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Fri, 30 Oct 2020
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Strange Skies


Discovery of a new nova in M31

A new M31 nova candidate was independently discovered on 2020 Oct. 21.741 (by K. Hornoch and H. Kucakova), on 2020 Oct. 21.92 UT (by A. Catapano, L. Izzo, E. Guido, A. Noschese, F. Coccia, L. D'Avino) and 2020 Oct. 22.550 UT (by M. Zhang and X. Gao) and designated as PNV J00423733+4120519 = AT2020xyv = M31N 2020-10e (ATel #14114). This possible nova was first reported on 2020 Oct. 22.56 by Zhang and Gao as a new source of G ~ 16.9 mag on CBAT "Transient Object Followup Reports" (TOCP PNV J00423733+4120519).

Spectroscopic observations of AT2020xyv (PNVJ00423733+4120519) were obtained with the 3.58m TNG telescope equipped with LRS at Observatorio del Roque de los Muchachos in La Palma (Spain) by L. Izzo et al. (ATel #14116). Observations started on October 24 at 01:12:54 UT and they consisted of three exposures of 600s each: "The combined spectrum (covering the range 3,500-8,000 AA, resolving power R = 585) shows bright emission lines of H-alpha and H-beta, the presence of O I 7773 and Fe II lines (multiplet 42 and blended multiplets 37 and 38). From the H-alpha profile, we measure an FWHM of ~4,000 km/s. H-alpha and H-beta lines show P-Cygni profiles (although not prominent) with a minimum at ~ -2,800 km/s. The spectrum is then consistent with a broad-line Fe IIb Classical Nova in M31".

On 2020 Oct. 22.6, we reported on the TOCP our independent discovery of this nova in M31 on a 180-s R-band CCD frame taken on 2020 Oct. 21.92 UT with the 0.5 m f/8 Ritchey Chretien + CCD FLI PL4240 at MPC Code L07 (Osservatorio Salvatore di Giacomo, Agerola, ITALY) at the following coordinates:

R.A. = 00 42 37.33, Decl.= +41 20 52.1 (equinox 2000.0; Gaia DR2).

Our discovery image (click on it for a bigger version):
New Nova in M31
© Remanzacco Blogspot

Bizarro Earth

Largest and deepest ozone hole in years over Antarctica

Antarctica, White Island
© CC BY-SA 2.0 / Eli Duke / Antarctica, White Island
Both small and short-lived ozone holes, as well as bigger ones are known to be driven by very special meteorological conditions: cold stratosphere temperatures have been found to be behind astonishing increases in their size, whereas warming typically causes them to shrink.

A hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica occurs regularly, but now it has expanded to one of its biggest recorded sizes over the past few years, scientists report, as cited by Science Alert.

Fresh estimates from the European Space Agency's Copernicus Sentinel-5P satellite show that the ozone hole reached a maximum size of roughly 25 million square kilometres on 2 October, thereby outpacing the measurements of 2018 and 2015's ozone holes - 22.9 and 25.6 million square kilometres respectively.

Yet, 2020's maximum peak isn't the largest on record. That title belongs to the 29.9-million square kilometre hole registered back in 2000, however, this year's hole is still one of the deepest in recent years.

Atmospheric scientist Vincent-Henri Peuch from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts admits there is a certain variability in the development of such holes from year to year, noting that while it resembles the one from 2018, it "is definitely in the upper part of the pack of the last 15 years or so".


More mysterious red auroras captured around the Arctic Circle

Auroras are still glowing red @ Utsjoki, Finnish Lapland
© Rayann Elzein
Taken on October 17, 2020 @ Utsjoki, Finnish Lapland
Spoiler alert: We do not know the answer to this question. Where did all the red auroras come from? For much of mid-October, Earth's magnetic field has been very quiet. Extremely quiet. There should have been no auroras at all, yet around the Arctic Circle, photographers recorded scenes like this.

Photographer Rayann Elzein of Utsjoki, Finland, took the picture on Oct. 17th. "I photographed similar displays on Oct. 12th, 13th, 14th, and 15th," says Elzein. "On each occasion, geomagnetic activity was very low (with K-indices no greater than 0 or 1)."

Red auroras appear when particles from space strike oxygen atoms near the top of Earth's atmosphere. However, as Les Cowley explains, the very slow atomic transitions which produce red photons in the aurora zone are easily interrupted. Even experienced observers rarely see them.

Elzein has been chasing auroras in Finland for 10 years. He prides himself on going out in all conditions--even when geomagnetic activity is nominally low. "I can't recall ever seeing so much red on top of the green layer before," he says.

In Tromsø, Norway, aurora tour guide Markus Varik had a similar experience. "Activity was extremely low on Oct. 17th when pink and red colors appeared. After years of guiding, I have never seen anything similar to this."

Comment: Rare red auroras captured over Utsjoki, Finland


'Three suns' appear in the sky of China's northernmost city

Three suns over China
Residents of a Chinese city have been amazed to see what appeared to be three suns hanging in the sky at the same time.

The optical illusion lasted three hours this morning in Mohe, the country's northernmost city near the Russian border.

The spectacle is caused by a natural phenomenon known as 'sun dogs' and rarely happens in China, according to experts.

The stunning scene occurred from 6.30am to 9.30am in the Mohe town of Tuqiang. Mohe is part of the Daxing'anling region of north-eastern Heilongjiang Province.


Adapt 2030 Ice Age Report: Is the frequency of our planet changing

Sprite-Halo with Feet
© Frankie Lucena
Sprite-Halo with Feet and a Red Sprite on September 28, 2020 @ Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
So many electric changes are now manifesting visibly in Earth's skies that from this point forward human and animal life will be affected electromagnetically. Red sprites now forming feet, intense red aurora deep into the crack in our magnet field, birds by the thousands smashing into buildings from Philadelphia to NYC. Mars suddenly has clouds, which is only possible if electrical changes are happening in its crust. Signs in the skies.

Comment: Indeed. It seems the electrical nature of our weather, changing atmosphere and weakening magnetosphere is becoming ever more apparent: It looks like we are beginning to observe what the ancients recorded at times of global upheaval/climate shift. See: Symbols of Transition: Shifting sands unveil 'stick man' petroglyphs on Hawaii beach

petroglyphs plasma
© thunderbolts.info


Two new space oddities reported by astronomers

Black Hole
© ESO/M. Kornmesser
An illustration of a star (foreground) experiencing spaghettification as it's sucked in by a supermassive black hole (background) during a tidal disruption event.
Astronomers have described not one but two rather rare sights in the Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society.

In the first, an international team led by the University of Birmingham, UK, reports spotting a blast of light emitted by a star as it is sucked in by a supermassive black hole just 215 million light-years from Earth.

The phenomenon, known as a tidal disruption event, is caused when a star passes too close to a black hole and the extreme gravitational pull from the black hole shreds the star into thin streams of material - a process with the wonderful name "spaghettification".

As the process occurs, some of the material falls into the black hole, releasing a bright flare of energy which astronomers can detect. It's usually not easy, but this flare was found just a short time after the star was ripped apart.

Matt Nicholl and colleagues also had access to some of the big guns of the telescope world, including the ESO's Very Large Telescope (VLT) and New Technology Telescope (NTT), the Las Cumbres Observatory global telescope network, and the Neil Gehrel's Swift Observatory.

They monitored the flare, named AT2019qiz, for six months as it grew brighter then faded away. Their paper is available on the pre-print server arXiv.


Rare red auroras captured over Utsjoki, Finland

Red Auroras on October 12, 2020 @ Utsjoki, Finnish Lapland
© Rayann Elzein
Red Auroras on October 12, 2020 @ Utsjoki, Finnish Lapland
Arctic photographer Rayann Elzein sees auroras all the time over Utsjoki, Finland. But the auroras he saw last night were different. "They were red," he says. "Almost only red."

"Rarely have I seen anything like this before," says Elzein. "I double-checked the white balance on my camera to make sure nothing was wrong. But it was the same color temperature as on all my other northern lights pictures."

"Later, we were treated to the usual swirls of green and even some pink nitrogen fringe," he says. "When the green swirls calmed down, the red returned."

Comment: A couple of days ago on 11th October, Space Weather reported no solar flare, no coronal mass ejection (CME), no solar activity of any kind. However a crack opened in Earth's magnetic field through which a slow-moving solar wind poured, sparking an "amazing outburst" of auroras over Norway.
Aurora taken by on October 11, 2020 @ Tromsø Norway
© Markus Varik
Aurora taken by on October 11, 2020 @ Tromsø Norway
In February this year another crack in Earth's magnetic field sparked rare blue auroras over Norway, some of the 'strangest in years'.


The Phenomenon

The Phenomenon
© Geni US
The Phenomenon
After much anticipation, filmmaker James Fox's latest documentary, The Phenomenon, was released on October 6, 2020. This film has a great deal of new video that even experienced students of the UFO subject have not seen. Without a doubt this will widely be recognized as one of the best UFO documentaries to appear in some time. James meets with Richard Dolan for a live video interview to discuss what makes his film unique.

Cloud Lightning

Something new in the realm of sprites

Sprite-Halo with Feet
© Frankie Lucena
Sprite-Halo with Feet and a Red Sprite on September 28, 2020 @ Cabo Rojo, Puerto Rico
Frankie Lucena of Puerto Rica has made a discovery. Some jellyfish have feet. Jellyfish sprites, that is. "On Sept. 28th, I photographed an outburst of upward directed lightning over the Caribbean," he says. "Their jellyfish forms included something unusual. I call them 'feet.'" Note the bright endpoints at the bottom of the sprite's dangling tendrils.

"This feature in a sprite event hasn't been documented yet," says Lucena, who has spent years documenting sprites and gigantic jets above electrical storms near Puerto Rico. "After checking my database I was only able to find three others that have this feature, so I compiled all four into a single image. My best guess is that the electrons were only able to propagate downward to a certain point and they accumulated there, causing the tips of the tendrils to brighten."

Comment: With the surge in sightings of red sprites in recent years (which are still considered 'rare' by some) it seems the electrical nature of our weather and changing atmosphere is becoming more apparent:

Cloud Lightning

Rare weather phenomenon 'St. Elmo's Fire' captured near equator

St Elmo's fire
© Twitter
Dramatic video as plane is caught in 'St Elmo's fire'
The rare weather phenomenon, which looks very similar to lightning, was said to have been captured by a military plane from the 99th Squadron of the UK Royal Air Force during a nighttime flight through the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) near the equator.

The UK Royal Air Force's Number 99 Squadron released on Monday footage of a rare weather phenomenon, known as "St. Elmo's Fire", captured by the aircrew of a Boeing C-17 Globemaster III near the equator.

The Number 99 Squadron tweeted that the incident took place while the C-17 was passing through the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ).

Comment: This rare weather phenomenon was also captured above the North Atlantic in February this year.