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Thu, 27 Feb 2020
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Strange Skies


Biggest explosion since the Big Bang discovered

Galaxy Clusters
Galaxy clusters, the largest structures in the Universe held together by gravity, contain thousands of individual galaxies, dark matter and hot gas.
Scientists studying a distant galaxy cluster say they have discovered the biggest explosion seen in the Universe since the Big Bang.

It came from a supermassive black hole at the centre the Ophiuchus galaxy cluster, about 390 million light-years from Earth, and released five times more energy than the previous record holder, according to a paper to be published in The Astrophysical Journal and currently available on the pre-print server arXiv.

It was so powerful, the authors say, that it punched a cavity in the cluster plasma - the super-hot gas surrounding the black hole.

"We've seen outbursts in the centres of galaxies before but this one is really, really massive - and we don't know why it's so big," says Melanie Johnston-Hollitt, from the Curtin University, Australia, node of the International Centre for Radio Astronomy Research (ICRAR).

"But it happened very slowly - like an explosion in slow motion that took place over hundreds of millions of years."

The study brought together a team from Australia, the US and New Zealand.


Northern China wakes up to 5 suns in the sky

Five suns in China
© Via Twitter@Beautiful China
People are aware of the natural phenomenon that makes it look like there are three suns in the sky. But people in inner Mongolia, China, woke up to five suns.

A video shared by a page called Beautiful China on Twitter, showing five suns in the sky is going viral.

'What a spectacular wonder! Five suns are seen shining in the sky in N China's Inner Mongolia," the video shared by People's Daily, China was captioned.


Rare blue auroras captured over Norway, 'strangest in years'

© Taken by Matthew Steinberg on February 18, 2020 @ Reine, Lofoten Islands Norway
After snow, sleet, and heavy wind all day, the clouds parted for a 2 hour display of spectacular pale green, blue, and purple auroras over the mountains of Reine.
Yes, there really are cracks in Earth's magnetic field. One of them opened on Feb. 18th, sparking some of the strangest auroras in years. First, the night sky turned blue over the Lofoten Islands of Norway:

"After snow, sleet, and heavy wind all day, the clouds parted for a 2 hour display of spectacular pale green, blue, and purple auroras over the mountains of Reine," says photographer Matthew Steinberg.

Blue auroras are rare. Auroras are usually green, and sometimes red. Those are the colors produced by oxygen when it is excited by electrons raining down from space. Blue is a sign of nitrogen. Energetic particles striking ionized molecular nitrogen (N2+) at very high altitudes (> 400 km) produces a cold azure glow of the type captured in Steinberg's photo. Usually the blue is faint, but on Feb. 18th it was strangely intense.

Comment: Just a day before this Space Weather reported that, although there were no sunspots, no solar flares and no gusts of solar wind, there was the surprising appearance of an aurora display which was also attributed to this 'crack' in Earth's magnetic field:

© Taken by Alexander Kuznetsov on February 17, 2020 @ Kilpisjärvi, Lapland Finland
Rare and unusual sights in our skies are fast becoming the norm: Also check out SOTT radio's:


Mysterious "cloud rosettes" only visible from space captured by NASA off coast of western Australia

cloud rosettes
© NASA Earth Observatory image by Joshua Stevens, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS/LANCE and GIBS/Worldview
NASA's Aqua satellite spotted these actinoform clouds over the Indian Ocean.
Some natural wonders aren't as obvious as the Grand Canyon or Victoria Falls. A NASA satellite caught sight of a series of striking "cloud rosettes" over the Indian Ocean. It looks like an unseen hand turned cloud formations into a flower arrangement.

NASA's Aqua satellite captured the breathtaking view on Jan. 29, and the space agency's Earth Observatory shared it as an image of the day on Friday. The clouds appeared off the western coast of Australia.

Comment: A variety of unusual and normally rare phenomena are being sighted in our skies with an increasing frequency these days: Also check out SOTT radio's:


Rare sea fog shrouds Western Australia's Perth coastline

Container ships at Fremantle Port were shrouded in the heavy fog
© Supplied
Container ships at Fremantle Port were shrouded in the heavy fog.
A rare sea fog has moved over Western Australia's south-west coast, prompting a warning for people on the water to take extra care.

Boaters have been urged to be aware of the conditions as the thick fog moves past Rottnest Island and south off Perth's coast.

"We'll definitely see some fairly reduced visibility over the coastal waters during today, which is potentially quite hazardous for boats out there," Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) duty forecaster Max Strack said.

The fog emerged off the coast of Geraldton last night and gradually developed south.

Ms Strack said the fog was caused by a low pressure trough drawing warm, moist air from the north.

Sea fog is only seen off WA's coast a couple of times a year, with the current conditions likely to last into the afternoon.

Cloud Grey

Cloudiest January day on record for Minnesota, major flooding of Mississippi river expected



Next 2-5 Days a Far Cry From Last Year

At the risk of being trite and cliche (I'm not above that) what a difference a year makes! One year ago today Minne?refresh=truesota was getting punched by the dreaded "Polar Vortex". Exactly a year ago MSP woke up to -25F, with a "high" of -1F. January 30, 2019 was the coldest day, with a seizure-inducing -28F low and a Fairbanks-friendly daytime high of -13F. Wind chills fell to 50 below as the state endured some of the
coldest readings since the 1990s.

Climate scientists tell us we'll still see cold outbreaks from time to time, but the intensity and duration of subzero cold will be a shadow of what it was as recently as the 1970s. We'll see more warm blips, fewer extended cold ruts.

Comment: The above data would suggest that 'cold ruts' are actually worsening.

Temperatures slowly mellow in the coming days, with 40s possible by Super Bowl Sunday. 7 inches of snow on the ground will act as an atmospheric brake, limiting how high the mercury can go. But February definitely starts on a mild note.

Comment: Record cloud cover is notable because scientist Hernik Svensmark shows that with the coming solar minimum and the resulting increase in cosmic rays on Earth, more cloud cover is created resulting in more heat being reflected back into space and thus global cooling follows - and this is even before taking into account the effects of cometary and volcanic dust: See also:


Latest on Betelgeuse, discovery of a new supernova and new comet Iwamoto

© Bob King
Betelgeuse (lower left) has cornered our attention this winter season.
The sky provides. This winter, the fading of Betelgeuse caught us all by surprise. Now, as January wraps up, we can add a new comet discovery and a supernova bright enough to see in a 6-inch telescope to an ever-growing list of seasonal sky wonders.

As astronomers turned their spectrographs toward Betelgeuse, skywatchers from beginners to seasoned amateurs thrilled to see the red supergiant fade before their eyes. With a little help from Aldebaran and Bellatrix, which served as comparison stars, Betelgeuse made hundreds if not thousands of new variable star observers.

I spoke with Elizabeth O. Waagen, senior technical assistant at the American Association of Variable Star Observers (AAVSO), and while she didn't have an exact number at her fingertips, she confirmed that Betelgeuse inspired new observers to contribute their magnitude estimates.


"The Dunes": NEW type of aurora discovered, and the unexpected physics behind it

Aurora dunes
© Pirjo Koski
Above: Aurora dunes over Latilla, Finland, on Oct. 7, 2018.
A new type of aurora is rippling across Arctic skies. Citizen scientists who discovered it nicknamed it "The Dunes" because of its resemblance to desert sand dunes. A paper published in the Jan. 28th issue of AGU Advances describes the new form and the unexpected physics that causes it.

Dune-shaped auroras form in a narrow altitude range 80 km to 120 km above Earth's surface. Turns out, this is an extremely hard-to-study layer of Earth's atmosphere. It's too high for weather balloons, and too low for rockets.

"Due to the difficulties in measuring atmospheric phenomena between 80 and 120 km, we sometimes call this region 'the ignorosphere'," says Minna Palmroth, Professor of Computational Space Physics at the University of Helsinki and the lead author of the study.

Comment: Although observers claim to have been seeing auroras like the Dunes 'for years', the question is: How many years? Because this appears to be yet another sign of our the rapidly shifting conditions on our planet, and in Space. Below are just some of the more recent reports: Also check out SOTT radio's:


Rare fogbow photographed on the Cardigan Bay coast, Wales

fog bow wales
© Brett Critchley
Brett Critchley captured the meteorological phenomenon in Tywyn, Gwynedd
A rare white rainbow has been pictured over a seaside resort in Gwynedd.

The meteorological phenomenon was spotted by people in Tywyn on the Cardigan Bay coast on Thursday morning.

Also known as a fogbow, cloud bow or ghost rainbow, the arc is formed when sunlight interacts with small water droplets contained in fog, mist or cloud.

Comment: Strange and rare sights in our skies are becoming ever more common:


New mysterious radio flash discovered

FRB 180916
© Gemini Observatory / NSF’s National Optical-Infrared Astronomy Research Laboratory / AURA
This image shows the host galaxy of FRB 180916 (center), where the FRB itself is marked with a green circle.
The source of fast radio bursts (FRBs), flashes of radio waves that convey in a few milliseconds the power that the Sun radiates in a day, remains an open question in astronomy. Although astronomers have spotted more than 100 FRBs, most are so brief that they're difficult to locate on the sky.

Now, Benito Marcote (JIVE, The Netherlands) announced at last week's meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu that he and his colleagues have pinned down the precise location of a fifth radio flash. The result sheds light on the environment around these still-mysterious sources.

The Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME) telescope in Canada originally discovered the radio flash, referred to as FRB 180916.J0158+65. Then, as the source continued to emit flashes, eight radio dishes that are part of the European VLBI Network (EVN) pinned down the source to the outskirts of a spiral galaxy. The astronomers used the 8-meter Gemini North telescope on Mauna Kea, Hawai'i, to image the region, finding that whatever had produced the radio flash had a nursery of newborn stars for company.

The environment around this so-called repeater is similar to the location of the first repeater: a region that's forming new stars. This contrasts with the locations of single FRB flashes, Marcote says, all which have been localized to distant massive galaxies with low star formation rates.

This latest addition to FRBs with a known locations suggests that the two types — repeating and non-repeating — have different origins. But astronomers are still far from understanding what those origins are.