? And we are not talking about the consequences of the devastating tsunami. Is it really too hard to consider the possibility that the earthquake was caused by the "loud bang" and not the other way around?

The USGS reports that the depth of the quake was 4.2 km (2.6 miles).

The site also says that it hit 2 miles from Cornwells Heights-Eddington, PA, 4 miles from Beverly, NJ, 5 miles from Riverton, NJ and 10 miles from Philadelphia.

People all over the Northeast and in nearby places like Bensalem, Pa. were reporting having heard an explosion or boom in the area of Knights and Fairdale Road around 9:35 p.m., according to the Philadelphia Fire Department.

Some witnesses even claimed to feel their houses shake.


And the Drops Keep Falling! US: Mystery Boom Causes Panic in Northeast Philadelphia

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Southern Lights

A solar wind stream is buffeting Earth's magnetic field, sparking Southern Lights around the Antarctic Circle. Ian Stewart sends this picture from a jetty near Hobart, Tasmania:

© Ian Stewart
Not long after sunset a friend rang to ask whether a faint arc of light crossing over the southern sky was an aurora. It was!" says Stewart. "This is the first time in the new solar cycle that I have managed to photograph the Aurora Australis. Previous events either have not been strong enough to view at 43o South, or have occurred during our daytime. Perhaps this is the beginning of a good aurora season for the southern hemisphere."


US: NASA Sky Cameras Capture Man-Sized Meteor Over Macon, Georgia

Astronomers at NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center have recorded the brightest meteor seen by their network in almost three years of operation. On May 20, 2011, at 9:47 p.m. CDT, a six-foot diameter fragment of an unknown comet entered the atmosphere approximately 66 miles above the city of Macon, Ga., traveling northwest at a speed of some 24 miles per second (86,000 mph). At this velocity, the boulder-sized "dirty snowball" possessed an energy or striking power somewhere between 500-1000 tons of TNT.

This was seen by many eyewitnesses in Georgia and Alabama; the American Meteor Society has some of the reports here.

It was tracked by two NASA all sky cameras, one located in Chickamauga, Ga., and the other at the Tellus Science Museum in the town of Cartersville, Ga. Analysis of the video data from these cameras enabled the Meteoroid Environment Office to estimate the trajectory, speed, mass and orbit of the meteor. More information on these cameras and a log of recent meteor events can be found here.


What are they hiding? Flight 447 and Tunguska Type Events

[Note: We're rerunning this 2009 article (with 2013 update below) for consideration in light of the missing Malaysian Airliner.]

Air France Flight 447 en route from Rio de Janeiro to Paris disappeared over the Mid-Atlantic (just north of the equator) at approximately 1.33UTC on June 1st 2009.

No mayday signal was received from the aircraft and almost two weeks later, aviation officials have yet to give a coherent explanation as to what could have caused the sudden demise of a high tech Airbus 330-200 passenger plane.

As usual, the media are missing (or concealing) some very obvious yet understandably disturbing data about the nature of the threats to life on planet earth, and as usual, it is left to Sott.net to spell out the details.


Did a meteor bring down Air France 447?

© Unknown
Back in 1996, after the initially very mysterious explosion and crash of Flight 800 from JFK to Rome, there were numerous eyewitness accounts of a "streak in the sky" just before the crash. This led to the "missile theory" of the crash, which was eventually attributed to the explosion of the center fuel tank by the NTSB. But, also at the time, it was suggested that a meteor of sufficient size could have struck the plane, bringing it down.

Could a meteor have brought down Air France 447? Today we are starting to see reports that there actually may have been a meteor:
However, both pilots of an Air Comet flight from Lima to Lisbon sent a written report on the bright flash they said they saw to Air France, Airbus and the Spanish civil aviation authority, the airline told CNN.

"Suddenly, we saw in the distance a strong and intense flash of white light, which followed a descending and vertical trajectory and which broke up in six seconds," the captain wrote.

Comment: Actually, SOTT called this one when it happened! The reader is invited to take a look at What are they hiding? Flight 447 and Tunguska Type Events, that clearly demonstrates the possibility of Flight 447 being hit by a meteorite or a shockwave from an exploding comet fragment.


Ancient Scars

© Tourism Western Australia
The Wolfe Creek crater in Western Australia.
Only recently has science recognised craters for what they really are: evidence of sudden impacts from long ago. Geologists Alex Bevan and Ken McNamara explore our rich heritage of fossil collisions.

Travelling south from Halls Creek in Western Australia, the hilly country of the southeastern Kimberley quickly gives way to the flat sand plains of the Great Sandy Desert.

Some 90 km south of Halls Creek, we see on the horizon a break in the monotony: an apparently flat-topped hill. In these endless plains, it is hard to judge the hill's height and distance, but after another 10 km we are almost there.

The fascinating story of the Wolfe Creek Crater begins to be revealed as we approach the slopes of the hill: the quartzite country rock becomes increasingly broken and disarranged. Rusty-red areas of iron oxide soils, which cap the quartzite, become increasingly fragmented.

Then, curious objects begin to appear. Close to the top of the hill, on its western slopes, rusty balls of rock lie scattered on the ground, sometimes fused into the laterite, and at other times lying loose.

Reaching the top of the hill, we gasp from something other than shortness of breath - for before us lies one of the most startling geological features in Australia: Wolfe Creek Crater.

Between 870 and 950 m in diameter, Wolfe Creek Crater is almost circular. Originally it would have been 120 m deep, but is now largely filled with sand and is only 25 m below the plains of sand.

There are thousands of circular structures on Earth's land surface, and many of these can be explained by the action of well-understood geological processes such as volcanism.

A number of these structures do not occur in volcanic terrains, nor are they associated with volcanic material. In the past, scientists described them as 'cryptovolcanic' or 'cryptoexplosion' structures, believing they were the result of explosive eruptive activity or that the cause of the explosion is unknown.

In the past 50 years, many features thought to be volcanic have now been shown to have an impact origin.

In 1965, researchers found 1,343 grams of iron meteorites some 3.9 km southwest of Wolfe Creek Crater, making it one of only five craters in Australia where meteorites have been found.

Meteorites only survive if the impact is small, producing a crater only a few hundreds of metres across. In larger impacts, the projectile is completely melted and vaporised. So, without the meteorite itself, what other than the circularity of such structures leads us to believe they were formed by impact?

The telltale evidence of a meteoritic origin falls into three main categories: structural, mineralogical and chemical. Geophysical surveys of many suspected impact structures show that they do not have deep-seated roots.