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Mon, 18 Feb 2019
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Strange Skies


Spectacular auroras seen over Tromsø, Norway

A stream of high-speed solar wind is buffeting Earth's magnetic field. Last night, it produced a G1-class geomagnetic storm and a spray of pink auroras over Tromsø, Norway. "Oh yeah!" says Markus Varik, who photographed the display:
Auroras over Norway
© Markus Varik
"It's pure art to be around Tromsø these days with fantastic Solar Minimum pink auroras dancing above our moonlit snowy landscapes," he says.

Most auroras are green--the color of oxygen atoms being struck by energetic particles from space between 100 km and 300 km above Earth's surface. Pink appears when energetic particles descend lower than usual, striking nitrogen molecules at the 100 km level and below. Both colors were visible over Tromsø on Jan. 24th.


Stunning moon halo strikes gazers in Budapest, Hungary

Moon halo over Budapest, Hungary
The halo phenomenon is seen around the Moon above Budapest.
It's been quite a week for stargazers across the globe after a rare lunar eclipse had a spectacular impact on the moon. A super blood wolf moon moved into the UK on Sunday night, during which sunlight passing through Earth's atmosphere lit the celestial body in a dramatic fashion, turning it red. Now the moon has experienced another atmospheric phenomenon, with pictures showing its light creating a halo above Earth.

Stunning pictures taken of the sky above Budapest, Hungary, show the halo moon lighting up the sky with a never-ending rainbow. What is a halo moon? Scientists call the phenomenon a 22° halos because the ring has a radius of approximately 22 degrees around the sun or moon. The halos are caused by clouds high up in the sky - 20,000 feet or more above our heads - that contain millions of tiny crystals. As the light hits the ice crystals and reflects, the halo is created. It is also caused by refraction - the splitting of light as the sun or moon shines through the thin clouds - or a combination of both effects.

Snowflake Cold

Arctic air leads to sun dogs in western Michigan

Sun dog over W MI
© Tori Wanhatalo Hess/ReportIt
West Michigan woke up to some bitterly cold temperatures Monday morning - the lows were the coldest we've experienced in a full year!

But it also set us up for some amazing displays outside.

Arctic air can physically hold very little moisture, making it exceptional for optical phenomena like sun dogs.

When the sun climbed over the horizon Monday morning, the light erupted in a perfect 22 degree halo, with matching sun dogs on either side of the sun, a sun pillar shooting up from the center, and a hint of a tangent arc on the top of the halo. Kelly Clouse took this shot of the moment over Versluis Lake in Plainfield Township:
Sun dog over W Michigan
© Kelly Clause


Sun dog lights up skies in Caledon, Ontario during extreme cold

Sun dogs over Caledon, Ontario
© Robyn Wilkinson
Between a total lunar eclipse and cold weather sun dogs, the sky had some extra special imagery to gaze at over the weekend and Monday morning, Jan. 21.

If you turned your eyes to the moon Sunday night, Jan. 20 and into the early morning hours Monday you may have caught a glimpse of the total lunar eclipse or blood moon. During Monday's cold morning commute, a weather phenomenon known as a sun dog or snow rainbow was visible.

Sun dogs are known as parhelion, halos, or "mock suns." They are optical effects caused by the refraction of sunlight by ice crystals in the atmosphere, which results in what can appear to be two rainbows on either side of the sun.

Fireball 5

Astronomical odds? Meteor strikes moon during 'Super Wolf Blood Moon' eclipse

Lunar Meteorite Impact
© Jose M. Madiedo
The meteorite impact caused a bright flash, indicated by the arrow.
Observers of yesterday's lunar eclipse were blessed with the first known sighting of a meteorite impact during such an event.

The so-called "super wolf blood moon" was eagerly watched by millions of people around the world, mostly via live streaming video. During the eclipse, some people noticed a tiny flash, a brief yellow-white speck, popping up on the lunar surface during the online broadcasts.

One Reddit user raised the possibility that this was a meteorite impact and others scoured eclipse footage for evidence of the event. A flash is visible in at least three different videos.

Jose Maria Madiedo at the University of Huelva in Spain has confirmed that the impact is genuine. For years, he and his colleagues have been hoping to observe a meteorite impact on the moon during a lunar eclipse, but the brightness of these events can make that very difficult - lunar meteorite impacts have been filmed before, but not during an eclipse.

Comment: Well we're "really really" glad that this chappy is "really really happy", but someone has to point out that this clearly points to the inner solar system these days having a LOT more debris in it than usual...


Circumzenithal arc appears over southeast Michigan

David Lamberti caught this circumzenithal arc on January 6, 2019. Notice the kite in the tree!
Circumzenithal arc over MI
© David Lamberti
He wrote:
It was a beautiful January day in southeast Michigan. I looked up, and there it was, a beautiful circumzenithal arc. It was enormous, and the colors were very deep. It faded within 5 minutes.
Thank you, David!


Star transforming into a black hole caught on camera

Cosmic Cow
© Margutti, et al
Gone in a flash. The cosmic Cow is just visible as one of two bright spots in the lower right quadrant of the spiral galaxy classified as CGCG 137-068.
A team of astronomers using information gained by the W.M. Keck Observatory in Hawaii, US, has identified a sudden bright spot in a distant galaxy as a star collapsing to form a black hole or neutron star.

The analysis - detailed in The Astrophysical Journal - marks the first time the violent transformation from star to compact object has ever been recorded.

The discovery began in June 2016 when ATLAS telescopes in Hawaii captured a new and intensely bright phenomenon beaming out of the Hercules galaxy, about 200 million light-years from Earth. The event was hyper-transient, disappearing after just 16 days and leaving observers wondering about its cause.

"We thought it must be a supernova," says Raffaella Margutti, of Northwestern University in the US. "But what we observed challenged our current notions of stellar death."

The mysterious object was dubbed "AT2018cow" and quickly nicknamed The Cow.

As the astronomers began to dig deeper into the data gathered by the telescopes - augmented by additional material obtained from the MMT Observatory in Arizona, US, and the Southern Astrophysical Research SOAR Telescope in Chile - the supernova theory quickly fell over and the search for a different explanation commenced.


Earth's magnetic field is shifting rapidly and geologists don't know why

magnetic field map
© Source: World Data Center for Geomagnetism/Kyoto Univ.
Erratic motion of north magnetic pole forces experts to update model that aids global navigation.
Something strange is going on at the top of the world. Earth's north magnetic pole has been skittering away from Canada and towards Siberia, driven by liquid iron sloshing within the planet's core. The magnetic pole is moving so quickly that it has forced the world's geomagnetism experts into a rare move.

On 15 January, they are set to update the World Magnetic Model, which describes the planet's magnetic field and underlies all modern navigation, from the systems that steer ships at sea to Google Maps on smartphones.

The most recent version of the model came out in 2015 and was supposed to last until 2020 - but the magnetic field is changing so rapidly that researchers have to fix the model now. "The error is increasing all the time," says Arnaud Chulliat, a geomagnetist at the University of Colorado Boulder and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA's) National Centers for Environmental Information.

Comment: It's not just the poles that are wandering, our Sun is becoming quieter and its rotation is slowing down, Earth's magnetic field is weakening and its rotation is also slowing, and, in tandem, there are many a great many other sights and shifts on our planet confounding mainstream science: Also check out SOTT radio's: Behind the Headlines: Earth changes in an electric universe: Is climate change really man-made?


Strange lights in the sky spark interest in west Texas

Lights over west TX
© Jason Collins
Many of you have spotted mysterious lights in the sky tonight.

The National Weather Service tells us its due to light refraction after a temperature inversion this evening.

We'll break down what that means later on CBS7 News at 10:00. In the meantime, send us your video or pictures at news@cbs7.com or via Our CBS7 Facebook page.


Update : On the same day, YouTube user 'stoplisten' posted similar footage of weird lights she saw in the skies of Midland (west) Texas. Several YT commenters wrote they'd seen the same lights over the area:


Gigantic jets and upper atmospheric phenomena

Gigantic Jet
We're all well acquainted with lightning. The bright, brief flashes of electrical energy puncture the general monotony of Earth's sky. Their luminous dance, however, is restricted to within and below the planet's billowing thunderclouds. Often shielded from our view above is a light show of a more magnificent nature. Here can be seen transient bursts of luminous plasma, the most common of which is a sprite, resembling a red mushroom cloud between 50 and 100 kilometers above the surface. Lucky onlookers can also see blue jets, bold, yet wispy blue bolts extending upwards from the tops of clouds to as high as 40 to 50 kilometers.

Rarest of all the "lightning above the clouds" is the gigantic jet, which is like a supersized blue jet that transitions to the color red at the highest altitudes. Scientists at the Arecibo Observatory once observed a blue jet extending from a thundercloud up to 70 kilometers, blazing at speeds of roughly 2,000,000 meters per second, more than forty times faster than ground lightning!

What sparks these bright behemoths? This was the topic of a recent study published to Scientific Reports. Researchers from the Florida Institute of Technology and the University of New Hampshire made use of different radar variables, lightning data, and lightning simulations to theorize what exactly goes on within a thundercloud.