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Fri, 05 Jun 2020
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Strange Skies


Red sprites captured over Southeastern US

Red sprites on April 12, 2020 @ Edmond, Oklahoma
© Paul Smith
Red sprites on April 12, 2020 @ Edmond, Oklahoma
On Easter weekend, a series of severe storms swept across the Southeastern USA, battering the region with powerful thunderstorms and deadly tornadoes. In Edmond, Oklahoma, Paul M. Smith went outside on Easter morning to photograph the distant lightning. He caught these sprites leaping up from a thunderhead in Arkansas.

"The electrical storm had already passed through our area. These sprites were about 200 miles away, across the state line," he says. "After being stuck in the house for weeks, it was nice to be out and smelling the canola blooms."

Sprites are an exotic form of upward directed lightning. They often appear above the strongest thunderstorms, reaching their red tendrils up toward the edge of space. Last weekend's Easter storms likely produced a great number of sprites. Smith was perfectly positioned to photograph them--"I was just far enough away to see over the cloudtops," he explains.

Comment: Scientists observe origins of elusive sprites that appear above thunderstorms


New formation theory explains the mysterious interstellar object 'Oumuamua

'Oumuamua-like objects
© NAOC/Y. Zhang
This illustration shows the tidal disruption process that can give rise to 'Oumuamua-like objects.
Since its discovery in 2017, an air of mystery has surrounded the first known interstellar object to visit our solar system, an elongated, cigar-shaped body named 'Oumuamua (Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first").

How was it formed, and where did it come from? A new study published April 13 in Nature Astronomy offers a first comprehensive answer to these questions.

First author Yun Zhang at the National Astronomical Observatories of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and coauthor Douglas N. C. Lin at UC Santa Cruz, used computer simulations to show how objects like 'Oumuamua can form under the influence of tidal forces like those felt by Earth's oceans. Their formation theory explains all of 'Oumuamua's unusual characteristics.

"We showed that 'Oumuamua-like interstellar objects can be produced through extensive tidal fragmentation during close encounters of their parent bodies with their host stars, and then ejected into interstellar space," said Lin, professor emeritus of astronomy and astrophysics at UC Santa Cruz.


Unique 'flat rainbow' spotted in Mossel Bay, South Africa

CZ over S. Africa
© Amanda Walden
A rainbow is always a welcome sight, especially in tough times like these. This particular 'flat rainbow' spotted in Mossel Bay yesterday [March 6], however, had many scratching their heads in confusion and wonder.

Photographer Amanda Walden captured a beautiful image of what appeared to be a rainbow over her home in Danabaai. However, the rainbow was without its arc, leaving Walden wondering why it appeared this way.

"I photographed this "flat rainbow" earlier today from my home in Danabay (Mosselbay)," Walden wrote in a Facebook post." A cold front is moving through the area. Could somebody please explain why it isn't arched like "normal" rainbows?"


COVID19 restrictions hasn't improved air quality over Germany

The Corona crisis has reduced car traffic, yet air quality has not improved. This suggests that the automobile's role in air pollution has been vastly exaggerated.

Air Quality Over N Germany
There are fewer cars on the road in major German cities due cities to the massive COVID-19 restrictions and "green zones", "and yet it apparently does not look as if this will significantly improve air quality," reports the online German Nordkurier here.

"Despite existing driving bans in large cities and the corona protection measures, nitrogen oxide pollution remains the same and is even increasing in some cases, according to the FDP in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania."

Environmentalists and climate activists like to claim that modern cars and industry have been polluting the air with dangerous particulate matter or nitrogen dioxide, but since restrictions were put in place 3 weeks ago, no improvement has been detected thus far.


Novel method discovers 139 new minor planets in our Solar System

A new method for hunting minor planets uncovered more than a hundred small, distant worlds. And the novel technique could even help resolve the mystery of Planet Nine.
Minor Planet
© NASA/JPL-Caltech
The discovery of 139 new minor planets in the outer solar system, and especially the new method used to find them, might eventually help astronomers determine whether Planet Nine exists or not.
Astronomers have discovered 139 new minor planets orbiting the sun beyond Neptune by searching through data from the Dark Energy Survey. The new method for spotting small worlds is expected to reveal many thousands of distant objects in coming years — meaning these first hundred or so are likely just the tip of the iceberg.

Taken together, the newfound distant objects, as well as those to come, could resolve one of the most fascinating questions of modern astronomy: Is there a massive and mysterious world called Planet Nine lurking in the outskirts of our solar system?

Bizarro Earth

Adapt 2030 Ice Age Report: Twilight Zone city exodus nobody welcome

Please go home sign
© YouTube/Adapt 2030 (screen capture)
Something out of the Twilight Zone series, cities empty after a disaster only to be met by angry locals in remote towns and cities and told to keep moving and do not come to this place. We are seeing the same from Europe to the UK to the USA, small towns closing access to part time residents or AirBNB renters escaping. With few airlines flying skies will be clearer to look for incredibly southern Noctilucent Clouds and comet C/2019 Y4 ATLAS as it brightens between the Big and Little Dippers.

Comment: See also:


Breathtaking circumhorizontal arc rainbow captured above Lake Sammamish, Washington

circumhorizontal rainbow
© Cessna Kutz
As if 2020 couldn't turn more upside-down, we now have nature playing tricks on us as well.

An image shared by amateur photographer Cessna Kutz shows the quick moment a "horizontal rainbow" appeared to almost cover the whole span of Lake Sammamish in Washington State.

"I've seen lots of rainbows over Lake Sammamish, but never a flat one," Kutz told IFLScience in an interview.

The first, wider image shows the rainbow from her window around 2 pm local time and lasted for less than five minutes. A second zoomed-in photograph was taken using her Canon Rebel t5 camera at 300mm, ISO 100 /f11 1/250sec. None of the three images had a filter applied to them, though Kutz says that she did "just a tad bit of adjusting with the contrast."

Comment: As noted above, circumhorizontal arcs appear to be a rarity at Lake Sammamish but it is quite the spot for rainbows - the below is from Sept 2019:

And it's evident that rare, strange and stunning sights in the sky are on the increase everywhere: Also check out SOTT radio's: As well as SOTT's monthly Earth Changes Summary - February 2020: Extreme Weather, Planetary Upheaval, Meteor Fireballs:

Bizarro Earth

Rare ozone hole opens over Arctic

A vast ozone hole — likely the biggest on record in the north — has opened in the skies above the Arctic. It rivals the better-known Antarctic ozone hole that forms in the southern hemisphere each year.

Record-low ozone levels currently stretch across much of the central Arctic, covering an area about three times the size of Greenland (see 'Arctic opening'). The hole doesn't threaten people's health, and will probably break apart in the coming weeks. But it is an extraordinary atmospheric phenomenon that will go down in the record books.

"From my point of view, this is the first time you can speak about a real ozone hole in the Arctic," says Martin Dameris, an atmospheric scientist at the German Aerospace Center in Oberpfaffenhofen.
Ozone Hole Over Arctic
© NASA Ozone Watch


Rare noctilucent clouds photographed over South Pacific

Noctilucent clouds (NLCs) have appeared over the South Pacific
© Ashleigh Wilson
You don't see this everyday-or even in 30 years. "Noctilucent clouds (NLCs) have appeared over the South Pacific," reports meteorologist Ashleigh Wilson of the Australian Antarctic Division. "I photographed them from Macquarie Island on Jan. 4th."

Wilson is just wrapping up a year-long stint on the remote island where the Australian government maintains a research station to study climate change and wildlife. "According to John French of the Australian Antarctic Division Atmospheric Science Program, the only other photographic recording of NLCs from Macquarie Island was in the mid-1990s," she says.

NLCs are Earth's highest clouds. Seeded by meteoroids, they float at the edge of space more than 80 km above the planet's surface. NLCs form when summertime wisps of water vapor rise up to the edge of space and crystalize around specks of 'meteor smoke.' Prime time for sightings is June-July in the north, December-January in the south.

"It was a breathtaking moment when I first realized what I was seeing," recalls Wilson. "I spent two hours down by the ocean with a camera and tripod, adjusting ISO and lenses, trying to capture the extraordinary event. The clouds were so bright, I could see their reflection in the water."

Wilson's sighting caps a remarkable year for noctilucent clouds. Once confined to Earth's polar regions, NLCs have recently spread to lower and lower latitudes. In June 2019, the clouds appeared over Rome, Italy; Las Vegas, Nevada; Albuquerque, New Mexico; Paris, France; and outside Los Angeles, California. Many of the sightings smashed old records for low-latitude visibility.

Comment: Are noctilucent clouds increasing because of the cooling climate, and the rise of fireball and volcanic activity?


Coronavirus and disease from outer space - Q & A with Dr. Wickramasinghe

Chandra Wickramasinghe
© When Worlds Collide

Q: Dr. C, thank you for joining us here at the Tusk. Do you believe person-to-person viral transmission occurs with Coronavirus or other viruses? If the infection comes from space, how do you account for the "close quarters" effect where infection rates run so much higher on cruise ships and such?

It appears that this new virus can be infective only on very close contact. The many cases occurring simultaneously on cruise ships or chalets in ski resorts can be explained if clouds carrying the virus come down in local regions. As for freak "superspreaders" this is a myth based on ignorance. If a group of people were exposed to a cloud of the virus and became simultaneously infected from a non-human environmental source of any kind, there would be a dispersion in the times before illness shows up. That is to say the incubation period would have statistical spread, so one case will appear first. To crown him/her a superspreader with a mysterious power is akin to a medieval myth (explained in the attached article.)

This idea was first discussed scientifically by the late Sir Fred Hoyle and me in two books - Diseases from Space (1979) and Evolution from Space (1980). Here we introduced the theory that comets carry bacteria and viruses and that impacts by comets were important for both the beginning of life on Earth and for its further evolution. The first point to make is that the standard view that life originates spontaneously on Earth in a primordial soup or in deep sea thermal vents has no evidence whatsoever to support it. Every experiment that has been done to demonstrate this possibility has been a dismal failure over more than 50 years. The molecular complexity of life - the information content of life - is of an exceedingly specific kind and is superastronomical in quantity, and so the origin of life could not have happened on Earth.

A few years ago the very oldest evidence of microbial life on Earth was discovered in rocks dated 4300 million years ago - and this was at a time when the Earth was being relentlessly pounded by comet and asteroid impacts. So there is little doubt now that life on Earth came from impacting comets, and the subsequent evolution of life happened against the backdrop of new bacteria and viruses being introduced via comets, adding new potential for evolution. It is this potential for evolution with new cosmic genes against which Darwinian evolution takes place. So there is no doubt cosmic viruses are in our genes. And this is the reason that new viruses coming from space today can relate to evolved life forms like ourselves.