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Wed, 20 Feb 2019
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Strange Skies

Ice Cube

Rare 'light pillars' photographed over North Vernon, Indiana

Light Pillars Indiana
© Travis Branum
Travis Branum from North Vernon shared these beautiful, but eerie photos of giant vertical beams of colored light that appeared over North Vernon Indiana early this morning.

So what is it?

These are called "light pillars" and are pretty rare around these parts.
Light pillars Indiana
© Travis Branum
What caused it?

Light pillars are created through the reflection of light off of numerous tiny ice crystals .

According to Wikipedia:
"The crystals responsible for light pillars usually consist of flat, hexagonal plates, which tend to orient themselves more or less horizontally as they fall through the air. Their collective surfaces act as a giant mirror, which reflects the light source upwards and/or downwards into a virtual image. As the crystals are disturbed by turbulence the angle of their surfaces deviates some degrees from the horizontal orientation, causing the reflection (i.e. the light pillar) to become elongated into a column. The larger the crystals, the more pronounced this effect becomes. More rarely, column-shaped crystals can cause light pillars as well"

Cloud Grey

Mysterious finger-like clouds photographed over Denmark

finger clouds
© Ole Wisler
Is this a hand in the sky of Denmark?
Some mysterious clouds looking like fingers appeared in the sky of Denmark on December 1, 2015.

And looking at these impressive but weird pictures, you understand why residents from Kolding were mind-blown.

finger clouds 3
© Morten Schmidt
Eward Scissorhands?
finger clouds 2
© Tristan Thomsen
So what are these mysterious clouds over Kolding?


Solar halo with circumhorizontal arc photographed over La Plata, Argentina

© Sergio Emilio Montufar Codoner
A solar halo, with a circumhorizontal arc below. Photo taken November 21, 2015.
Don't call them "fire rainbows," experts say. They're not rainbows. And they originate with ice, not fire

Sergio Emilio Montúfar Codoñer sent in these wonderful images of a circumhorizontal arc, which he captured a few days ago - November 21, 2015 - in La Plata, Argentina. Above the colorful arc is a halo encircling the sun. Read about solar halos and see more photos here.

Both solar halos and circumhorizontal arcs are ice halos. Both are indicate the presence of tiny ice crystals high above our heads, that both refract and reflect light to create these beautiful sky phenomena. At the great website Atmospheric Optics, Les Cowley wrote :
Look for the brightly coloured circumhorizon arc (also a circumhorizontal arc but never 'fire rainbow') when the sun is very high in the sky - higher than 58°. Near to noon in mid-summer is a good time in middle latitudes. The halo is beneath the sun and twice as far from it (two hand spans) as the 22º halo.

It is a very large halo and always parallel to the horizon. Often only fragments are visible where there happen to be cirrus clouds - the individual patches of cirrus are then lit with color that can be mistaken for iridescence.
Thank you, Les and Sergio! See another one of Sergio's photos, taken of the same sky event, below:


Mysterious cloud appears over 6 States baffling stargazers

© Glen Wurden
This mysterious cloud in the sky of New Mexico was shot by Glen Wurden on November 24, 2015
A mysterious cloud suddenly appeared in the sky on November 24, 2015.

And it baffled a whole lot of stargazers over at least 6 US states.

Do you know what it was?
© Glen Wurden
Can you imagine spotting that at 5:40am and during half an hour without knowing what is going on there?


Strange 'funnel cloud' filmed in St. Mary's Bay, Canada

There are reports of a possible funnel cloud or water spout in the Harricott area of St. Mary's Bay this morning.

A local resident caught the phenomenon on video this morning.

Provincial Airlines and Aerospace meteorologist, Brian Walsh says he's not aware of any such phenomenon happening today.

He says because the pinkish object remains stationary while the clouds are moving around it, he can't say what it may be.


Mars to get planetary ring when Phobos breaks apart

© NASA/JPL/University of Arizona
Phobos, the larger of Mars' two moons.
Mars is destined to get a spectacular new planetary ring system to rival that of Saturn, but don't hold your breath because it will not be for another 30 million years or so, according to scientists.

The findings, published in the journal Nature Geoscience, are based on a new study to determine the fate destined to befall the diminutive Martian moon Phobos.

"We found that Phobos is too weak to withstand tidal stresses from Mars and we expect it to break apart in a few tens of millions of years and form a ring around Mars," the study's lead author Dr Benjamin Black of the University of California said.

Only the giant planets of the outer solar system have rings at the moment.

Phobos — the larger of the two moons circling Mars — orbits just 6,000 kilometres above the surface of the red planet, closer than any other moon in the solar system.

"Over time Phobos is creeping inwards towards Mars at a couple of centimetres per year," Dr Black said.

"We wanted to figure out whether Phobos crashes into Mars or breaks apart to form a ring, so we needed to know how strong it was — is it going to be able to stand the increasing tidal stresses that are going to be pulling this little moon apart, or will it eventually succumb to these forces?"

Dr Black and co-author Tushar Mittal found that Phobos will be pulled apart by the red planet's gravitational tidal forces in about 20 to 40 million years' time.

"We concluded that Phobos would break apart between 2.4 and about 1.1 Mars radii, somewhere between 8,500 kilometres down to around 4,000 kilometres or so," Dr Black said.

Solar Flares

Fiery lenticular cloud photographed during sunset over Letojanni, Italy


This fiery lenticular cloud formed in the sunset sky of Italy on November 21 2015.
The sky is on fire.

On November 21, 2015, these incredible lenticular clouds appeared in the sky over Letojanni, near Etna in Italy.


As if the lenticular cloud was about to swallow up Mount Etna.


Three suns appear over Chelyabinsk, Russia


An eye opened up in the sky over Chelyabinsk on November 19, 2015.
Three suns appeared in the sky of Chelyabinsk on November 19, 2015.

Look at amazing pictures and videos of this awesome sun dog phenomenon.


Never before seen giant ice cloud on Titan

© NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
As winter sets in at Titan's south pole, a cloud system called the south polar vortex (small, bright "button") has been forming, as seen in this 2013 image.
NASA's Cassini spacecraft has detected a massive, never-before-seen icy cloud at the south pole of Saturn's huge moon Titan.

The newly spotted feature — part of a cloud system known as the south polar vortex — suggests that winter in the southern hemisphere of Titan will be even colder than predicted, scientists said.

The atmospheric signal "looks pretty normal, then BOOM!, increases," indicating the presence of a brand-new cloud, said Cassini participating scientist Carrie Anderson, of NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. "I was so excited, I pretty much fell out of my chair."

Anderson presented the new Cassini results at a news briefing Nov. 11 at the 47th annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society's Division of Planetary Sciences in Oxen Hill, Maryland. She also spoke at the morning session of the conference that day.


Eerie sun halo photographed in the sky of Bali, Indonesia

© Shea D.
This amazing sun halo appeared over Bali, Indonesia on November 14 2015.
These incredible pictures were sent to Strange Sounds by Shea D., a follower of the blog.

This amazing sun halo appeared in the sky of Bali on November 14, 2015. Another sign for new extreme weather events to come?

Sometimes, rings around the moon or the sun may announce rain or a tropical storm coming soon as halos form through ice crystals which are usually present in high altitude cirrus clouds. And these clouds arrive days before an advancing cold or warm front, which bring rain. It is to keep in mind that not all cirrus clouds are associated with storm systems.

Therefore most of the rings indicate an increase in water in the upper atmosphere.