May 26, 2019

05.03.11: A New Breed of Sundog?

NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory is well on the path to producing some ground-breaking solar science this Solar Cycle #24, and that trend started the minute it left the launch pad. On February 11th, 2010, SDO lifted off atop an Atlas V rocket, and gave viewers a memorable sight.

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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?