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Tue, 15 Oct 2019
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Strange Skies


Northern lights and noctilucent clouds over Alberta, Canada

A high speed solar wind stream is buffeting Earth's magnetic field, and this is causing geomagnetic activity around the poles. Zoltan Kenwell of Edmonton, Alberta, witnessed this display on July 27th:

© Zoltan Kenwell/InFocus Imagery Inc.
"It was a beautiful night on the Alberta prairies," says Kenwell. "Aurora activity was subtle, but definitely present. The full Thunder Moon was lighting up the canola fields and the arrival of a few noctilucent clouds just put the icing on the cake!"

© Zoltan Kenwell/InFocus Imagery


Ice Crystals on the Rise: Stunning 'Sun Dog' Spotted from Bournemouth Beach, England

sun dog halo ice crystals
Bournemouth photographer Chris Skone-Roberts captured this amazing 'sun dog' hovering over the seaside town yesterday.
It looks like a giant eye gazing down from the heavens.

But the spectacular sight of the sun surrounded by a mysterious halo is known as a 'sun dog'.

The phenomenon, which had beachgoers in Bournemouth gazing at the sky yesterday, occurs when sunlight is refracted by hexagonal-shaped ice crystals in high and cirrus clouds - and is quite common.

Comment: It is interesting to note that a competing version of this story actually classifies this as a "rare phenomenon"

This picture was taken from Bournemouth beach in Dorset by photographer Chris Skone-Roberts.

The phenonemen is officially called a pathelia but is also known as a 'halo' or 'mock sun'.


Noctilucent Clouds Photographed over Denmark

Recent data from NASA's AIM spacecraft show that noctilucent clouds (NLCs) are like a great "geophysical light bulb." They turn on every year in late spring, reaching almost full intensity over a period of no more than 5 to 10 days. News flash: The bulb is beginning to glow. Jesper Grønne photographed a bank of NLCs rippling over Silkeborg, Denmark, on June 1st:
© Jesper Grønne

Cloud Lightning

Sun Rules Earth's Mysterious "Night Shining" Clouds

Noctilucent CLouds
Mysterious 'night shining' clouds have a solar controller.
The comings and goings of noctilucent or "night shining" clouds in the extreme upper atmosphere may be linked to the sun's rotation.

Noctilucent clouds appear about 80 kilometres above the Earth in each hemisphere's summer. Their extent and brightness varies over days, weeks and years, but no one knows why.

Now Charles Robert of the University of Bremen, Germany, and colleagues think they have an answer. By measuring changes in the light reflected from the clouds, they found that the clouds appear to wax and wane in prevalence over a 27-day cycle. As the sun takes 27 days to rotate around its axis, the team suggest a link (Journal of Geophysical Research, DOI: 10.1029/2009jd012359).

Bizarro Earth

Mystery 'Halo' cloud appears over Mexico

A mystery 'Halo' cloud has appeared in the skies over Mexico, resulting in speculation of a UFO visit to the central American state.

The circular cloud was captured by an amateur cameraman above Mexico on February 11, and the video comments on YouTube suggest that it could be a hole punched in the sky by an alien craft.

UFO Cloud
© Metro.co.uk
The 'UFO' cloud hanging over Mexico
It isn't the first time such a cloud formation has been spotted, after a similar mystery 'Halo' formation was spotted in the skies over Moscow late last year.

Better Earth

Midnight sun: Night-shining clouds light up dark skies of Britain

Noctilucent clouds in england
© Mark Humpage/ swns.com
'Noctilucent' or 'night-shining' clouds form at the outer limits of the upper atmosphere and reflect the sun's light long after it has gone down over the horizon.
With the sun dappled across these white clouds and a deep blue sky, it appears dawn is about to break.

But this remarkable photograph of an English rural landscape near was taken at midnight and shows the rare phenomenon of 'night shining.'

The shimmering clouds form at an altitude of around 55 miles above sea level and are made up of tiny ice droplets. Because they are so high up in the atmosphere the sun is able to illuminate the clouds from below the horizon.

Called 'noctilucent' clouds, which literally means 'night-shining' in Latin, they are normally spotted in polar regions during the summer months.

But stunned residents spotted a rare glimpse of the clouds lighting up Leicester's skyline shortly after midnight on Thursday morning.

Comment: Notice the twist pointing once again to man-made global warming. However, a more plausible explanation is an increasing accumulation of cosmic dust at the highest altitudes. Especially disturbing is that the composition of this dust suggest the earth is entering a debris-filled region of space, upping the odds of a catastrophic collision with extraterrestrial objects. We would recommend a careful reading of the Comets and Catastropes series, starting here.


Strange Clouds at the Edge of Space

When in space, keep an eye on the window. You never know what you might see.

Last month, astronauts on board the International Space Station (ISS) witnessed a beautiful display of noctilucent or "night-shining" clouds. The station was located about 340 km over western Mongolia on July 22nd when the crew snapped this picture:

Noctilucent clouds photographed by the crew of the ISS: more.


Polar Ice Clouds May Be Climate Change Symptom

As the late summer sun sets in the Arctic, bands of wispy, luminescent clouds shine against the deep blue of the northern sky.

To the casual observer, they may simply be a curiosity, dismissed as the waning light of the midnight sun. But to scientists, these noctilucent ice clouds could be an upper-atmospheric symptom of a changing climate.

©Richard Collins, UAF Geophysical Institute
Noctilucent clouds shine in the dark portion of the sky in this image taken from the Poker Flat Research Range in 2005.

Cloud Lightning

"Night-shining" clouds bring mystery; Once confined to Earth's poles, the bizarre clouds have now been spotted above central Colorado

Since their discovery 120 years ago, strangely luminescent clouds called noctilucent clouds have been creeping slowly toward the equator.

©Denver Post
This hauntingly beautiful noctilucent cloud was photographed over the Juneau, Alaska, ice field in 1998. Once confined to Earth's poles, the clouds have been spotted above Colorado.


A mystery: NASA satellite captures first view of 'night-shining' clouds

A NASA satellite has captured the first occurrence this summer of mysterious iridescent polar clouds that form 50 miles above Earth's surface.

The first observations of these clouds by the Aeronomy of Ice in the Mesosphere (AIM) satellite occurred above 70 degrees north on May 25. Observers on the ground began seeing the clouds on June 6 over northern Europe. AIM is the first satellite mission dedicated to the study of these unusual clouds.

These mystifying clouds are called Polar Mesospheric Clouds, or PMCs, when they are viewed from space and referred to as "night-shining" clouds, or noctilucent clouds, when viewed by observers on Earth. The clouds form during the Northern Hemisphere's summer season that begins in mid-May and extends through the end of August. They are being seen by AIM's instruments more frequently as the season progresses. The clouds also are seen in the high latitudes of the Southern Hemisphere during the summer months.

Very little is known about how these clouds form over the poles, why they are being seen more frequently and at lower latitudes than ever before, or why they have been growing brighter. AIM will observe two complete polar mesospheric cloud seasons over both poles, documenting for the first time the entire, complex life cycle of PMCs.

Comment: The article starts out by assuming it's a change in the atmosphere that's creating the clouds, but then later on says, "The Cosmic Dust Experiment is recording the amount of space dust that enters Earth's atmosphere to help scientists assess the role this dust plays in PMC formation." So which is it? Could the dust be a pre-swarm indicator?

If so, the dust would have to come from particles big enough not to be blasted out by the solar wind, implying that small meteors are responsible which would explain the increasing number of fireballs seen worldwide in the past few years. It's all speculation, but the point is not to assume that it's an atmospheric change only.