Welcome to Sott.net
Tue, 17 Jan 2017
The World for People who Think

Strange Skies


Galaxy

Mystery object spotted in Cygnus A Galaxy

Astronomers have discovered an object in the active galaxy Cygnus A that wasn't there before.

© NRAO/AUI
The galaxy Cygnus A "shines" in radio frequencies (seen here), coming from relativistic electrons zipping along jets shot out from the central black hole and deposited in giant "radio lobes." (The lobes extend outward roughly 10 times farther than the galaxy itself, which is invisible in this image.)
Last week at the American Astronomical Society meeting in Grapevine, Texas, astronomers made an announcement that's caught the interest of several researchers: a very bright something has appeared in a well-known galaxy.

That galaxy is the elliptical Cygnus A. Cygnus A is one of the brightest radio sources in the sky. It lies approximately 800 million light-years from us (redshift of 0.056). In its core sits a supermassive black hole madly eating and cocooned in gas, while two jets shoot out to either side and light up the intergalactic medium. This activity produces the radio radiation that makes Cygnus A so bright.

Using the recently upgraded Karl G. Jansky Very Large Array (VLA) in New Mexico, Rick Perley (NRAO) and colleagues took a gander at Cygnus A — the first time the instrument has looked at the galaxy since 1989. (Apparently astronomers spent so much VLA time observing the galaxy in the 1980s that they didn't feel the need to look again, Perley joked January 6th in his AAS presentation.) The new observations showed a surprise: a new, secondary object just southwest of the central black hole. This object wasn't in the 1989 radio image. Additional, higher-resolution observations with the Very Long Baseline Array also picked up the object, clearly distinct from the galaxy's nucleus. It's roughly 1,300 light-years from the center.

The whatever-it-is is about twice as bright as the brightest known supernova at these frequencies. In fact, it's much brighter than just about any transitory radio signal known, except for accreting supermassive black holes and tidal disruption events, outbursts created when a black hole eats a star.

The team scoured other archives and found the object in 2003 Keck infrared observations and, more iffily, in some images from Hubble. (The object is so red that it doesn't show up well at optical wavelengths, and in this range the space telescope's resolution isn't as good as that of Keck's adaptive optics.)

Sun

If Planet Nine exists, it was recently captured by our sun say researchers

© Flickr/Kevin Gill
Hypothetical Planet Nine.
A pair of researchers have presented new simulations on Planet Nine, a theoretical planet far beyond Pluto. The simulations suggest that, if it does exist, it could be described as a rogue planet, indicating that it was not originally born in our solar system, but at some point drifted too close to our star and was captured by gravity.

Paul Mason and his student James Vesper, astronomers with New Mexico State University, presented the results of simulations on the mysterious planet at this year's American Astronomical Science meeting. The simulations show that a planet of Nine's size and distance from the Sun would likely be a rogue planet. Rogues are planets not beholden to a star's gravity, interstellar nomads who freely wander through space.

When rogues enter the gravitational pull of a star, according to Mason and Vesper, they can be captured and remain in the star's orbit. This is what occurred in 40 percent of their simulations, and what they believe was the fate of Planet Nine. The rest of the time, a rogue enters a solar system and leaves soon after. Mason and Vesper believe rogues to be far more abundant than previously thought, but rare in our own solar System.

Nebula

Light-pillar phenomenon photographed over Ontario, Canada

© Timmy Joe Elzinga/YouTube
Timmy Joe Elzinga captured this image of light pillars in northern Ontario on Jan. 6, 2017, at 1:30 a.m. local time.
Despite appearances, aliens have not descended upon a snowy scape in Ontario, Canada. Rather, an Earthly phenomenon is the cause of a ring of brilliant shafts of pastel-colored lights, captured in the wee hours of the morning by Timmy Joe Elzinga using his smartphone camera.

It was 1:30 a.m. local time in northern Ontario on Jan. 6 when Elzinga spotted the phenomenon.

"When I first saw these light beams shooting through the sky from my bathroom window, I was sure they were the northern lights," Elzinga told Live Science in an email. "I was able to capture these images both because the lights were so bright and pronounced and because I'm a bit of an amateur photographer." That experience, he said, led him to use "the manual settings on my phone to adjust the time the aperture was open to 8 seconds."

Elzinga said he wasn't aware of this light-pillar phenomenon until he saw it firsthand.

Ice from high altitudes explains the pillars that Elzinga saw, NASA said. During some cold, wintry nights, flat ice crystals that normally reside higher up in the atmosphere come fluttering closer to the ground, according to NASA. These whimsically wobbling ice crystals are sometimes referred to as crystal fog. When the crystals reflect ground lights from nearby cars and other bits of civilization, the result can be glorious: columns of light called "light pillars."

Cloud Grey

Spectacular rare 'morning glory' roll cloud photographed over Australia

© Ilya Katsman
The image was taken on a flight from Perth to Adelaide
One of the world's most spectacular cloud formations has amazed hundreds of passengers on an Australian jet.Virgin Australia tweeted an image of almost perfectly straight, serried rows of white clouds laid out below a plane flying across the Great Australian Bight.

"Flying above the clouds has never looked this good!" read the tweet. "These incredible cloud formations were seen on board VA714 from Perth to Adelaide.The mysterious white fluffy rows are examples of wave clouds, the most famous of which — the Morning Glory — is found only in Northern Australia.

While these invisible waves in the sky occur elsewhere, it's the cloud accompanying it which is so rare.Their distinctive fat sausage shape is due to water vapour rising to form the cloud then evaporating back again to the ground.

"Wave clouds can form anywhere on the continent but they are only called the Morning Glory when they form across the Gulf of Carpentaria, Neil Bennett, a Western Australian spokesman for the Bureau of Meteorology told news.com.au.

Comment: Another rare morning glory roll cloud was sighted in Queensland, Australia last July.


Cloud Grey

Cirrus clouds create 22-degree sun halo in Alabama sky

© Via Instagram/spannpix
Sun halo today over East Alabama...
A veil of high and mid-level clouds spreading across the Tennessee Valley Sunday was the perfect setup to see a rare sight in the sky.

Several WHNT News 19 viewers, including Ramona Edwards and Tressi Downs, shared pictures with us of a large ring around the sun.

This optical feature is called a 22-degree sun halo.

Earthsky.org explains it very simply:
Halos are a sign of high thin cirrus clouds drifting 20,000 feet or more above our heads. These clouds contain millions of tiny ice crystals. The halos you see are caused by both refraction, or splitting of light, and also by reflection, or glints of light from these ice crystals.

Fireball

Fireball? Nighttime booms, house shaking, red flash in Louisana skies

© travelsouthusa.com
In early December, weeks before New Year's fireworks could be considered a culprit, a pair of massive nighttime explosion sounds rattled homes and startled residents across the Carrollton area. The noise was loud enough that it sent New Orleans police officers searching for gunshot victims, but they turned up nothing — and a survey of other public agencies since then likewise leaves the source of the sounds a mystery.

The first of the loud sounds to draw widespread attention on social media was a Thursday night, Dec. 1, around 11:45 p.m. Residents heard it across the entire Carrollton area from St. Charles Avenue to South Claiborne, between Joliet and Pine, and many said it sounded like it came from the river, with sirens following.

"It was louder than I'm used to hearing a transformer sound and it seemed to reverberate for a bit," a woman who lives near Cohn and Dante posted on the Nextdoor social media network. "Really strange.It was extremely loud! And deeper sounding than the gunshots I'm (sadly) used to hearing," a resident at Panola and Cambronne replied.

The sound repeated itself again the night of Tuesday, Dec. 6, around 7 p.m. — early enough that it attracted even wider attention. In that second case, a number of residents reported that their homes shook, and some even said they thought they saw a corresponding red flash in the sky.

Sun

Sundogs create the illusion of 3 suns over Minnesota

A Minnesota commuter captured video of a sundog illusion making it appear as though there were three suns in the sky.

The video, posted to YouTube by Ryatus Recordings, shows triplet suns on the horizon Tuesday afternoon over the town of Detroit Lakes.

"I was lucky enough to grab a quick shot of this awesome sun dog on the way home from work," the uploader wrote.

Sundogs, also known as phantom suns, occur when the light from the sun reflects from ice crystals gathered in the atmosphere.


Cloud Precipitation

Science, politics, morality and climate change - Professor John Christy

Geoff Derrick writes: The John Christie talk is one of the best I have seen for a long time, keeping things simple but very very effective in the message. It should be compulsory viewing while still in holiday mode to take 1 hour off and watch the main event. It is just simply excellent, logical observation at work here.
© The Huntsville Times
John Christy, the director of the Earth System Science Center at the UAH, has also been criticized for his views on global warming.
Professor John Christy, Alabama state climatologist speaks on science, politics and morality as they relate to climate change "action".
Recorded December, 2015.


Rainbow

Brilliantly-colored polar stratospheric clouds appear over Arctic Circle

Earth's stratosphere is normally free of clouds. Not this weekend, though. Observers around the Arctic Circle are reporting an outbreak of brilliantly-colored icy clouds in the typically dry and transparent layer of our planet's atmosphere. Eric Fokke photographed the display on New Years Eve from the Lofoten Islands of Norway:
© Eric Fokke
These icy clouds are a sign of very cold temperatures. For ice crystals to form in the arid stratosphere, temperatures must drop to around -85º C. High-altitude sunlight shining through tiny ice particles ~10µm across produce the characteristic bright iridescent colors.

Once thought to be mere curiosities, some polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) are now known to be associated with the destruction of ozone. Indeed, an ozone hole formed over the UK in Feb. 2016 following an outbreak of ozone-destroying Type 1 PSCs.

These clouds really are as amazing as they look in Fokke's photo. They have much more vivid colors than ordinary iridescent clouds, which form closer to Earth in the troposphere. Once seen, a stratospheric cloud is never forgotten.
© Eric Fokke

Cloud Grey

Global cloud cover changes caused by increases in galactic cosmic rays not CO2

© YouTube/Adapt 2030 (screen capture)
With record warm next to record cold in the Arctic, clouds and jet stream patterns are beginning to shift across the planet. These changes occur regularly with every grand solar minimum, but the Main Stream Media (MSM) will have you believe it is because of CO2 which has no effect on the jet stream at 60,000ft.


Comment: See these related articles for more information: