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Sun, 30 Apr 2017
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Strange Skies


Bizarro Earth

Rare blue auroras photographed over Alaska

Northern Lights are usually green, and sometimes red. Those are the colors produced by oxygen when it is excited by electrons raining down from space. On April 22nd, Didier Lindsey of Fox, Alaska, witnessed an apparition of aurora-blue:
© Didier Lindsey
Very active aurora with a rare blue color. High res version
Hours before he took the picture, a CME struck Earth's magnetic field, igniting a G2-class geomagnetic storm. "The sky filled with very active auroras," Lindsey says,"including these rare blues."

Arrow Down

The 'March to Silence' - Shots fired at building housing leading climate skeptic scientists

© Image via Google Maps Street View
National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) building.
A total of seven shots were fired into our National Space Science and Technology Center (NSSTC) building here at UAH over the weekend.

All bullets hit the 4th floor, which is where John Christy's office is (my office is in another part of the building).

Given that this was Earth Day weekend, with a March for Science passing right past our building on Saturday afternoon, I think this is more than coincidence. When some people cannot argue facts, they resort to violence to get their way. It doesn't matter that we don't "deny global warming"; the fact we disagree with its seriousness and the level of human involvement in warming is enough to send some radicals into a tizzy.

Our street is fairly quiet, so I doubt the shots were fired during Saturday's march here. It was probably late night Saturday or Sunday for the shooter to have a chance of being unnoticed.

Maybe the "March For Science" should have been called the "March To Silence".

Campus and city police say they believe the shots were fired from a passing car, based upon the angle of entry into one of the offices. Shell casings were recovered outside. The closest distance a passing car would have been is 70 yards away.

This is a developing story. I have no other details.

Cloud Precipitation

Rare 'pneumonia front' appears over Detroit River

© clickondetroit.com
Video taken Wednesday afternoon appears to show a waterspout forming over the Detroit River.

The video was shot from the Windsor, Canada side of the river.

It shows what looked to something like a waterspout forming and then dissolving. After review, it turns out this is not actually a waterspout. (Scroll down for the full explanation)

The video was captured by Salaheddin Rahal.


Info

New atmospheric phenomenon discovered by SWARM satellites

© Dave Markel Photography
Thanks to scientists, citizen scientists, ground-based imagers and ESA’s magnetic field Swarm mission, this purple streak of light in the night sky has been discovered. Originally thought to be a ‘proton arc’, this strange feature has been called Steve.
Thanks to social media and the power of citizen scientists chasing the northern lights, a new feature was discovered recently. Nobody knew what this strange ribbon of purple light was, so ... it was called Steve.

ESA's Swarm magnetic field mission has now also met Steve and is helping to understand the nature of this new-found feature.

Speaking at the recent Swarm science meeting in Canada, Eric Donovan from the University of Calgary explained how this new finding couldn't have happened 20 years ago when he started to study the aurora.

While the shimmering, eerie, light display of auroras might be beautiful and captivating, they are also a visual reminder that Earth is connected electrically to the Sun. A better understanding of the aurora helps to understand more about the relationship between Earth's magnetic field and the charged atomic particles streaming from the Sun as the solar wind.

"In 1997 we had just one all-sky imager in North America to observe the aurora borealis from the ground," said Prof. Donovan.

Cassiopaea

Rare type Ia supernova discovery ushers in new era for cosmology

© Joel Johansson, Stockholm University
This composite image shows the gravitationally lensed type Ia supernova iPTF16geu, as seen with different telescopes. The background image shows a wide-field view of the night sky as seen with the Palomar Observatory located on Palomar Mountain, California. Far Left Image: Captured by the Sloan Digital Sky Survey, this optical light observation shows the lens galaxy and its surrounding environment in the sky. Center Left Image: Captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, this is a 20x zoom infrared image of the lens galaxy. Center Right Image: Captured by the Hubble Space Telescope, this 5x optical light zoom reveals the four gravitationally lensed images of iPTF16geu. Far Right Image: Captured by the Keck Telescope, this infrared observation features the four gravitationally lensed images of iPTF16geu and the gravitational "arc" of its host galaxy.
With the help of an automated supernova-hunting pipeline and a galaxy sitting 2 billion light years away from Earth that's acting as a "magnifying glass,'' astronomers have captured multiple images of a Type Ia supernova—the brilliant explosion of a star appearing in four different locations on the sky. So far this is the only Type Ia discovered that has exhibited this effect.

This phenomenon called 'gravitational lensing' is an effect of Einstein's Theory of Relativity—mass bends light. This means that the gravitational field of a massive object like a galaxy can bend light rays that pass nearby and refocus them somewhere else, causing background objects to appear brighter and sometimes in multiple locations. Astrophysicists believe that if they can find more of these magnified Type Ia's, they may be able to measure the rate of the Universe's expansion to unprecedented accuracy and shed some light on the distribution of matter in the cosmos.

Fortunately, by taking a closer look at the properties of this rare event, two Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) researchers have come up with a method a pipeline for identifying more of these so-called "strongly lensed Type Ia supernovae" in existing and future wide-field surveys. A paper describing their approach was recently published in the Astrophysical Journal Letters. Meanwhile, a paper detailing the discovery and observations of the 4 billion year old Type Ia supernova, iPTF16geu, was published in Science on April 21.

"It is extremely difficult to find a gravitationally lensed supernova, let alone a lensed Type Ia. Statistically, we suspect that there may be approximately one of these in every 50,000 supernovae that we identify," says Peter Nugent, an astrophysicist in Berkeley Lab's Computational Research Division (CRD) and an author on both papers. "But since the discovery of iPTF16geu, we now have some thoughts on how to improve our pipeline to identify more of these events."

Rainbow

Bizarre, iridescent cumulonimbus cloud seen over Singapore

© Via Instagram/taka_fla
The top of this giant cumulonimbus cloud suddenly became iridescent as individual water droplets refracted sun light at high altitude. Crazy pictures shot today over Singapore.

© Via Instagram/mayuktsu0121

Sun

Stunning sun halo filmed over the North Sea in The Netherlands

© Newsflare
A beautiful video has emerged of a sun halo appearing over the North Sea in Wervershoof, Netherlands on April 17.


Sun

Halo seen around the sun on St. Lucia Island

Pictures have been flooding into the St. Lucia Times news desk showing a halo around the sun.

These pictures started coming in from about 11:00 am today. Go ahead...take a look outside if it's still light.

The Saint Lucia Meteorological Services has said that a halo which is currently visible around the sun, is not an unusual occurrence.

Meteorologist Thomas Auguste told the Times that the phenomenon is associated with high tide Cirrostratus clouds."As long as those types of clouds are around you will continue to see the halo," Auguste said.

He explained that the situation should persist for the next 24 hours with the halo being visible during the day but not in the night. According to Auguste, the halo is visible because of the sun being reflected through the high clouds.

Moon

'Stunning' moon halo photographed by awe-struck viewers in Bristol, UK

© Via Twitter/William Belcher
A stunning moon halo was seen on Monday night and photographed by awe-struck viewers.

The phenomenon is called a 22-degree halo, and is more commonly seen around the sun.

Leighton James, a photographer in Bristol, told the BBC: "It's something I have never seen before and thought it looked quite amazing."

A 22-degree halo forms when there are high cirrus clouds passing slowly across the sky. The light from the sun or moon hit the ice crystals, and the refraction caused by that shows a halo. These halos in general are relatively common, but it's less common to see them form around the moon.

This is because the moon has to be in the new moon phase and the visibility has to be good in order for the halo to be seen.

Camera

Rare ELVE and red sprites captured over thunderstorm in Czech Republic

© Martin Popek
The ring of light was approximately 60 miles (100 km) wide. It’s a lightning phenomenon, known as an ELVE.
The enormous ring of light that appeared in the night sky on April 2 - above a thunderstorm in the Czech Republic - was a rare and fleeting lightning phenomenon.

Amateur astronomer Martin Popek of the city of Nýdek in the Czech Republic caught this rare red ring of light in the sky on April 2, 2017, using a low-light video camera. It's an example of an ELVE (Emissions of Light and Very Low Frequency Perturbations due to Electromagnetic Pulse Sources). Spaceweather.com explained:
ELVEs appear when a pulse of electromagnetic radiation from lightning propagates up toward space and hits the base of Earth's ionosphere ... A faint ring of light marks the broad 'spot' where the EMP hits.

ELVEs are elusive - and that's an understatement. Blinking in and out of existence in only 1/1000th of a second, they are completely invisible to the human eye.
ELVEs are often accompanied by red sprites, often called lightning sprites, and that was the case here. The image below - also captured by Popek on April 2 - shows them.

These lightning phenomena are extremely elusive. For one thing, they flash on a millisecond timescale. They're also above thunderstorms, so they're usually blocked from view on the ground. Astronauts in space have the perfect vantage point for seeing ELVEs and lightning sprites, and indeed ELVEs were first seen by cameras on the space shuttle in the 1990s.

Comment: Another ELVE was photographed above a thunderstorm in Colorado last year. A few days ago 6 'gigantic jets' (ionospheric lightning) were captured above storm clouds in Western Australia. Another blue jet was observed over Brazil last month. These transient luminous events (TLEs) are not so 'rare' these days.

See also: Electric universe: Lightning strength and frequency increasing

The Electric Universe model is clearly explained, with a lot more relevant information, in the book Earth Changes and the Human Cosmic Connection by Pierre Lescaudron and Laura Knight-Jadczyk.