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Tue, 02 Jun 2020
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Strange Skies


"Once in a lifetime" outbreak of polar stratospheric clouds captured on video above Sweden

polar stratospheric clouds
© Vimeo/Lights Over Lapland
A spectacular outbreak of polar stratospheric clouds (PSCs) is underway around the Arctic Circle. "This is a once in a lifetime event," says Chad Blakley, who runs the Lights over Lapland aurora tour service in Abisko, Sweden. "No question, this is the best that any of us have ever seen." Tour guide Paige Ellis took this video showing the clouds' aurora-like colors on Dec. 29th:

"They were so intense that lots of the tourists on the ground thought they were looking at daytime auroras. I had to explain that they were actually clouds in the stratosphere," says Blakley.

Polar stratospheric clouds are newsworthy because normally the stratosphere has no clouds at all. Home to the ozone layer, the stratosphere is arid and almost always transparent. Only when the temperature drops to a staggeringly cold -85C can sparse water molecules assemble themselves into icy stratospheric clouds. PSCs are far more rare than auroras.

Comment: Dazzling sights in our skies are on the increase, and so it remains to be seen if this really is a "once in a lifetime" event: And check out these other snaps taken during the outbreak:


Unique halo, sundog combination illuminates a frosty sky in St. Louis, Missouri

A unique light formation appeared in the Northland sky on Tuesday combining two more common sights — a halo and a sundog.

A viewer took a picture of the formation at 10:30 a.m. at the intersection of 169 Highway and Tiffany Springs Parkway. In the photo, you can see what looks like a circle of light with rainbow colors marked on both the left and right sides with brighter light spots.
Halo and sundog in KC, MO
© Teresa and Mark Harvey
Halos can form both around the sun and the moon, according to the National Weather Service. Although they're usually just white, sometimes they can contain rainbow colors, like in the photo.

Sundogs, also known as mock suns or parhelia, which means "with the sun," are located at about 22 degrees either left, right, or both, from the sun. The colors usually go from red closest to the sun, out to blue on the outside of the sundog.


'Three suns' phenomena appears in sky over Khorgas city in western China

Sun dog over Khorgas, China

Residents of a city in China have been stunned to see what looked like three suns hanging above the horizon.

The scene, spotted in the province of Xinjiang yesterday, is caused by a natural phenomenon known as a 'sun dog'.

Pictures and footage captured by eyewitnesses show two glowing spots, called 'phantom suns', appearing on the left and right side of the actual sun which was setting.

A sun dog happens when sunlight passes though ice crystals in a particular way when they are suspended in the air.


Unique interaction in Earth's magnetosphere causes new type of auroras

New Type of Aurora
The colourful lights adorning the skies at the North and South Poles have always been thought of as being the result of solar particles sneaking through the magnetic field of our planet and colliding with gases in the atmosphere. However, the aurora borealis spotted three years ago over the Arctic was caused by something else.

NASA intern Jennifer Briggs, studying physics at Pepperdine University, has discovered a new type of polar lights, or auroras, that was caused solely by a crunch in the Earth's magnetic field. The physicist noticed an anomaly when studying footage filmed from an island in Norway three years ago and satellite data with the help of NASA scientists, The Business Insider reports.

This aurora borealis did not have energised particles from the sun dance colliding with atmospheric gases thereby producing the magic-looking lights, like other phenomena of the kind. When it was spotted, the sun was not showing any heightened activity, for example, eruptions. This made them conclude that the lights were caused by a mysterious compression of the Earth's magnetic field, shrinking suddenly and rapidly.


'Ring of Fire' solar eclipse on Boxing Day 2019

Dec 2019 Eclipse
© Accu Weather
Saturday's solstice may have marked the shortest day of the year across Asia, but Thursday may be the darkest day of the year as a solar eclipse causes the day to turn dark.

Most of Asia will experience a partial solar eclipse on Thursday, as well as some parts of eastern Africa and northern Australia, but a small area will experience an annular solar eclipse, sometimes called a 'ring of fire' eclipse. This includes part of the Middle East, southern India, northern Sri Lanka, and part of the Philippines.

The best time to view the eclipse will be in the early morning in the Middle East, mid-morning in India and Sri Lanka, and early afternoon in Indonesia, but precise times will vary from location to location.

A solar eclipse happens when the moon passes directly between the Earth and the sun, but the type of eclipse that unfolds depends on how far away the moon is from the Earth.

When an eclipse happens when the moon is near perigee, the point in its orbit when it is closest to the Earth, the moon appears large enough to cover the entire face of the sun, resulting in a total solar eclipse.

But on Thursday, the moon will be near apogee, the point in its orbit when it is farthest away from the Earth. As a result, the moon will not quite be large enough to cover the entire sun, leaving behind a ring of light.

This ring of sunlight around the moon during the height of an annular solar eclipse is how it earned the nickname of a 'ring of fire' eclipse.


Stunning iridescent clouds snapped above skies of Siberia's Belukha mountain

Svetlana Kazina
© Svetlana Kazina
"The clouds in my photos are so thin that they look more like lace."
Local photographer Svetlana Kazina caught a rare natural phenomenon on camera.

"The clouds in my photos are so thin that they look more like lace" - Svetlana Kazina

Svetlana Kazina, who lives in the Altai Mountains, snapped these breathtaking pictures of the glowing sky over Belukha mountain, Siberia's highest peak (4,506 metres/14,783ft).

Belukha Mountain, literally 'whitey' in Russian, is the highest peak of the Altai Mountains in Russia. Located in the Altai Republic, Belukha is a three-peaked mountain massif that rises along the border of Russia and Kazakhstan, just a few dozen miles north of the point where this border meets with the border of China.

The images show thin clouds resembling soap bubbles in colours.

Iridescent clouds, also known as rainbow clouds, occur when sunlight scatters through water droplets in the atmosphere.

Comment: 'Rare' and wondrous sights in the skies are becoming ever more common on our changing planet. Their 'iridescence' is thought to be the result of ice crystals, typically seen in polar stratospheric clouds, also called nacreous cloud. The phenomenon is named after the Greek goddess Iris, goddess of rainbows and messenger of Zeus and Hera to the mortals below... Also check out SOTT radio's: As well as SOTT's monthly Earth Changes Summary - November 2019: Extreme Weather, Planetary Upheaval, Meteor Fireballs:


100 previously catalogued stars just vanished!

MIssing Stars
© Villarroel et al.
Where'd it go? An image taken in the 1950s (left) shows a large object at center that doesn't appear in an image of the same field taken more recently.
Physics in Sweden and the Institute for Astrophysics on the Canary Islands reports something strange in the current issue of The Astronomical Journal. They compared star maps from the 1950s with recent surveys, and discovered that 100 previously catalogued stars cannot be found anymore.

The group's project, called Vanishing and Appearing Sources during a Century of Observations (VASCO) has been comparing mapped stars listed in the U.S. Naval Observatory Catalogue (USNO) B 1.0, dating from the 1950s, with those in another, more recent sky catalog, the Pan-STARRS Data Release (DR1). A total of 150,000 objects were found in the older catalogue (which lists 600 million stars) that did not have a readily identifiable counterpart in the new star survey, even though the Pan-STARRS Data Release includes stars that are five times less bright than the faintest light sources included in USNO. Of these 150,000 anomalies, the authors visually inspected 24,000 candidates and discovered that 100 of these point sources of light appear only in the older star survey. And since then, apparently, they've vanished.

Certainly, the most parsimonious explanation for the missing stars is that they are natural phenomena such as extremely flaring dwarf planets, failed supernova, or stars that might directly collapse into a black hole. But there seem to me too many anomalies to explain all the vanished stars as known natural phenomena. In their current paper, the authors themselves discuss the possibility that they're seeing unknown phenomena, or that the vanished "stars" could be relics of technologically advanced civilizations, particularly the theoretical mega-engineering projects known as Dyson spheres.


Strange Sun effects detected by world's highest weather stations

© Adisorn Fineday Chutikunakorn/Getty Images/Moment)
Data from a network of newly installed weather stations atop Mount Everest shows that the mountain experiences some of the most intense sunlight on the planet.

As alpine mountaineers are all too aware, the sun can be brutally fierce atop snow-capped peaks.

Preliminary data from the weather stations on Mount Everest suggests this effect is amplified to an astounding degree at the top of the world, creating what could be some of the most intense illumination anywhere on Earth's surface.

This epic lighting does more than give hikers nasty sunburns. In a warming world, it might be hastening ice melt atop the world's highest mountains and impacting glaciers in ways scientists do not fully understand.

Comment: SpaceWeather.com has also been monitoring conditions on our planet and recently reported that atmospheric radiation is at its highest ever, and cosmic rays are also at a 5 year high; this is likely related to the Sun, which is thought to be entering a "grand" solar minimum, and recently broke records for the number of spotless days. It's worth noting that increased cosmic rays causes increased cloud cover, that, in turn, reflects the Sun's light leading to overall cooling.

See also:


Cosmic rays reaching atmosphere increase 12% in 3 years - highest levels ever recorded

We're back from the Arctic, and we have some new results to share. In January 2020, the students of Earth to Sky Calculus and Spaceweather.com traveled to Abisko, Sweden, to launch a pair of cosmic ray balloons. We'd been there before, launching three identical balloons in March 2017. Putting all the data together, 2017+2020, we find that radiation has increased +12% in the past 3 years:
Cosmic Rays at Altitude
© SpaceWeather
The graph shows radiation dose rate (uGy/hr) vs. altitude (feet) all the way from ground level to the stratosphere. Radiation appears to be increasing at nearly all altitudes-even in the range 25,000 ft to 40,000 ft where airplanes fly. Polar flight crews and passengers are therefore absorbing ~12% more cosmic radiation than they did only a few years ago.
cosmic ray 2019
Something ironic is happening in Earth's atmosphere. Solar activity is low-very low. Yet atmospheric radiation is heading in the opposite direction. Cosmic rays percolating through the air around us are at a 5 year high.

Comment: It's not 'ironic'! Geez, talk about anthropocentric projection.

It's what one would expect, provided one has a correct understanding of astrophysics, which takes into account elements of Electric Universe theory. The Sun normally buffers cosmic rays from penetrating the Earth's atmosphere, as it does all planets in our solar system, because the heliosphere (the sheath or 'bubble' around the system caused by the solar wind) keeps them out. But because it's so quiet the solar wind has weakened to allow more cosmic rays 'through' into our system. In parallel, and to a smaller extent, the weakened solar wind weakens Earth's magnetic shield, again allowing more cosmic rays than 'normal' to penetrate to the lower atmosphere.

Take a look at these data gathered by cosmic ray balloons launched by Spaceweather.com and the students of Earth to Sky Calculus almost weekly since March 2015.

Radiation levels have been increasing almost non-stop since the monitoring program began, with recent flights registering the highest levels of all.

What's happening? The answer is "Solar Minimum"-the low point of the 11-year solar cycle. During Solar Minimum (underway now) the sun's magnetic field weakens and allows energetic particles from deep space to penetrate the Solar System. As solar activity goes down, cosmic rays go up; yin-yang.

Comment: Yes, although cosmic ray flux was unusually high during the last 'solar maximum' too.

Comment: Cosmic rays have long been considered - in obscure academic studies that sadly never got much publicity - to regulate the rhythms of ALL life on Earth.

See also: Solar activity just reached a new space age low


Planetary wave supercharges extremely rare southern noctilucent clouds event

noctilucent clouds
© Southern NLCs?? Taken by Mirko Harnisch on December 1, 2019 @ Dunedin, New Zealand
Enjoying the late-evening sky over the Southern Ocean just after 23.00 local time with the Sun 15° below the horizon. Some wispy blue-ish clouds low on the southern horizon were quite an unusual sight. They appeared to be high in altitude and very distant. Whether these were actual NLCs, I do not know. It would be an unusual sighting at this latitude.
An atmospheric wave nearly half as wide as Earth itself is supercharging noctilucent clouds (NLCs) in the southern hemisphere. NASA's AIM spacecraft detected the phenomenon in this series of south polar images spanning Nov. 27th through Dec. 2nd:

"This is a clear sign of planetary wave activity," says AIM principal investigator James Russell of Hampton University, which manages the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere mission for NASA.

Planetary waves are enormous ripples of temperature and pressure that form in Earth's atmosphere in response to Coriolis forces. In this case, a 5-day planetary wave is boosting noctilucent clouds over Antarctica and causing them to spin outward to latitudes where NLCs are rarely seen.

Comment: Could this drift to lower latitudes have something to do with the "grand" solar minimum? Could it be related to the increasingly meandering jet stream? And perhaps also pronounced due to the increased loading of the atmosphere with meteor particulates? See: Also check out SOTT radio's: