May 19, 2019

09.02.11: A (Virtual) Martian Landing.

Ever hoped man would walk on Mars in our lifetime? For the past eight months, a six man crew based in a simulated environment has been headed towards a mock up of just such an event. The program is none other than the Mars 500 mission, the European Space Agency’s (ESA) 500 day “voyage” to the planet Mars. On June 3rd, 2010, six volunteers sequestered themselves in an experimental facility at Moscow’s Institute for Bio-Medical Problems (IBMP) to take part in a study of the physiological and psychological impacts such a long mission would have.

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16.10.09:A Moscow UFO?

What is it? Earlier this week, the above image and obligatory YouTube video flew around ye ‘ole Internet, purportedly showing an “Independence Day”-like spacecraft seemingly descending through the clouds over Moscow. The video was shaky, and the perspective of the light poles moving in the foreground all lent themselves to an eerie look and feel…a classic UFO, right?

Semi-unfortunately, this phenomena has a slightly more prosaic explanation, although its still pretty cool. Many naysayers are simply claiming that the video was “Photo-shopped” although we here at Astroguyz HQ don’t necessarily believe so. The patterns look to be consistent with low altitude, mammatus-type clouds. Of course, the hoaxer might have been a meteorologist…what your looking at is known as a parahelic arc, a breed of sun-dog shining through low-altitude clouds seen under somewhat unusual conditions. Many folks on the ‘Net have stated that the glowing ring is the cloud, but if you look closely, the entire sky is overcast. Meteorologists confirm that a converging front was over Moscow at the time, and that the sun was indeed at a low angle, i.e. prime sun-dog conditions. To explore near-sky phenomena complete with explanations, I refer you to Les Cowley’s excellent site on Atmospheric Optics. Stare at the sky long enough, and you’ll see all sorts of bizarre things. Incidentally, pilots are much more familiar with this sort of reflection phenomenon, as they frequently fly above low cloud banks. I would suspect that there is also an inversion source, like say, a heat belching factory right below the halo. Alas, no ET…but isn’t UFO debunking fun?