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Mon, 24 Jun 2019
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Strange Skies


Researchers detect giant cosmic bubbles emitting shockwaves through galaxy

NGC 3079 Galaxy
© X-ray: NASA/CXC/University of Michigan/J-T Li et al.; Optical: NASA/STScI
The galaxy NGC 3079, located 67 million light-years from Earth, appears to be blowing two enormous gas bubbles near its galactic center. This combined X-ray and optical light image reveals the superbubbles in their gassy glory.
Astronomers have discovered a distant galaxy that's giddily blowing bubbles like a toddler with a glass of chocolate milk. Unlike milk bubbles, however, these two huge galactic balloons are filled with gas, stretch a few thousand light-years across and appear to be crackling with charged particles 100 times more energetic than any found on Earth.

Using data from the Hubble Space Telescope and NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory, researchers detected the bubbles jiggling near the center of a galaxy named NGC 3079, located about 67 million light-years away from Earth. Bubbles like these are known as "superbubbles" because, well, they're supersized. According to the team's study in the Feb. 28 issue of The Astrophysical Journal, one of the newly discovered bubbles measures 4,900 light-years across, and the other measures 3,600 light-years across. (For comparison, the diameter of Neptune's orbit around the sun is about 5.6 billion miles, or 9 billion kilometers - one-thousandth of one light-year.)

Superbubbles form when powerful shock waves shove the gases released by stars far into space, leaving a bubble-shaped cavity behind. Scientists still don't fully understand how these massive gas cavities form.


Spectacular photos of iridescent clouds in Bucegi Mountains, Romania

Iridescent clouds in the Bucegi Mountains, Romania
© Răzvan Neagoe
Iridescent clouds in the Bucegi Mountains, Romania
Spectacular photos of iridescent clouds in the Bucegi Mountains, Romania have gone viral on the internet. Captured at sunset by photographer Răzvan Neagoe the phenomenon lasted for 20 minutes on Sunday 24th February 2019 reports stirileprotv.ro.

Iridescent clouds in the Bucegi Mountains, Romania
© Răzvan Neagoe
Iridescent clouds in the Bucegi Mountains, Romania


Chilean petroglyphs may have been used for star-gazing

engraved stones
One of the engraved stones on the elevated site at La Silla, thought to be part of an ancient star-observing platform.
The complex astronomical measurements that underpinned many aspects of the Inca civilisation may have an ancient forerunner of 10 centuries earlier and 2000 kilometres distant, a prominent archeoastronomer suggests.

Steven Gullberg, of the University of Oklahoma, US, and chair of the International Astronomical Union Working Group for Archaeoastronomy and Astronomy in Culture, is the latest scientist to comment on the origin and purpose of some mysterious stones and engravings, known as petroglyphs, at a site known as La Silla, in Chile.

The complex designs etched in rock, together with a set of standing stones, were first studied in depth by researchers - including this writer - in 2012.

It was suggested that the artefacts were set up to mark the positions of two very brilliant stars, Canopus and Hadar, and were the work of the El Molle, a pre-Columbian culture that occupied the region for five centuries from about 300 CE.

Curiously, La Silla is today the site of a facility built and operated by the European Southern Observatory (ESO), an important part of the global infrastructure for astronomers.

If the tentative conclusions about the petroglyphs and standing stones are correct, the site has been a critical place for star-gazers for at least 1700 years.


Our Sun's 'near miss' with Scholz's star

Scholz's star
© Michael Osadciw/University of Rochester
Artist's conception of Scholz's star, and its brown dwarf companion (foreground), during a flyby of our solar system some 70,000 years ago.
Stars jostling around the galaxy aren't quite like a cosmic game of pool. But they do have occasional near misses as they speed past each other. Back when spears and stone points were the height of human technology, astronomers say, our solar system had a close encounter of the interstellar kind.

The brief visitor was Scholz's star, and it might have grazed the outer edge of the solar system's distant Oort Cloud about 70,000 years ago - carrying its companion, a likely brown dwarf, along for the ride.

It's unclear whether the near miss was close enough to give objects in the Oort Cloud, our solar system's halo of dormant comets, a gravitational nudge to fall toward the Sun. But the interstellar trespasser highlights a sometimes-forgotten reality: On long time scales, stars seem to fly around like sparks from a campfire, occasionally coming close enough to disturb each other's cometary clouds.

Such close passes could have profound implications for exoplanets - planets orbiting other stars - and how they got where they are. At least some of the time, an interloper could become a thief, stripping a star of one or more planets - or vice versa.

Our solar system, too, might have been shaped and sculpted by stellar flybys.

A 2018 study showed that the orbital motions of some of our solar system's small bodies appear still to bear the imprint of Scholz's gravitational wake. And some planet-like objects in the Kuiper belt, the collection of rocky and icy bodies past the orbit of Neptune, could have been stolen from another star far earlier - in fact, soon after our Sun was born. Scholz's flyby could just be the latest in a series.

The discovery of our star-crossed close encounter was almost as random as the event itself.


Finland's border patrol tweets phenomenal photo of island mirage at -25C

finland island mirage
© Twitter / Lapin rajavartiosto
A Finnish border guard was, quite literally, stopped in their tracks Sunday after a 'new island' appeared in the middle of the frozen Lake Inari without warning.

Finland's Lapland Border Patrol tweeted images of the strange, apparently geological, phenomenon; an impressive feat considering temperatures in the region had plummeted as low as -25 degrees Celsius and there was no sight nor sound of any volcanic activity in the area that might explain the sudden appearance of new rock formations, seemingly out of nowhere.

It was merely an optical illusion, however, as one commenter pointed out on Twitter. Light behaves differently when passing through atmospheric layers, which can lead to mirage-like effects along the horizon, reflecting and refracting distant landscapes in mind-bending ways.

Comment: According to Wiki it seems mirages in the Arctic may be more common than we think:
In the 19th and early 20th centuries, Fata Morgana mirages may have played a role in a number of unrelated "discoveries" of arctic and antarctic land masses which were later shown not to exist. Icebergs frozen into the pack ice, or the uneven surface of the ice itself, may have contributed to the illusion of distant land features.
The National Snow and Ice Data Center details how these mirages are formed in the Arctic:
Mirages and optical illusions

Mirages and other optical illusions occur in the Arctic because of special atmospheric conditions that bend light. A superior mirage occurs when an image of an object appears above the actual object. Superior mirages sometimes appear in the Arctic because of the weather condition known as a temperature inversion, where cold air lies close to the ground with warmer air above it. Since cold air is denser than warm air, it bends light towards the eyes of someone standing on the ground, changing how a distant object appears.
Although the Finnish coast guard could be forgiven for assuming it was either a mirage or a new island, because nearly every day unusual events are being documented that confirm our planets changing atmosphere, and its geography. But we can't say for sure whether or not this mirage is typical for the region or reflective of these new conditions:


Cosmic rays intensifying for the 4th year in a row

Cosmic rays in the stratosphere are intensifying for the 4th year in a row. This finding comes from a campaign of almost weekly high-altitude balloon launches conducted by the students of Earth to Sky Calculus. Since March 2015, there has been a ~13% increase in X-rays and gamma-rays over central California, where the students have launched hundreds of balloons.

COsmic Rays Increasing
© SpaceWeather
The grey points in the graph are Earth to Sky balloon data. Overlaid on that time series is a record of neutron monitor data from the Sodankyla Geophysical Observatory in Oulu, Finland. The correlation between the two data sets is impressive, especially considering their wide geographic separation and differing methodologies. Neutron monitors have long been considered a "gold standard" for monitoring cosmic rays on Earth. This shows that our student-built balloons are gathering data of similar quality.


Pink fog stuns residents of Devon, UK

pink fog
© Jody Bundrick
The pink sky captured by Jody Bundrick in Stoke-sub-Hamdon, Somerset
Fog glowed bright pink and mesmerised onlookers across the UK on Friday morning.

The unusual phenomenon saw the sky illuminated in an unusually bright shade over parts of the south west of England.

People described the sight as "amazing," although some said they found the sky's shade "creepy".

Jody Bundrick, who saw the pink fog in Stoke-sub-Hamdon, Somerset, said: "It was pretty amazing."

Comment: Black, blue, purple and pink snow, thundersnow, dragon shaped auroras, skies glowing blue, and now pink fog... whatever next?

See also: And check out SOTT radio's: Behind the Headlines: Earth changes in an electric universe: Is climate change really man-made?


NASA releases photo of mysterious 'dragon' aurora over Iceland

A view of the mysterious dragon aurora snapped in Iceland
© Jingyi Zhang & Wang Zheng
A view of the mysterious dragon aurora snapped in Iceland on February 18
Nasa has released incredible pictures of an unusual 'dragon' aurora roaring silently in the sky over Iceland. The stunning natural wonder was caused by particles emited from the sun which smash into the atmosphere to cause a dramatic light display.

Nasa wrote: 'Have you ever seen a dragon in the sky? Although real flying dragons don't exist, a huge dragon-shaped aurora developed in the sky over Iceland earlier this month.

'The aurora was caused by a hole in the Sun's corona that expelled charged particles into a solar wind that followed a changing interplanetary magnetic field to Earth's magnetosphere.

'As some of those particles then struck Earth's atmosphere, they excited atoms which subsequently emitted light: aurora. 'This iconic display was so enthralling that the photographer's mother ran out to see it and was captured in the foreground.

The dragon aurora is strange because it appeared during a time of low sunspot activity, which means our star is not emitting as many charged particles or 'solar wind' as it normally does.

'No sunspots have appeared on the Sun so far in February, making the multiple days of picturesque auroral activity this month somewhat surprising,' Nasa added.

Comment: See also: Also check out SOTT radio's:


Video footage from central Ohio shows rare 'thundersnow'

Thundersnow in OH
© YouTube/Ty's Coins
A rare weather occurrence was caught on camera near Piqua, Ohio -- in the Dayton area -- early Wednesday morning.

That flash of light is called "thundersnow," also known as a winter thunderstorm.

One of the Ohio Department of Transportation's traffic cameras picked it up.

What you didn't hear was the loud boom that went along with it.

Source: CNN

Comment: Footage of the event was also captured 60 miles east in Dublin, Ohio by YouTube user 'Ty's Coins':


Exploding transformer? Strange blue flash of light seen in northern Wales, UK

Flash of light in Wales
© Twitter/NPASHawarden
Conspiracy theorists claim that a strange bright blue light that emanated in the sky over North Wales earlier this month marked the descent of aliens at a secret underground base.

The footage that fuelled this alien speculation was filmed by a member of the Hawarden-based National Police Air Service on 7 February, though some commenters suggested that the eerie phenomenon was caused by a ball lightning or power outage.

However, UFO investigator Russ claims that the light was connected with an underground facility he believes to be lying beneath the North Wales coast.

"I don't know what it was, but it could have been a UFO that came down, something that landed in the area or even something that was brought to the area," he told North Wales Live.

Comment: See also: Exploding Transformers - More than meets the eye?