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Wed, 23 Oct 2019
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Strange Skies

Rainbow

'Fire rainbow' seen in sky across San Luis Obispo County, California

Fire rainbow over SLO County, CA
© Bob Bowles
Bob Bowles took this beautiful photograph Monday at Suey Creek Road about five miles east of Nipomo.

"It was a horizontal rainbow, never seen anything like it. It hung out in the sky to the east of us and changed colors for about an hour," he said. "I don't know if we were the only ones that got to enjoy this; didn't hear anything."

At around the same time, Teri Hunter tweeted a similar image of a weird rainbow from Nipomo High School.

Looking at Bowles' photo, I was astonished by its mother-of-pearl-like iridescence; it was almost like looking at the inside of an abalone shell.

Info

Lightning does strikes twice in the same place surprisingly often

Lightning
© Vasin Lee/Shutterstock

Lightning strikes twice in the same place surprisingly often and now, thanks to a Dutch radio telescope network called the Low Frequency Array (LOFAR), scientists have a better idea why.

An international team used the array to study the development of lightning flashes in unprecedented detail, and discovered that the negative charges inside a thundercloud are not discharged in a single flash.

Some are stored inside structures the researchers have called needles, making a repeated discharge to the ground quite possible.

"This finding is in sharp contrast to the present picture, in which the charge flows along plasma channels directly from one part of the cloud to another, or to the ground", says Olaf Scholten, from the University of Groningen in The Netherlands.

And it hasn't been noticed before because there wasn't equipment powerful enough to do so.

"These needles can have a length of 100 metres and a diameter of less than five metres, and are too small and too short-lived for other lightning detections systems," says Brian Hare, also from the University of Groningen.

Galaxy

How far into space has humanity's voice actually reached?

Milky Way
© ESO/S.Brunier
It's the big mystery: Intelligent life should be out there in the Universe, so why haven't we found any evidence for it? This question is called the Fermi paradox, and there are a few potential answers.

But this one image (below) just really brings it home. Space is super, duper big, and humanity's reach into it? It's super, duper small.

The galaxy in the image is a reconstruction of the Milky Way, if it were about 110,000 light-years in diameter (more recent research suggests it's even bigger than that).

The itsy bitsy blue dot is how far our radio signals have travelled from Earth - a diameter of about 200 light-years.

Sun

Sun halo seen over Norfolk, England

Sun halo over Norfolk, England
© Angela Cole
Yesterday's brilliant sunshine brought a fascinating phenomenon to Norfolk skies.

Angela Cole, of Cromer, saw a strange circle around the sun around 12.15pm on Tuesday, April 16 when she was visiting her mum in Beeston Regis. Her husband, who was in nearby Sheringham, also snapped a photo of the heavenly halo.

After a spot of online research they believe they identified the outlandish aura: a -22 degree halo.

Mrs Cole said: "Anyone who looked up at the sky would have seen it. Rainbows come and go, but this was there for quite a while. It must have been there for half-an-hour. I've never seen anything like it before."

Fireball 2

SpaceX contracted by NASA to attempt to 'redirect' asteroid

Asteroids
© Pixabay

Despite an admission last year that it may be impossible to stop the 8.8 ton asteroid
Bennu from annihilating life on Earth, the perennial optimists at NASA have nevertheless granted SpaceX a $69 million contract to assist in the Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART), intended to save Earth from interstellar armageddon. The test, tentatively scheduled for June 2021, will have Elon's Musketeers crashing a kinetic impactor - in this case, a spacecraft equipped with cameras and solar panels - into a small moonlet accompanying Didymos, an 800-meter-long near-Earth asteroid. NASA notes that the moonlet, dubbed "Didymoon" by scientists, "is more typical of the size of asteroids that could pose a more common hazard to Earth" than its massive chaperone.

The goal, NASA says, is to launch the DART spacecraft atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that will then make its way to Didymos and Didymoon to attempt to alter the latter's trajectory in a rehearsal for what could one day be a high-stakes game of cosmic bumper cars. "By using solar electric propulsion," NASA says, "DART will intercept the asteroid Didymos' small moon in October 2022, when the asteroid will be within 11 million kilometers of Earth." Meanwhile, Earthlings will watch with bated breath.

"The collision will change the speed of the moonlet in its orbit around the main body by a fraction of one percent," NASA promises, "enough to be measured using telescopes on Earth."

Camera

Rare moonbow captured over UK's Cumbria heralds arrival of spring

rare coloured moonbow in Alston, Cumbria
© KIMSPICS
BBC Weather Watcher Kimspics captured the rare coloured moonbow in Alston, Cumbria
A moonbow - a rare lunar rainbow - has been photographed over Cumbria during the super worm moon.

It was captured late on Wednesday above Alston by BBC Weather Watcher Andrew Hewison, who posts as Kimspics.

BBC weather presenter Simon King described it as a "rare and amazing colourful moonbow".

He said normally moonbows are much fainter and seen as white but the extra brightness of Wednesday's moon meant colours could be seen.

The super worm moon coincided with the spring equinox, the midway point between mid-winter and mid-summer.

During a full moon, Mr King said, there can be enough light to produce a moonbow.

Nebula

New York and Chicago may see the Northern Lights this weekend due to an unusual geomagnetic storm

Northern Lights
© Flickr/L.E Daniel Larsson
Northern Lights as seen in Lofoten, Norway, in January 2014.
Cities as far south as New York and Chicago may see the Northern Lights on Saturday due to an unusual geomagnetic storm, meteorologists said.

A giant cloud of charged particles from the solar corona - the layer of gas surrounding the sun - known as a coronal mass ejection (CME) is expected to arrive on Saturday.

This in turn could increase the reach and intensity of the aurora borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, to parts of the northern US over the weekend, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said.

Meteorologist Joe Charlevoix tweeted that the Northern Lights would likely be visible on Saturday night. "This is not a guarantee but conditions are favorable," he said.

Cloud Grey

UAE residents spot rare 'fallstreak hole' - First in a decade

UAE hole punch cloud or fallstreak hole
© Directorate General of Meteorology in Oman
Also known as a hole punch cloud, the fallstreak hole is a large gap that can appear in cirrocumulus or altocumulus clouds.


Also known as a hole punch cloud, it is often attributed to UFOs


A rare cloud sometimes mistaken for an alien invasion was spotted over Al Ain on Sunday.

The fallstreak hole, also known as a hole punch cloud, is a large circular gap that forms in cirrocumulus or altocumulus clouds.

The unusual phenomenon happens when supercool droplets that have not yet frozen mix with ice crystals caused by airplanes passing through the cloud.

The ice crystals then start to fall, causing water droplets around them to evaporate. This process leaves a large hole in the cloud.

Although science has already answered the question of what a fallstreak hole is, because of their rarity and unusual appearance, they are often attributed to unidentified flying objects.


Comment: In recent times this rare cloud phenomena has appeared over Canada, Southern California, UK, Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

Other strange cloud anomalies seem to be appearing globally with higher frequency and intensity. Factors which may contribute to these 'strange skies' are atmospheric dust loading from increased comet and volcanic activity and changes in the layers of the atmosphere. See also: An indicator of this dust loading is the intensification of noctilucent clouds we are observing. As explained in Pierre Lescaudron's book, Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection:
The increase in noctilucent clouds is one of the effects - among others - of increased dust concentration in the atmosphere in general, and in the upper atmosphere in particular. We suspect that most of this atmospheric dust is of cometary origin, while some of it may be due to the recent increase in volcanic activity.
See also: Chemtrails? Contrails? Strange skies


UFO

Helicopter pilot sees UFO through his night vision goggles over Las Vegas

UFO Over Vegas
© Pixabay
Flying some 15 miles west over central Las Vegas over the weekend, the pilot of an air ambulance helicopter caught sight of a strange object that he was only able to detect after strapping on his night vision goggles.

The curious event was described to an air traffic controller by the pilot of an Agusta A109 chopper owned by Colorado-based company Air Methods, The Drive reported. The eyebrow-raising conversation unfolded on Sunday at roughly 9 p.m. local time.

"Just to advise. It looks like I have some sort of object over the southern hills area. It looks to be about 7,000 feet. It could be a balloon or something along those lines," the pilot informs the controller. "It's unlit, so... just advise."


Seconds later, the pilot is told that nothing is showing up on the controller's radar, but that the lack of confirmation doesn't necessarily mean that something isn't out and about trying to spook the concerned flyer.

"Yeah... I got night vision goggles," the pilot told the air traffic controller. "I can only see it through the goggles."

And with that, the air traffic official was amazed. "Oh, that's awesome," was his response.

Info

New celestial phenomenon, STEVE, closely correlated with violent disturbances in Earth's magnetosphere says study

Steve Phenomenon
© Alan Dyer
Researchers find a violent potential origin for the aurora-like phenomenon dubbed STEVE events, pictured here in southern Alberta.
Earlier this year, researchers announced that long, narrow streaks of purple light occasionally observed in the nighttime sky are not a new type of aurora, as first suspected, but a novel upper atmospheric phenomenon. Dubbed Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement (STEVE) because of their association with fast-moving ions and hot electrons in Earth's ionosphere, these celestial lights are often visible at lower latitudes than most auroras and appear to be caused by a different, and still undetermined, mechanism.

To better characterize STEVE, Gallardo-Lacourt et al. conducted the first statistical analysis of this optical phenomenon. Using NASA's Time History of Events and Macroscale Interactions during Substorms (THEMIS) ground-based All-Sky Imager array and the Canadian Space Agency's Redline Geospace Observatory (REGO) databases, the team identified and analyzed optical data from 28 STEVE events that occurred between December 2007 and December 2017.