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Wed, 16 Aug 2017
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Strange Skies


Nearby supernova colliding into companion star observed

Observations of a supernova colliding with a nearby companion star take UCSB astrophysicists by surprise.
© The UC Santa Barbara
Only 55 million lightyears away, this is one of the closest supernovae discovered in recent years.
In the 2009 film Star Trek, a supernova hurtles through space and obliterates a planet unfortunate enough to be in its path. Fiction, of course, but it turns out the notion is not so farfetched.

Using the nearby Las Cumbres Observatory (LCO), astrophysicists from UC Santa Barbara have observed something similar: an exploding star slamming into a nearby companion star. What's more, they detected the fleeting blue glow from the interaction at an unprecedented level of detail. Their observations revealed surprising information about the mysterious companion star, a feat made possible by recent advances in linking telescopes into a robotic network. The team's findings appear in the journal Astrophyiscal Journal Letters.

The identity of this particular companion has been hotly debated for more than 50 years. Prevailing theory over the last few years has held that the supernovae happen when two white dwarfs spiral together and merge. This new study demonstrates that the supernova collided with the companion star that was not a white dwarf. White dwarf stars are the dead cores of what used to be normal stars like the sun.

Cloud Grey

Bizarre clouds form a 'vortex' over Finland

© liisasii / Instagram
A mesmerizing cloud which appeared as a huge round hole in the sky captivated onlookers in Helsinki, Finland.

The incredible phenomenon was spotted in Finnish skies on Wednesday morning and snapped by locals who shared pictures of the stunning formation on social media.

While social media users speculated on what could have caused the vortex-like swirling clouds, the Finnish Meteorological Institute weighed in with their scientific explanation, saying it was likely a result of ice crystals reacting with a cloud 'plate' of droplets below.

"That cloud layer, which is now there, is about six to seven miles (10-12km) high, and the temperature is over 20 degrees frost (12 Fahrenheit). One explanation could be that if ice crystals come from above cloud layers, it causes very rapid liquid water freezing in ice crystals, where clouds will rain down and evaporate at the same time," Paavo Korpela, a meteorologist with the Finnish Meteorological Institute, told Iltalehti.

Arrow Down

Climate scientists faking data for more funds

The government climate scientists and other academics currently attempting to extort money out of President Trump, are no longer making any effort to maintain any level of plausibility to their lies.

This is their graph.

© The Deplorable Climate Science Blog


Auroras may explain an anomaly in Earth's ionosphere

A view of Earth’s aurora south of Australia from the International Space Station.
Starting at about 80 kilometers above Earth, the bombardment of solar ultraviolet light and X-rays strips atoms and molecules of their electrons and creates a layer of charged particles called the ionosphere. This layer reflects radio waves back to Earth and creates spectacular auroras. This zone is also the locus of a strange phenomenon called the Weddell Sea Anomaly, which can affect communications vital to security and transportation.

Typically, the density of electrons is highest in the upper layer of the ionosphere, where X-rays and ultraviolet rays are most intense. Normally, this upper layer also tends to be most electron dense during the day when the sunlight is most intense. But in the Weddell Sea Anomaly, a region near the tip of South America in the southeast Pacific Ocean, the electron density is highest not at midday but at midnight. The odd reversal was discovered in the 1950s by a team of scientists in Antarctica who sent high-frequency radio signals into the ionosphere and recorded the return signals, a measure called an ionogram.


Circumhorizontal arc seen over Nashville, Tennessee

© Suzie Harlan
Something really cool happened Monday, and our viewers David Colin in Murfreesboro and Suzie Harlan in Nolensville captured the event on camera.

It looks like a rainbow, but it is actually called a circumhorizontal arc.
© David Colin
In order for these arcs to form, the sun must be high, up over 58 degrees above the horizon.


Did you see this over Detroit? Meteorologist explains halo around the sun

© Jason Dessert
It's a bird! It's a plane! It's a........ a halo?

It's no super hero, but it is super cool and more common than you might think.

The atmosphere is made up of all kinds of gases. The one that we see the most is water vapor in the form of clouds, fog, and precipitation. At high levels of the troposphere, the part of the atmosphere where are weather happens, it is cold enough to freeze some of that water vapor to make clouds out of ice crystals.

When the sun's light passes through these crystals it gets refracted, or bent like light through a prism. That refraction spreads out the different colors of sunlight so we see them all.

Cloud Grey

Brilliant electric-blue noctilucent clouds captured over the Arctic from space

This week, sky watchers near the Arctic Circle have reported nightly displays of bright noctilucent clouds. The silvery ripples of NLCs look amazing from the ground, but they look even better from space. NASA's AIM spacecraft took this picture of the entire Arctic surrounded by an electric-blue glow on July 24th:

Regular readers of Spaceweather.com have been waiting for this image since June. Normally, AIM transmits pictures of NLCs every day, but the regular flow of data was interrupted months ago. The reason has to do with the spacecraft's orbit. Since AIM was launched in 2007, its orbit has been precessing--that is, slowly rotating with respect to the planet below. Eventually, accumulated changes in AIM's orbital elements required a new way of pointing the spacecraft's instruments. Mission controllers have been working on that problem all summer long--and it has finally been solved.

Comment: For an explanation of noctilucent clouds and its place in the unusual atmospheric events we've been having on the planet lately, see: Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection.


Signs of the times - New comet, Nova in Scutum constellation and Supernova in Pisces!

© Rolando Ligustri
New Comet ASASSN1 (C/2017 O1) already glows aqua from carbon-laced gases. The comet is currently visible in the pre-dawn sky through modest-sized telescopes.
It feels like the FedEx guy just pulled up and dropped off a truckload of astronomical goodies. News arrived in my e-mail Monday about a new comet discovered by the All-Sky Automated Survey for Supernovae (ASAS-SN).Founding member Benjamin Shappee and team have 498 bright supernovae and numerous other transient sources to their credit, but this is the group's first comet discovery, ASASSN1 (C/2017 O1).

The 15th-magnitude object was caught before dawn on July 19th in the constellation Cetus using data from the quadruple 14-cm "Cassius" telescope on Cerro Tololo, Chile. Don't be put off by that magnitude. The comet has brightened quickly in the past few days; visual observers are now reporting it at around magnitude +10 with a large (7′), weakly condensed coma. Chris Wyatt of Australia relates that a Swan band filter does a great job enhancing the apparent brightness and contrast of the coma, a sign this is a "gassy" comet.
© Stellarium
This wide-view map shows Comet ASASSN1's location at the Cetus–Eridanus border south of Alpha (α) Ceti (Menkar) on July 26th.
Assuming the orbit remains close to the current calculation, Comet ASASSN1 will move northeast across Cetus and Taurus this summer and fall, slowly brightening as it approaches perihelion on October 14th in Perseus. It comes closest to the Earth four nights later, missing the planet by a cool 67 million miles. In a fun twist, ASASSN1 will slow down and spend the entire month of December and much of January within a few degrees of the North Star!


Superluminous supernova discovered

At a distance of 10 billion light-years, DES15E2mlf - a Type I superluminous supernova (SLSN-I) spotted by the Dark Energy Survey collaboration - is the most distant superluminous supernova confirmed to date. It also has one of the most massive host galaxies discovered for a SLSN-I.
© D. Gerdes/S. Jouvel.
This image of the superluminous supernova DES15E2mlf was taken with the Dark Energy Camera (DECam) gri-band filters mounted on the Blanco 4-m telescope at Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile on December 28, 2015, around the time when DES15E2mlf reached its peak luminosity.
Superluminous supernovae are 10 to 100 times brighter than a typical supernova resulting from the collapse of a massive star. But scientists still don't know exactly what kinds of stars give rise to their luminosity or what physical processes are involved.

DES15E2mlf is unusual even among the small number of superluminous supernovae astronomers have detected so far.

The explosion occurred about 3.5 billion years after the Big Bang at a period known as 'cosmic high noon,' when the rate of star formation in the Universe reached its peak.

It was more than three times as bright as the 100 billion stars of our Milky Way Galaxy combined.

Previous observations of superluminous supernovae found they typically reside in low-mass or dwarf galaxies, which tend to be less enriched in metals than more massive galaxies.


Huge red sprite captured over Austria (PHOTO)

© Martin Popek
Red sprites over Austria
On July 21 photographer Martin Popek of Nýdek, Czechia recorded a magnificent display of sprites leaping up from a thunderstorm in neighboring Austria. "The storm was about 390km away," says Popek, "and the sprite was huge. It stretched 50 km to 90 km above the ground below."

Sometimes called "space lightning," sprites are a true space weather phenomenon. They inhabit the upper atmosphere alongside auroras, meteors and noctilucent clouds. Some researchers believe they are linked to cosmic rays: subatomic particles from deep space striking the top of Earth's atmosphere produce secondary electrons that, in turn, could provide the spark that triggers sprites.

According to the website SpaceWeather the link to cosmic rays is particularly interesting at this time. Despite a brief reduction in cosmic rays last week caused by the sweeping action of a passing CME, cosmic rays are intensifying. For the past two years, space weather balloons have observed a steady increase in deep space radiation penetrating our atmosphere.

Comment: See also: Electric universe: Lightning strength and frequency increasing

The Electric Universe model is clearly explained, with a lot more relevant information, in the book Earth Changes and the Human Cosmic Connection by Pierre Lescaudron and Laura Knight-Jadczyk.