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Wed, 20 Jan 2021
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US Government paid millions to chase UFOs and werewolves

In 2008, the United States Defense Intelligence Agency gave $22 million to the exotic science division of Las Vegas billionaire Robert Bigelow's space startup — Bigelow Aerospace Advanced Space Studies, or BAASS — to study "breakthrough technologies" and UFOs. A Debrief investigation, including new unredacted internal documents, illuminates some of the odd history of this secretive program and reveals that some of the government's money was directed to even stranger things than they had in mind.
Bigelow Aerospace Building
© NBC News
Bigelow Aerospace Building.

The Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program

In 2008, at the behest of Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, then the majority leader, the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) funded the Advanced Aerospace Weapon System Applications Program (AAWSAP). According to the solicitation bid, the purpose was to explore "potential breakthrough technology applications employed in future aerospace weapon systems." Though the Pentagon told The Debrief earlier this year that the DIA was not investigating UFOs, significant evidence exists that seems to contradict their position. The confusion may stem from the fact that the project's solicitation document purposefully left out mention of the controversial topic altogether.

"The people putting out the bid thought it would be better that it didn't say flying saucers or unidentified flying objects," former Sen. Reid told The Debrief in an interview. "It was thought by many that it would just draw too much attention, and by it being phrased the way it was, we had somebody from the Defense Intelligence Agency draw out the specs of it. It covered that anyway."

Reid told The Debrief that Bigelow Aerospace applied for the $22 million contract and won because the company had facilities that met the requirements for the project. When asked if Bigelow had been pre-selected for the contract due to his connection to Reid, as well as his preexisting public interest in UFOs, Mr. Reid stated flatly, "No. It was like any other government contract."

"It was put out for bid. And he did the best. He was willing to do more than others. He supplied, for example, a facility... So we put out the bid, but his response to it was the best, and that's how he got it," Reid explained. "He was not pre-selected."


Presumed supernova is actually something much rarer

Giant Star
© Image is courtesy of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.
Screenshot of the NASA-produced animation showing a giant star being slowly devoured as it orbits the galaxy’s central black hole.
Pasadena, CA In a case of cosmic mistaken identity, an international team of astronomers revealed that what they once thought was a supernova is actually periodic flaring from a galaxy where a supermassive black hole gives off bursts of energy every 114 days as it tears off chunks of an orbiting star.

Six years after its initial discovery — reported in The Astronomer's Telegram by Carnegie's Thomas Holoien — the researchers, led by Anna Payne of University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, can now say that the phenomenon they observed, called ASASSN-14ko, is a periodically recurring flare from the center of a galaxy more than 570 million light-years away in the southern constellation Pictor.

Their findings — based on 20 instances of regular outbursts — will be published in The Astrophysical Journal and presented by Payne at the American Astronomical Society's annual meeting.

Active galaxies, such as the host of ASASSN-14ko, have unusually bright and variable centers. These objects produce much more energy than the combined contribution of all their stars. Astrophysicists think this is due to gravitational and frictional forces heating up a swirling disk of gas and dust that accumulates around the central supermassive black hole. The black hole slowly consumes the material, which creates low-level, random changes in the light emitted by the disk.


Interplanetary shock wave sparks display of Arctic auroras

Pink auroras
© Markus Varik
Surprising forecasters, an interplanetary shock wave hit Earth's magnetic field on Jan. 11th. The impact just after 08:30 UT did not trigger a geomagnetic storm. However, strong magnetic fields downstream of the shockfront opened a crack in Earth's magnetosphere. Solar wind poured in to fuel a nice display of Arctic auroras.

"I was running around my apartment like a maniac, looking for pants and camera equipment," says photographer Markus Varik of Tromsø, Norway. " I didn't have enough time to go to completely dark location--but I didn't need to. The auroras were so bright."


Very rare noctilucent clouds appear over Argentina

Noctilucent clouds
© YouTube/Gerd Baumgarten (screen capture)
They're back. Noctilucent clouds (NLCs), recently missing, are once again circling the South Pole. And, in an unexpected twist, they've just appeared over Argentina as well.

"This is a very rare event," reports Gerd Baumgarten of Germany's Leibniz-Institute of Atmospheric Physics, whose automated cameras caught the clouds rippling over Rio Grande, Argentina (53.8S) on Jan. 3rd:

Comment: Another unusual sighting occurred in our changing atmosphere this week: Novel atmosphere phenomenon 'STEVE' makes ANOTHER appearance over Finland

See also:


Novel atmosphere phenomenon 'STEVE' makes ANOTHER appearance over Finland

STEVE over Finland
© Rayann Elzein
Last night, STEVE visited Finland. The purple ribbon of light, which is not an aurora, appeared over Utsjoki in the Finnish Lapland. "This is very unusual," says Rayann Elzein, who photographed the apparition.

"I've been chasing auroras in Arctic Finland for nearly a decade, and this is only the second time I have seen STEVE here at 70 degrees N," says Elzein.

Comment: STEVE (Strong Thermal Velocity Enhancement) is a relatively recent discovery, first spotted and photographed by Canadian citizen scientists around 10 years ago. It looks like an aurora, but it is not. See also: Discoveries like STEVE are just the tip of the ice berg when it comes to the unusual phenomena that reflects the shift occurring on our planet - and even further afield:


Sudden stratospheric warming could increase risk of snow over coming weeks

© University of Exeter
Lead author of the study, Dr Richard Hall, said there was an increased chance of extreme cold, and potentially snow, over the next week or two.
A pioneering new study helps shed light on the chances of extreme cold, and potentially snow in the UK in the next fortnight.

A dramatic meteorological event, known as a sudden stratospheric warming (SSW), is currently unfolding high over the Arctic. SSW events are some of the most extreme of atmospheric phenomena, occurring in only about 6 of every 10 winters, and see polar stratospheric temperature increase by up to 50°C over the course of a few days.

The usual strong westerly winds of the stratospheric polar vortex also break down and reverse in direction.

The new study, by experts from the universities of Exeter, Bristol and Bath, involved the analysis of 40 observed SSW events which occurred over the last 60 years. Researchers developed a novel method for tracking the signal of an SSW downward from its onset in the stratosphere to the surface.

These events are linked to severe weather events, such as the infamous 2018 "Beast from the East" which covered the UK in swathes of snow.

The study is published in the Journal of Geophysical Research and funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

The stratosphere is the layer of the atmosphere from around 10-50km above the earth's surface.


Rare green flash above Jupiter captured by astrophotographer

green flash jupiter
You've heard of a green flash on the sun. But a green flash on Jupiter? "I've never come across one before," says atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley. Until now, that is. Spanish astrophotographer Juan Manuel Perez Rayego captured the rare phenomenon on Dec. 26th:

"I was taking one last photo of the Great Conjunction between Jupiter and Venus, just saying goodbye," says Rayego. "Suddenly, a green fragment of Jupiter split off and floated away from the planet. It was spectacular."

"I've analyzed Juan's image and conclude that it is very likely a mock mirage--the same type of mirage that can create green flashes on the sun," says Cowley.

Comment: There are significant signs that a shift is occurring in our atmosphere - and in those of other planets in our solar system:


Noctilucent clouds almost completely missing over Antarctica

Something strange is happening 50 miles above Antarctica. Or rather, not happening. Noctilucent clouds (NLCs), which normally blanket the frozen continent in December, are almost completely missing. These images from NASA's AIM spacecraft compare Christmas Eve 2019 with Christmas Eve 2020:

Noctilucent Clouds
"The comparison really is astounding," says Cora Randall of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics. "Noctilucent cloud frequencies are close to zero this year."

NLCs are Earth's highest clouds. They form when summertime wisps of water vapor rise up from the poles to the edge of space. Water crystallizing around specks of meteor dust 83 km (~50 miles) above Earth's surface creates beautiful electric-blue structures, typically visible from November to February in the south, and May to August in the north.


Pair of brown dwarfs found in the constellation Ophiuchus

Brown Dwarfs
© Universität Bern / University of Bern, Illustration: Thibaut Roger
Artist's composition of the two newly discovered brown dwarfs.
Pluto is not a planet, according to the vast majority of astronomers. While it orbits the Sun and is mostly round, it does not orbit alone, instead traversing the solar system accompanied by several moons, including a companion almost half its size. This is the main reason for its demotion in 2006.

A few holdouts continue to debate this definition, but they may have a new epistemic challenge to contend with: What makes a star? When a distant object is too small and too faint to be a star, but also too big to be an exoplanet, and is not solitary, how can you be sure what it is?

Astronomers recently found a most mystifying example of such in-between objects: a pair of planetlike orbs, some 450 light-years away, that aren't bound to any host star and travel the void together. They are brown dwarfs, which are dim not-quite-stars that never grew large enough to fuse hydrogen. But they are tiny, even by brown dwarf standards, and they look more like planets than anything stellar, according to Clémence Fontanive of the University of Bern in Switzerland, the astronomer who discovered them. The larger brown dwarf of the pair sits along the boundary astronomers use to differentiate stars from planets, around 13 times the mass of Jupiter. The smaller one weighs in at only eight times the size of Jupiter.

"According to that definition, it should be a planet. But if you define that a planet should form around a star, then it's not really a planet, either," Fontanive said. She calls them "planetary mass brown dwarfs."


Stories about the Pleiades may date back 100,000 years

© NASA / ESA / AURA / Caltech
In the northern sky in December is a beautiful cluster of stars known as the Pleiades, or the "seven sisters". Look carefully and you will probably count six stars. So why do we say there are seven of them?

Many cultures around the world refer to the Pleiades as "seven sisters", and also tell quite similar stories about them. After studying the motion of the stars very closely, we believe these stories may date back 100,000 years to a time when the constellation looked quite different.

The sisters and the hunter

In Greek mythology, the Pleiades were the seven daughters of the Titan Atlas. He was forced to hold up the sky for eternity, and was therefore unable to protect his daughters. To save the sisters from being raped by the hunter Orion, Zeus transformed them into stars. But the story says one sister fell in love with a mortal and went into hiding, which is why we only see six stars.

A similar story is found among Aboriginal groups across Australia. In many Australian Aboriginal cultures, the Pleiades are a group of young girls, and are often associated with sacred women's ceremonies and stories. The Pleiades are also important as an element of Aboriginal calendars and astronomy, and for several groups their first rising at dawn marks the start of winter.

Close to the Seven Sisters in the sky is the constellation of Orion, which is often called "the saucepan" in Australia. In Greek mythology Orion is a hunter. This constellation is also often a hunter in Aboriginal cultures, or a group of lusty young men. The writer and anthropologist Daisy Bates reported people in central Australia regarded Orion as a "hunter of women", and specifically of the women in the Pleiades. Many Aboriginal stories say the boys, or man, in Orion are chasing the seven sisters - and one of the sisters has died, or is hiding, or is too young, or has been abducted, so again only six are visible.