Strange Skies

Better Earth

Earth's thermosphere reaches highest temperature in 20 years after being bombarded by solar storms

© ShutterstockA vibrant aurora display during a geomagnetic storm.
The atmospheric temperature spike, which was caused by successive geomagnetic storms, suggests the "solar maximum" is fast approaching.
Earth's thermosphere recently hit a near 20-year temperature peak after soaking up energy from geomagnetic storms that bashed Earth this year. The temperature in the second-highest layer of the atmosphere will likely continue to climb over the next few years as the sun's activity ramps up, which could impact Earth-orbiting satellites, experts warn.

Comment: That's unless the sun's activity collapses into sporadic, albeit unprecedented outbursts, which is what mathematician and astrophysicist Valentina Zharkova predicts is occurring amidst what she's calling the Grand Solar Minimum.

The thermosphere extends from the top of the mesosphere, at around 53 miles (85 kilometers) above ground, to the bottom of the exosphere, which begins at around 372 miles (600 km) above the ground, according to NASA. Beyond the exosphere is outer space.

For more than 21 years, NASA has measured the thermosphere temperature via infrared radiation emitted by carbon dioxide and nitric oxide molecules. Scientists convert data collected by NASA's Thermosphere, Ionosphere, Mesosphere, Energetics and Dynamics (TIMED) satellite, into the Thermosphere Climate Index (TCI), which is measured in terawatts, or TW. (1 TW is equal to 1 trillion watts.)

Comment: Below is a recent interview by Oppenheimer Ranch interview with mathematician and astrophysicist Valentina Zharkova mentioned above:


Do cosmic rays cause earthquakes?

Cosmic Rays & Earthquakes
© PITRIS/GETTYA stock photo shows a concept of cosmic radiation. Scientists have found a link between cosmic radiation and earthquakes.
I came across an article with a provocative headline, "Scientists Link Cosmic Radiation to Earthquakes for the First Time".

So I went to look at the underlying study, Observation of large scale precursor correlations between cosmic rays and earthquakes with a periodicity similar to the solar cycle by P. Homola and 43 others.

Hmmm, sez I. Willis's Rule of Authors says that the strength of a scientific study is inversely proportional to the number of authors ... but I digress. The Abstract says:
The search for correlations between secondary cosmic ray detection rates and seismic effects has long been a subject of investigation motivated by the hope of identifying a new precursor type that could feed a global early warning system against earthquakes.

Here we show for the first time that the average variation of the cosmic ray detection rates correlates with the global seismic activity to be observed with a time lag of approximately two weeks, and that the significance of the effect varies with a periodicity resembling the undecenal solar cycle, with a shift in phase of around three years, exceeding 6 σ at local maxima.

The precursor characteristics of the observed correlations point to a pioneer perspective of an early warning system against earthquakes.
The study says:
Here we report on an observation of the correlations between variation of the average rates of secondary cosmic ray fluxes measured locally and global seismic activity, and we also point to the periodicity of these correlations (or their observability) which corresponds to sunspot number observations back to the 1960s.
They describe their method as:
... an alternative, novel approach on which we report here: comparing the absolute average variabilities of secondary cosmic radiation to the average global sum of earthquake magnitudes.
And their conclusion was:
We have demonstrated for the first time that the variation of the absolute average detection rates of secondary cosmic radiation correlates with the global seismic situation (sum of the magnitudes of earthquakes with magnitudes greater-than or equal to 4, occurring at all locations) that takes place approximately two weeks later than the relevant cosmic ray data. The size of the shift in time between the cosmic and seismic data sets reveals the precursor character of the correlation effect.

Better Earth

Best of the Web: Aircraft experiencing 37% increase in turbulence over last 40 years

Worried about flying? Things may be getting bumpier for you, a new study suggests aviation turbulence is worsening with climate change.

Research from the University of Reading shows that the skies that aircraft fly through today is much more unstable than 40 years ago.

Over the North Atlantic, one of the busiest flight paths in the world, the time spent in severely turbulent air has risen from 17.7 hours in 1979 to 27.4 hours in 2020, a 55% increase.

The data focused on clean-air flights, where other forms of turbulence were not present.

Moderate bouts of turbulence rose by 37% while light turbulence is up by 17%.

Comment: There are a variety of other signs that a significant shift is occurring on our planet, including, but not limited to the jet stream, atmospheric phenomena, geomagnetic storms, as well as at ground level with a seeming uptick in sinkholes, subsidence and uplift - to name but a few; and the driver of this shift is evidently not CO2, but something much more powerful: Also check out SOTT radio's:


Sun halos, arcs and upside-down rainbows seen across England

A halo, with sun dogs and tangent arcs, was spotted over the Headland in Hartlepool by Ash Foster
A halo, with sun dogs and tangent arcs, was spotted over the Headland in Hartlepool by Ash Foster
Much of northern England enjoyed a rare optical display on Sunday evening.

Thin, high cloud gave a spectacular show of halos, arcs and upside-down rainbows across the North East and Cumbria, not often seen together in the UK.

The phenomena are caused by sunlight reflecting and refracting through ice crystals high in the atmosphere.

BBC Look North weather presenter Jennifer Bartram said it was "very unusual".

"The particular angle at which the sunlight hits these high-up ice crystals form these patterns," she said.


Betelgeuse is being weird again. What gives?

Red giant star Betelgeuse.
© ALMA - ESO/NAOJ/NRAO, E/O'Gorman/P.KervellaRed giant star Betelgeuse.
Since what has come to be known as the Great Dimming that took place in the latter half of 2019 and early 2020, the red giant star Betelgeuse just will not stop with the wackiness.

The dying star's regular cycles of brightness fluctuation have changed, and now Betelgeuse has grown uncharacteristically bright. At the time of writing, it was sitting at 142 percent of its normal brightness.

It's been fluctuating back and forth on a small scale but on a steady upward trend for months and hit a recent peak of 156 percent in April.

Currently, Betelgeuse is the 7th brightest star in the sky - up from its normal position as the 10th brightest, triggering speculation that Betelgeuse is about to blow in a spectacular supernova.

Sadly, it probably isn't. Although Betelgeuse is on the brink of death in cosmic timescales, on human timescales, its supernova could be 100,000 years away.

According to scientists, its current behavior is more likely a bit of ongoing wobbliness following the 2019 dimming, and the star will return to normal within a decade.

Betelgeuse, located around 700 light-years from Earth, is one of the most interesting stars in the sky. It hangs above us, glowing like a bloodshot eye, a star in the red giant stage that marks the end of its life.

But Betelgeuse is an uncommon type of star, even for a red giant. Once upon a time, it was an absolute monster: a blue-white O-type star, the most massive stellar weight class.


New supernova in the pinwheel galaxy

Astronomers are scrambling to photograph a new supernova in the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101). "This is best supernova in a decade," says Eliot Herman of Tucson, Arizona. "It has tripled in brightness in only 24 hours."
© Eliot Herman of Tucson, Arizona
At this rate, it will soon rival or outshine the spiral galaxy's core.

Astronomer Yvette Cendes of Harvard's Center for Astrophysics says the supernova should continue to brighten for another day or so. "We think it will peak around magnitude +10, although it is hard to be certain."


Mysterious 'aurora disco blobs' seen across Europe during April geomagnetic storm explained

aurora blobs
Europeans are still trying to wrap their minds around what happened after sunset on April 23, 2023. Everyone knew that a CME was coming; photographers were already outside waiting for auroras. But when the auroras appeared, they were very strange.

"I had never seen anything quite like it," says Heiko Ulbricht of Saxony, Germany. "The auroras began to tear themselves apart, pulsating as they formed individual blobs that floated high in the sky."

"It literally took my breath away," he says. "My pulse was still racing hours later!" The same blobs were sighted in France and Poland, and in Denmark they were caught flashing like a disco strobe light.

Comment: Whilst the aurora disco blobs may have been partly explained by the physicist above, they don't appear to be a particularly common occurance; and it's notable that there has been an increase in sightings of formerly rare phenomena, as well as a number of new discoveries: And check out SOTT radio's:


Astronomers observe the first radiation belt seen outside of our solar system

High-resolution imaging of radio emissions from an ultracool dwarf show a double-lobed structure like the radiation belts of Jupiter.
radiation belt
© Chuck Carter, Melodie Kao, Heising-Simons FoundationArtist's impression of an aurora and the surrounding radiation belt of the ultracool dwarf LSR J1835+3259.
Astronomers have described the first radiation belt observed outside our solar system, using a coordinated array of 39 radio dishes from Hawaii to Germany to obtain high-resolution images. The images of persistent, intense radio emissions from an ultracool dwarf reveal the presence of a cloud of high-energy electrons trapped in the object's powerful magnetic field, forming a double-lobed structure analogous to radio images of Jupiter's radiation belts.

"We are actually imaging the magnetosphere of our target by observing the radio-emitting plasma — its radiation belt — in the magnetosphere. That has never been done before for something the size of a gas giant planet outside of our solar system," said Melodie Kao, a postdoctoral fellow at UC Santa Cruz and first author of a paper on the new findings published May 15 in Nature.

Strong magnetic fields form a "magnetic bubble" around a planet called a magnetosphere, which can trap and accelerate particles to near the speed of light. All the planets in our solar system that have such magnetic fields, including Earth, as well as Jupiter and the other giant planets, have radiation belts consisting of these high-energy charged particles trapped by the planet's magnetic field.


Mysterious, ultra low-frequency noises detected in Earth's atmosphere — and scientists can't explain them

Solar-powered balloons detected strange rumblings at a height of 70,000 feet above the Earth's surface. Scientists can't identify them.
© GettyAn image of the cloud-filled stratosphere from space.
Solar-powered balloons launched into the Earth's stratosphere have recorded a series of mysterious rumblings, and scientists can't pinpoint their origins.

The noises, detected by specialized instruments at 70,000 feet above the Earth's surface, are known as infrasound because they are so low-pitched they are inaudible to human ears. Picked out from among a wash of hidden low-frequency sounds — including thunder, ocean waves, rocket launches, cities, wind turbines and even planes, trains and automobiles — the strange infrasounds have so far defied explanation.

"[In the stratosphere,] there are mysterious infrasound signals that occur a few times per hour on some flights, but the source of these is completely unknown," lead investigator Daniel Bowman, a senior scientist at Sandia National Laboratories in New Mexico, said in a statement.

Beginning around 9 miles (14.5 km) above the Earth's surface and extending upwards to a height of roughly 31 miles (50 km), the stratosphere is the layer of atmosphere above our own. Filled with ultraviolet-blocking ozone, the stratosphere is a calm place, with little turbulence. The majority of sounds at this altitude originate from ultra low-frequency reverberations from the Earth's surface.


New discoveries double number of 'irregular' Saturn moons, bringing total count to 145

The Minor Planet Center is announcing a bevy of new moons for Saturn that will bring its total to 145 (and break Jupiter's record).
Saturn's New Moons
© K LyThis diagram shows the present-day orbits of the 41 new moons published so far, color-coded by the direction of their orbits (blue for prograde, in the direction of Saturn's rotation, and red for retrograde). The diagram is shown to scale; the size of the Earth's moon's orbit is shown for comparison at lower left.
Saturn has reclaimed the record for most moons in the solar system with the discovery of 62 new moons. All are only a few kilometers in size and have orbits far from the planet that indicate their origin: Saturn captured these rocks at some point in the past.

As of press time, the Minor Planet Center (MPC) has published the orbits of 41 new moons in a series of announcements, called Minor Planet Electronic Circulars, issued between May 3rd and 10th. Brett Gladman (University of British Columbia, Canada) said May 11th that the center would release orbits for an additional 21 moons shortly. That will bring Saturn's total moon count to 145, including 24 "regular" moons, which formed around the planet, and 121 smaller, "irregular" moons on wide, elongated, and tilted orbits. The new reports more than double Saturn's number of irregular moons, leaving Saturn far ahead of Jupiter's 95 moons, which had put Jupiter in first place earlier this year.

The torrent of Saturnian discoveries comes from a series of observations that Edward Ashton (now at Academia Sinica Institute of Astronomy and Astrophysics, Taiwan) and colleagues, including Gladman, made with the Canada France Hawaii Telescope from 2019 to 2021. Their initial goal was to study the sizes of moons orbiting Saturn, and in 2021 they reported the size distribution of the small irregular moons. The larger amount of smaller moons indicates a recent (100 million years ago) collision between two objects around Saturn. To record faint moons down to a couple kilometers in size, the group stacked series of images, a method used previously to search for moons around Uranus and Neptune, but not previously for Saturn.