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Thu, 21 Feb 2019
The World for People who Think

Strange Skies


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.


'Sun dogs,' upside-down rainbows spotted in southwestern Ontario, Canada

CZ over SW, ON, CA
© Christy Litster
Windsor-Essex saw a couple of odd-looking weather phenomena over the weekend.

Photos of upside down rainbows and what seems like multiple suns came into our newsroom inbox from our audience.

"You need very specific weather conditions up high in the sky to see those," said Marie-Ève Giguère, a meteorologist with Environment Canada. "You need no wind at all, or very little wind."

Commonly called sun dogs - where you see almost mini-suns on either side of the real sun - the technical term is parhelion. The spots on either side of the sun can be reddish but are most often white.
Sun dog over SW, ON, CA
© Andy Brescuk


'Sun dog' phenomenon captured across metro Detroit, Michigan

Sun dogs over Detroit, MI
Something unusual in the sky caught the eyes of many across metro Detroit Sunday afternoon.

Our viewers were sending in photos of an atmospheric phenomena asking, "what is this?" or referring to them as "little rainbows".

What you see in the photos are called "sun dogs". One to the left of the sun, and one to the right of the sun. The phenomenon occurs when sun light hits ice crystals high up in the atmosphere. That light is refracted through the crystals, and what we see is the scattering of the light. Usually sun dogs are accompanied by a 22° halo around the sun, which is also a refraction of light through ice crystals. These are common ahead of warm fronts, as high-level clouds slowly move in at high altitudes.


Six supernovae and three planets discovered by TESS

New Planets
NASA’s Transiting Exoplanet Survey Satellite (TESS) has found three confirmed exoplanets in the data from the space telescope’s four cameras.
Launched in April 2018, TESS began science operations in July last year, surveying the sky from a "lunar resonant orbit," and has now completed observations of six sectors, each monitored for 27 days at a time. By the time the mission is done, TESS's wide-field cameras will have covered the whole sky in search of transiting exoplanets around 200,000 of the nearest (and brightest) stars.

The finds presented at the AAS meeting, which use only the first three months of observations, show that TESS is on track to discover several thousand exoplanets. Hundreds of astronomers are involved in the ground-based efforts that will follow up on, confirm, and characterize these planets. But details on the hundreds of candidates were sparse; the first catalog paper is still forthcoming.

More details were available for the confirmed planets:
  • Pi Mensae c, previously reported here, is an oddball of a super-Earth. About twice Earth's size and five times Earth's mass, the planet circles its Sun-like star in six days. What makes that odd is that its previously discovered sibling, Pi Mensae b, is a gas giant ten times Jupiter's mass in a highly elongated, six-year orbit. How two planets on such different trajectories formed in a single system remains an open question.
  • LHS 3844 b is a hot, slightly more than Earth-size planet that circles its red dwarf star in just 11 hours. As with the Pi Mensae planets, the formation of LHS 3844 b is a mystery. Fortunately, the system is only 49 light-years away, making it ideal for future studies.
  • HD 21749 b, the newest discovery, is a sub-Neptune that's three times Earth's size but 23 times its mass. It's denser than Neptune, but not so much that it's rocky. Astronomers suspect it has a thick, heavy atmosphere. The planet is on a 36-day orbit, with additional transit data made available by the HARPS team.

Comet 2

Oumuamua data reveals intriguing possibilities

© M. Kornmesser/European Southern Observatory
Today, physicist Eugene Bagashov concludes his remarkable three-part analysis of Oumuamua, the mysterious object which is thought to be our solar system's first interstellar traveler. In previous episodes, Eugene has explored several enigmas, including the puzzle of the object's mysterious acceleration as it moved away from the Sun. While this episode was in production, Eugene made a stunning discovery that may provide an essential pathway to understanding Oumuamua's trajectory. As Eugene explains, this discovery relates directly to measurements of the interstellar magnetic field.


Greenland Crater - The 12,000 year old comet that erased ancient civilization

Ancient Impact
© ScreenCapture/YouTube
NASA recently discovered of a massive, 19-mile (31km) wide crater, found hidden underneath Greenland's Hiawatha Glacier. This crater is the result of an asteroid impact, from a nearly 1 mile-wide mountain of iron, weighing somewhere around, get this, 11-12 BILLION tons, and was traveling at approximately 12 MILES per second - which is equivalent to more than 43,000 miles per hour - when it slammed into the earth some 12,000 years ago - And...with the mind-boggling force of essentially a 700-megaton bomb. And without a doubt, THIS is the reason why there is so much mystery and why we know so little about lost Ancient human civilization


Severe winter weather forecast for parts of US and Europe as the polar vortex splits into 3 pieces

Polar Vortex
© GFS model via Judah Cohen/AER Verisk
Computer model projected 10 mb geopotential heights (dam; contours) across the Northern Hemisphere for Jan. 2 through Jan. 18.
Scientists are seeing signs that global weather patterns toward the latter half of January and into February may shift significantly to usher in severe winter weather for parts of the U.S. and Europe.

How it works: The possible changes are being triggered by a sudden and drastic warming of the air in the stratosphere, some 100,000 feet above the Arctic, and by a resulting disruption of the polar vortex - an area of low pressure at high altitudes near the pole that, when disrupted, can wobble like a spinning top and send cold air to the south. In this case, it could split into three pieces, and those pieces would determine who gets hit the hardest.

The big picture: Studies show that what happens in the Arctic does not stay in the Arctic, and rapid Arctic warming may paradoxically be leading to more frequent cold weather outbreaks in Europe, Asia and North America, particularly later in the winter.

During the past 2 weeks, a sudden stratospheric warming event has taken place, showing up first in the Siberian Arctic, and then spreading over the North Pole.
  • Such events occur when large atmospheric waves surge beyond the troposphere and into the layer of air above it. Such a vertical transport of energy can rapidly warm the stratosphere, and set in motion a chain reaction that disrupts the stratospheric polar vortex.
  • Sudden stratospheric warming events are known to affect the weather in the U.S. and Europe on a time delay - typically on the order of a week to several weeks later, and their effects may persist for more than a month.