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Mon, 21 Oct 2019
The World for People who Think

Strange Skies


Fata Morgana? 'Ghost City' mirage filmed over lake in China

hongze china fata morgana
© Photo: YouTube/People's Daily, China
The video elicited a mixed reaction from social media users, with people wondering whether it was some kind of elaborate optical illusion or merely a hoax.

A strange sight was recently observed near Hongze Lake in China when a whole row of buildings was seen seemingly hovering over the water's surface on the horizon. The sighting was captured on camera by onlookers.

A video subsequently uploaded on YouTube by the People's Daily channel shows what appears to be "a mirage of traditional Chinese buildings," according to the description, along with a working wind turbine.

Comment: This isn't the first suspected instance of Fata Morgana in China:


Incredibly rare triple rainbow photographed in Scottish Highlands

Triple rainbow
The rainbow was photographed at Loch Lochy in the Highlands
Meteorologists have been surprised by the sighting of a double rainbow with an "incredibly rare" third rainbow inside the main bow.

The weather phenomenon was photographed on Wednesday night at Loch Lochy near Clunes in the Highlands.

Unusually, the colours of the third rainbow are in the same order as the main one it was attached to.

BBC Weather presenter Simon King said: "This has scratched a few heads as this is something incredibly rare."

The meteorologist said the rainbow had the characteristics of both of what are known as a twinned rainbow and supernumerary rainbow.

Supernumerary bows are formed by small, similar-sized raindrops which then create ripple-like rainbows.

Comment: Our changing atmosphere: Stunning iridescent cloud over Mexico, complex solar halo over Russia and a triple rainbow over Norway

Bizarro Earth

Rare pillars of light appear above Philippine skies

"Pillars of light" appeared again in the province of Sulu this year, and were captured in several photos shared by netizens.

According to a certain Amarkhan Jidara, who shared several photos of the spectacular dance of lights in the night sky, the latest celestial show they witnessed was last Sunday, June 30, 2019 at 7 p.m.
Light Pillars
© Photos courtesy of Amarkhan Jidara


Upside down rainbow spotted in skies of southern Wales

Circumzenithal arc over Wales
© Rob Dalling
An unusual upside down rainbow was spotted over Swansea on Thursday night.

The multi-coloured arc left residents across the city confused as it appeared in the shape of a 'U' rather than, well a rainbow shape!

People reported seeing it from Birchgrove, Fforestfach, Sketty, Clydach and even Rotherslade.

How did it occur?

According to the Met Office , the upside down rainbow is actually a circumzenithal arc.

The upside down rainbows appear when the sunlight refracts through ice crystals in cirrus clouds.

This type of rainbow is quite common but we usually can't see them because of the clouds underneath.


Cosmic fireworks Eta Carinae still exploding after nearly 200 years

Eta Carinae
© NASA, ESA, N. Smith (University of Arizona, Tucson), and J. Morse (BoldlyGo Institute, New York)
If you were to have looked up at the sky 181 years ago you'd have noticed one seemingly new and incredibly bright star burning up the heavens during an event known as The Great Eruption of 1838. The Great Eruption occurred in the constellation Carina when Eta Carinae, a two-star system, formed a nebula so massive that, for a time, it was bright enough for Mariners to navigate by.

Although the Great Eruption has long since faded from the view of the naked human eye, its tumultuous explosion is still going on and is quite visible to the Hubble telescope, which recently returned a stunning image of the moribund binary system.


Earth hit by highest energy photons ever recorded from the Crab Nebula

Crab Nebula
The Tibetan Plateau is a vast elevated plain almost five kilometers above sea level, sometimes called the Roof of the World. It is bordered to the south by the world's highest mountain range and to the north by desert lands. It is one of the most isolated places on Earth.

But the extreme altitude makes it a useful place for scientists. In 1990, they built an observatory here to study the showers of subatomic particles that rain down from the upper atmosphere whenever it is hit by a high-energy cosmic ray. This work is better done at high altitude because there is less atmosphere to absorb the particles.

Since then, the so-called Tibet Air Shower Array has recorded vast numbers of high-energy cosmic rays, particles accelerated to huge energies by astrophysical phenomena such as supernovas, active galactic nuclei, and mysterious as-yet-unidentified sources.

But the array also picks up air showers caused by a different source-high-energy photons. These mysterious photons are also created by astrophysical phenomena such as the interaction between high-energy particles and the cosmic microwave background. Consequently, they can provide a unique insight into these processes and the environments in which they occur.


The cosmic 'Cow' may be supernova

Cow Supernova
© R. Margutti/W. M. Keck Observatory
HOLY COW - The cosmic oddity called the Cow may be a supernova that exploded in a dense environment. This image from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey shows the Cow’s host galaxy 200 million light-years away. The Cow itself is a bright spot at about 4 o’clock in the galaxy’s disk.
The cosmic oddity known as the Cow may have been a dying star that shed its skin like a snake before it exploded.

Newly released observations support the idea that the burst occurred in a dense environment with strong magnetic fields, astronomer Kuiyun Huang and colleagues report in The Astrophysical Journal Letters June 12.

These new measurements "for the mysterious transient ... provide one of the strong hints of its nature," says Huang, of the Chung Yuan Christian University in Taoyuan City, Taiwan.

Since the Cow appeared in June 2018 as a brief burst of light in a galaxy about 200 million light-years away, astronomers haven't been sure what to think of it. The initial glow flared more quickly and seemed 10 times brighter than an ordinary supernova, the violent explosion that marks the death of a massive star (SN: 2/18/17, p. 20).

Follow-up observations of the Cow - which got its nickname from the randomly assigned name "AT2018cow" - left two main theories for what it could be: a strange sort of supernova, or an exotic star being shredded by a black hole (SN: 2/2/19, p. 13). But neither theory alone could explain all the Cow's weird features.


Water vapor concentrations in the mesosphere at highest levels

The 2019 season for noctilucent clouds (NLCs) has been remarkable, maybe the best ever, with NLCs appearing as far south as Los Angeles CA and Albuquerque NM. What's going on? Researchers aren't sure, but Lynn Harvey of the University of Colorado's Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics has just found an important clue.

"The mesosphere is quite wet," she says. "Water vapor concentrations are at their highest levels for the past 12 years."
Noctilucent clouds
© Piotr Majewski
Noctilucent clouds over Piwnice, Poland, on June 18th.
Noctilucent clouds form when summertime wisps of water vapor rise to the top of the atmosphere. Water molecules stick to specks of meteor smoke, gathering into icy clouds that glow electric blue when they are hit by high altitude sunlight.


Glowing noctilucent clouds filmed over Cookstown, Northern Ireland

NLCs over Northern Ireland
© Newsflare
A UK videographer captured a remarkable display of noctilucent clouds in Northern Ireland in the early hours of this morning (June 18).

Footage shows the shiny clouds moving across the skies in Cookstown.

Noctilucent clouds or night-shining clouds, are cloud-like phenomena that form in the upper atmosphere of Earth.

Cloud Grey

2019 shaping up to be record-breaking noctilucent cloud season in the US

Noctilucent clouds
© Space Weather

If you've never seen a cloud of frosted meteor smoke, now is the time to look. 2019 is shaping up to be the best year for noctilucent clouds (NLCs) ... maybe ever.

Normally confined to near-Arctic latitudes, NLCs have been seen this month in most US states. On Friday morning, June 14th, Don Davis saw them, astonishingly, from the city of Joshua Tree not far from Los Angeles CA:
NLCs over Joshua Tree, CA
"They were dim but distinct," says Davis. "I photographed them easily using a 4 second exposure at ISO 400."

Davis's sighting at +34.1 degrees sets the record for low-latitude observations of NLCs, breaking the previous record set only five days earlier by Brian Guyer at the National Weather Service in Albuquerque, New Mexico (+35.1 degrees).

"I'm shocked to report that I saw the noctilucent clouds while venturing outdoors for a weather observation shortly after sunset," says Guyer, who is a senior meteorologist. "When I noticed the faint blue wavy tendrils far off to the north, I asked myself, 'am I really seeing noctilucent clouds from here?' I'm happy to see that other folks are also seeing these beautiful spectacles of nature at lower latitudes."