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Strange Skies

Camera

More late-season Noctilucent Clouds photographed over Finland and Alaska

Usually, August 1st is the beginning of the end for noctilucent clouds in the northern hemisphere. Weather conditions at the top of Earth's atmosphere shift in August, making it more difficult for summertime wisps of water vapor to crystallize around specks of meteor smoke. As August begins in 2018, however, noctilucent clouds are still going strong. Just this morning, Vesa Vauhkonen photographed a bright display over Rautalampi, Finland:

NLCs over Rautalampi, Finland
© Vesa Vauhkonen
NLCs over Rautalampi, Finland
"Night-shining clouds over the lake of Konnevesi were very beautiful--the best ones I've seen in many years," says Vauhkonen.

A similar display appeared over the Talkeetna Mountains of Alaska. "They were the best noctilucent clouds I've ever seen, extremely bright," says eyewitness Tempy Larew.

Comment: Late-season surge in Noctilucent Clouds produces stunning displays
In 2017 a heat wave in the mesosphere melted those crystals, causing a brief "noctilucent blackout." Could something similar, but opposite, be happening now? Perhaps a cold spell in the mesosphere is extending the season.
Last month an English astronomer reported photographing more noctilucent clouds in six weeks than in the last three years. See also: Are noctilucent clouds increasing because of the cooling climate, and the rise of fireball and volcanic activity?


Camera

Late-season surge in Noctilucent Clouds produces stunning displays

Noctilucent clouds (NLCs) are behaving strangely. Normally, NLCs begin to dim in late July, then fade away completely as August unfolds. It is their seasonal pattern. This year, though, the night-shining clouds are surging as July comes to an end. "We had a mind-blowing display of noctilucent clouds display on July 26th," reports Kairo Kiitsak, who sends this picture from Simuna, Estonia:
noctilucent clouds
© Kairo Kiitsak
NLCs seen from Simuna, Estonia, 26 July 2018

"The rippling structure of the clouds was amazing," says Kiitsak. "In all, the display lasted for full three hours."

The clouds rippled as far south as Poland, where Marek Nikodem saw them before sunrise on July 28th:
noctilucent clouds
© Marek Nikodem
NLCs near Szubin, Poland, 26 July 2018

Bizarro Earth

Day turns to night in Arctic Siberia: Yellow skies, black dust, dead birds, 'oil', "evasive" authorities - UPDATE

siberia sun blank

Where is the sun? Their remote communities in Yakutia were plunged into darkness, even though they should have 24 hour light at this time of year
Locals in north of Yakutia said daylight was completely gone for several hours.

People from remote Eveno-Bytantaisky and Zhigansky districts turned to newspapers, begging local media to explain 'the devilry' of what happened.

Their remote communities were plunged into darkness - even though they should have 24 hour light at this time of year.

'The sun went out around 11am, and didn't come back until about 2pm. I couldn't see a thing without switching lights on. We took torches to walk outside, but actually no-one wanted to be on the street because the feeling was as if something heavy in the air was pressing on your chest', said one resident.

Comment:
UPDATE 24th July 2018:

Mystery gets murkier over cloud that turned day into night

siberia block out sun
No official explanations for darkness over swathes of Yakutia amid conspiracy theories of a UFO, new weapons tests, a meteorite, or pollution from wildfires.

The territory impacted by the mysterious gloom is larger than Italy.

Day suddenly turned to night around noon on Friday, and for almost three hours locals needed torches to see where they were going.

The area hit by the bizarre darkness now appears more extensive than first reported when it was said to have covered Eveno-Bytantaisky and Zhigansky districts of Russia's coldest region - Yakutia.

Now reports say the sun dimmed in Verkhoyansky too.

siberia sun block
© foro_by_oleg7
The sun turned red in Yakutsk because of the wildfires raging in the republic.
The darkness had a 'yellow' tinge, or was associated with dust clouds, say various versions.

Some blamed the work of the devil but the main assumption initially was that smoke from raging wildfires in other districts had blotted out the sun.

Yet some official sources have expressed doubts over this theory without explaining what caused the weird phenomenon.

Into this vacuum locals have swapped theories on WhatsApp and other social media over the cause of the darkness like an eclipse - except there wasn't one.

Another source said: 'This can only be explained by a UFO.'

A local resident in from Eveno-Bytantaisky said:

'Messages are going around about about a light flash registered by the US satellites, followed by increase of radioactive level and unusual activity of the military.

'We are never going to be told is this was true or false.'

Another source said: 'This can only be explained by a UFO.'

siberia dark
An official in Nizhne-Bytantaisky settlement contradicted residents who had reported a thick layer of dust after the cloud and darkness vanished.

'There was no dust,' he said..

'At first it looked like it was a strong thunderstorm coming.

'The air went dark, and got darker and darker, but this time unlike anything else we have seen before the darkness had a rich yellow undertone.

'It was very unusual.

'We doubt the solar eclipse version.

'Usually weather stations and media inform everyone about eclipses in advance.

'And no eclipse can last this long.'

Konstantin Starostin, head of the settlement, said: 'When the Sun vanished, people started calling us in the administration.

'Many got scared, specially elderly people.

'People who live here for many years said they had never witnessed anything like this.'

'The darkness was pitch black.

'It didn't come at once, but grew gradually.

siberia dark sun block

‘The air went dark, and got darker and darker, but this time unlike anything else we have seen before the darkness had a rich yellow undertone.'
'The Sun was gone from 11.30 until 14.00 on Friday 20 July.'

'The air went dark, and got darker and darker, but this time unlike anything else we have seen before the darkness had a rich yellow undertone.'

'There was no dust. Many were coming outside, so many witnesses can confirm that there was no dust.

'There was no sharp decrease in air temperature either as it happened. But on that night the air dropped down to -4C.

'We don't know what to think.

'We have no experts, and rumours keep growing.

'If this was linked to some kind of military tests, I would say so.'

The Sun didn't 'leave' all Arctic Yakutia districts.

Head of Verkhoyansk town Yevgeny Potapov said that 'the sun didn't disappear, but something strange happened on that day.'

siberia wildfire

The territory engulfed by the fire this morning was estimated as about 1,200,000 hectares.
siberia smoke birds
'There was something looking like smoke on 20 July. At least this is what we decided. We didn't have nearby wildfires, but there was one at the border with Eveno-Bytantaisky ulus.

'It was as if the day has gone overcast, as if the sun was covered with a cloud, or not a cloud... but there was no rain', Potapov said.

'We didn't know what was happening to our neighbours', Potapov added.

'We thought stories about no sun were rumours, but then we realised these were not.

'We are also trying to guess as to what could have this possibly been.'

Yet there has been no clarification from meteorological, defence, or other deferral officials.

'We get warnings about eclipses,' he said, indicating there had been no such alert.

'It could have been a meteorite, but surely not that big.

'This is really unclear.'

Evidently almost all Arctic districts reported a significant temperature fall.
Wildfire pollution does appear to cover most of the events that occurred; the dust, the oil (which could just be dust combined with liquid), the darkened sky and the dead birds (which died from smoke inhalation?). But while there's nothing too unusual about a wildfire, what is unusual is the apparent atmospheric conditions that combined to transport the smoke from such a distance and to drop it in this area. It's also notable that while much of the Northern hemisphere seems to be on fire, which in itself is ominous, no events similar to that which occurred in Siberia have been reported. Although it may be that the same strange blocking pattern which has set Europe ablaze was somehow related to the events in Siberia. For now at least, the mystery remains unsolved.

Analysis of the dust should shed some light on the situation. But it is true that volcanoes are erupting all over the planet and summer in the northern hemisphere is seeing unprecedented wildfires, and those could explain the dust reported. Although another possibility could be Siberia's methane deposits which seem to be showing signs of increasing instability through outgassing, and in some cases, explosions: UPDATE: 27 July 2018

The Siberian times reports:
New video shows scale of darkness when day turned to night - and gulls died - in Yakutia

Reports emerged of the dead gulls found by a resident of the village of Osokhtokh in Verkhoyansky district on the shore of Lake Baibal-Kuel.

Reports emerged of the dead gulls found by a resident of the village of Osokhtokh in Verkhoyansky district on the shore of Lake Baibal-Kuel.
Does a spooky event in New England 238 years ago hold the clue to the eerie blackness that descended one week ago in Siberia?

Retirees were 'scared', having never witnessed anything of the kind before.

New footage highlighted here shows the total gloom of the 'day-into-night' phenomenon in Yakutia on 20 July when a mysterious cloud engulfed several districts.

It is also now clear - as our pictures show - that when the sun returned dozens of black-headed gulls had died during the impromptu daytime blackout of almost three hours.

As we reported earlier, the light was blotted out in several districts covering an area substantially above the Arctic Circle, in size larger than Italy.

Retirees were 'scared', having never witnessed anything of the kind before.

The blanket of darkness starting soon after 11am was accompanied by a significant fall in temperature, a red or yellow tinge in the distant sky, a feeling for some witnesses of unpleasant pollution in the air, and - in a few locations - a trail of dust or an oil film on the surface after the light had returned at 3pm.

There was anecdotal evidence of car electrical devices failing.

The blanket of darkness starting soon after 11am was accompanied by a significant fall in temperature.

Amid a puzzling official and federal media silence, all kinds of theories as to the cause, some conspiratorial, went wild on the web.

Versions include a new darkness-inducing weapon being tested, a meteorite strike, the work of aliens or the devil, an unannounced eclipse, a botched rocket launch, or the fumes from raging forest fires.

Suspicions deepened because some official bodies were so coy - even evasive - when asked to explain the event, as if under orders.

A source at the Emergencies Ministry in Yakutsk said in hushed tones: 'We have an opinion but I have no right to disclose this information.'

He declined to confirm forest fires as the most likely cause, adding guardedly: 'Anything can be supposed.'

Against this, there were no wild fires in the districts hit by the mysterious cloud.

There has been no comment from the Ministry of Defence.


First video of 'eclipse' in Yakutia

As well as the total gloom shown in the video, reports emerged of the dead gulls found by a resident of the village of Osokhtokh in Verkhoyansky district on the shore of Lake Baibal-Kuel.

Some reports say the remains of 30 birds were found, others that the number was 50.

Inspectors have taken samples to find out the cause of their demise.

They will be checked for bird diseases but also for toxic and radiological poisoning, it was announced.

WWF Russia was also somewhat non-committal, with climate expert Alexey Kokorin saying: 'To figure out exactly what it was, it is necessary to see satellite images for these very territories and these very hours.'

Strangely one week later, such data has not been disclosed.

Ivan Gorokhov, head of Eveno-Batynaisky district: 'It was really dark.

'Usually at this time of year we have the sun rather high - at about 80 degrees over horizon, but it was not visible at all.

'Not even a spot. It was totally dark.

'When I switched off my office light in my office there was no light coming through the window, so you can understand how dark it was.

'This darkness really did have some yellowish colour....'

Reports emerged of the dead gulls found by a resident of the village of Osokhtokh in Verkhoyansky district on the shore of Lake Baibal-Kuel.

He did not receive complaints about ill health but he noticed 'a smell of smoke, of something that had burned.'
siberia day to night
siberia day to night

‘We don’t know what to think….we have no experts, and rumours keep growing.'
In his vicinity there were 'no dust or ashes but in some places there was a thin oil film on the water'.

Higher authorities have offered no explanation, he confirmed.

He concluded mysteriously: 'We made an official request (for information on the cause), but we have had no reply. Maybe we are all infected, who knows?'

Konstantin Starostin, head of Nizhne-Bytantaisky settlement, said he was baffled.

'We don't know what to think....we have no experts, and rumours keep growing.

'If this was linked to some kind of military tests, I would say so.'

Head of Verkhoyansk town Yevgeny Potapov said: 'Something strange happened on that day.'

'We don't know what to think....we have no experts, and rumours keep growing.'

He doubted an eclipse or a meteorite.

We contacted Natalia Kovalyova, the acting head of meteorological and agricultural forecasting department in regional capital Yakutsk.

She believes Yakutia's darkest day was caused by forest fires with the pollution blown into districts where no infernos were raging.

If true, the phenomenon appears to be similar to an event in the eastern United States on 19 May 1790 when darkness fell over a large area not affected by wildfires.

It is known as New England's Dark Day.

Here too the skies were reported as red and yellow tinged and the cause was believed to fires burning in Ontario, Canada, combined with a thick cloud cover and fog.

'We think that partly it is a meteorological event, but let me stress, this is only a preliminary conclusion based on information we have just received,' said Kovayova.

'I have not been there myself and did not see it.

'We know that a weather front passed the northern regions of Yakutia on that day carrying cold air and most likely it has also brought the smoke from forest fires.

'As for today, there are 319 active forest fires in our republic, almost the whole territory is burning, so there is nothing surprising in smoke being carried around by air flows in the atmosphere.
wildfire siberia
siberia wildfire
She believes Yakutia's darkest day was caused by forest fires with the pollution blown into districts where no infernos were raging.

'According to our preliminary understanding, it was the smoke from southwestern areas that reached the north.

'But what is puzzling us, why was it red?

'I have heard local people indicating that some red ashes have been seen at the water surfaces after this event.

'I believe you have seen photographs with red colour and the main question is - what made it red?

'I am not sure if we are going to investigate it further, it is just interesting.'

Kokorin concurred that wildfire pollution was the most likely cause.

And Alexander Oboimov, an Arctic researcher and meteorologist, said: 'It is just smog caused by wildfires...

'In 2010 I observed a similar phenomenon in Voronezh region.

'In July, nearly the same dates, when the forests were burning [across central Russia].

'The sun was not visible, like an eclipse. So it is nothing supernatural.'

In the New England event, there were reports that rain left a light film and ash was found the surface.

The day darkness similarly lasted for around three hours in most localities.

Locals rushed to church, it was reported, while 'roosters crowed, woodcocks whistled, and frogs peeped as if night had fallen'.





Cloud Lightning

Unusually bright 'rare' red sprites captured in Czech Republic skies

Red Sprites, Moon An Jupiter
© Martin Popek
Red Sprites, Moon An Jupiter Taken by martin popek on July 21, 2018 @ Nýdek, Czech republic
Red sprites that leap up from thunderstorms are always brief and often dim. On July 21st they were bright enough to see through the glare of the waxing Moon. Martin Popek photographed the display from Nýdek in the Czech republic:

Sprites are an exotic form of upward-directed lightning, reaching from the tops of electrical storms all the way up to the edge of space. Because they emerge from the tops of storms, the best place to see sprites is from a distance where the camera can point over the edge of the thunderhead.

"I was about 200 km away from the storm," says Popek. "It was a porwerful Mesoscale Convective System across the border in Hungary."

Comment: Red sprites were only officially documented in 1989 and yet it seems every year they appear with an increasing frequency, and with this recent footage, it seems their luminosity is also increasing. As noted in the article, this is in line with the rise in cosmic rays and the quieting sun:


Rainbow

Circumzenithal arc seen over Scunthorpe, England

Circumzenithal arc over Englabnd
© Joy Burkinshaw
A natural phenomenon usually seen at the North and South Poles has been spotted in the sky over Scunthorpe.

A circumzenithal arc, shaped like an upside-down rainbow and giving the appearance of a smile in the sky, was seen above the town at around 7pm yesterday.

It is shown in these pictures, sent to Scunthorpe Live by reader Joy Burkinshaw.
According to the Met Office, circumzenithal arcs are formed when sunlight refracts through horizontal ice crystals at an angle where the light enters the crystal through its flat top face and exits through a side prism face. This is what causes the distinctive upside-down rainbow effect.

Cloud Grey

English astronomer reports photographing more noctilucent clouds in past six weeks than last three years

Noctilucent clouds over Wales
© John Rowlands
It looks like the 2018 noctilucent cloud season is drawing to a close, writes Stuart Atkison. The season runs from the beginning of June through to the end of July, but after a flurry of activity, when we saw noctilucent clouds shining and glowing blue in the northern sky for almost ten nights in a row, there have been no major displays for the past week.

Although it's possible we may see more displays - and we still haven't had a jaw-droppingly spectacular 'storm' yet - 2018 might be past its best. If it is, we can't complain; I've seen and photographed more NLC displays in the past six weeks than in the last three years. But we'll see what happens. Keep an eye on the northern sky on any and every clear night over what's left of July, just in case the season decides to go out with a bang.

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


Camera

Scottish photographer captures noctilucent clouds over Edinburgh

Noctilucent clouds over Scotland
© Tom Duffin/SWNS
Noctilucent clouds, which can only be seen at night when lit up by the setting sun for a few weeks each year, were caught on camera by photographer Tom Duffin, 48.

Mr Duffin had to stay up until 1am to get the perfect shot of the uniquely positioned clouds, which form five times higher than normal cloud level - 50 miles above ground level.

The Scottish photographer set up shop in both urban and rural locations to make sure he got the perfect shots - gazing out on Arthur's Seat in Edinburgh and looking out on the Firth of Forth estuary.

Mr Duffin said: "The noctilucent clouds only appear during the two weeks either side of the longest day of the year, and even then only every four to five days.

Mars

Solar System-wide Climate Change: Green flashes seen on Mars amidst 'global' dust storm

Green blue flash on Mars
Mars is approaching Earth for a 15-year close encounter on July 27th. The Red Planet now outshines every object in the sky except the sun, Moon, and Venus. Mars is doing things only very luminous objects can do--like produce a green flash. Watch this video taken by Peter Rosén of Stockholm, Sweden, on July 12th:


"Mars was shining brightly in the early morning sky," he says. "At an altitude of only 6.5° above the horizon, the turbulence was extreme, sometimes splitting the planet's disc in 2 or 3 slices and displaying a green and blue flash resembling those usually seen on the sun."

That's not all. Mars is also making its own glitter paths. Last night, Alan Dyer photographed this specimen from Driftwood Beach at Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta:
Fireball over Alberta

Cloud Grey

Noctilucent clouds shine over North Wales, UK

Along with the current heat wave, the summer has also brought a completely different phenomenon to North Wales.
Noctilucent clouds over Wales
© John Rowlands

Despite clouds being a rare sight in the sky at the moment, this image depicts 'space clouds' shining in the Anglesey skyline.

The noctilucent clouds, which are a summer-only phenomenon, are seven times higher than normal weather clouds, and are made of ice formed around tiny dust particles left behind by shooting stars.

The photograph was taken in Amlwch by John Rowlands, who runs the Facebook page 'Space_Clouds' , where he shares photographs and information about the clouds.

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


Cloud Grey

Meteor smoke creates noctilucent clouds, and in recent years they're occurring much further south

Noctilucent clouds
High above Earth, glowing clouds of frosted meteor smoke are spilling over populated areas of the USA and Europe.
"Last night, for the first time this summer, noctilucent clouds stretched across our whole sky," reports Danish observer Pernille Fjeldgaard Jensen. "Some of the clouds looked like silver corkscrews spiraling their long arms towards us."
"It was a fantastic display," says Jensen, who took this picture from Denmark's Lille Vildmose Wild Life Park.

Noctilucent clouds (NLCs) form when summertime wisps of water vapor rise to the top of Earth's atmosphere and crystallize around specks of meteor smoke. Mesospheric winds gather the resulting ice crystals into clouds that float more than 80 km high. They can be seen long after sunset as they ripple and swirl across the night sky.

Observers in Europe have been seeing these clouds for more than a month. On July 4th, bright NLCs finally visited the continental USA. Dustin Guy saw the silvery forms spreading over Seattle:

Comment: Because meteor activity in our skies is increasing, as well as our planet is cooling, one would expect to see much more vivid displays of noctilucent clouds, and that's not all we're seeing...

Recent fireballs documented on SOTT: Other strange sky phenomena: