Strange and mysterious sky phenomena: Rare twinned rainbow, Strange RED midnight rainbow and noctilucent ‘tornado’ clouds with auroras in pictures


Strange and mysterious sky phenomena illuminated the sky around the world. Here a compilation of the most impressive. Here you go:

MYSTERIOUS TWINNED DOUBLE RAINBOW

Scientists have been studying rainbows for hundreds of years, since the 17th century when Isaac Newton first explained the colorful arcs. Yet after all these years, there is one rainbow scientists do not fully understand: the “twinned bow.” Jan Curtis photographed this specimen on June 21st from Cheyenne, Wyoming:

Rare Twinning Rainbow. Taken by Jan Curtis on June 21, 2018 @ Cheyenne, Wyoming

This rare ‘twinned rainbow’ followed on the tails of a extremely severe thunderstorm.

Several twinned bows have been imaged, mostly during heavy showers, but currently there is no agreed explanation for them. They might form from a mixture of water drops and ice spheres.

twinned rainbow, rare twinned rainbow, twinned and double rainbow
Rare Twinning Rainbow. Taken by Jan Curtis on June 21, 2018 @ Cheyenne, Wyoming

Another explanation is that non-spherical raindrops produce one or both bows. Surface tension forces keep small raindrops fiercely spherical but as they fall large drops are flattened by air resistance or might even oscillate between flattened and elongated spheroids.

twinned rainbow, rare twinned rainbow, twinned and double rainbow
Rare Twinning Rainbow. Taken by Jan Curtis on June 21, 2018 @ Cheyenne, Wyoming

Another striking aspect of Curtis’s image is the overall double structure of the rainbow – one rainbow on the inside, another on the outside. Such double rainbows are often seen and well understood. The splitting of the inner bow into twins added a dash of mystery to this otherwise common occurance.

AMAZING GLOWING TORNADO OVER NORTHERN IRELAND

In recent nights, noctilucent clouds (NLCs) have rippled across Europe from Scandinavia to the south of France. “We have been observing NLCs every night here in N. Ireland,” reports Martin McKenna of Maghera in Co. Derry. “Their brightness and complexity have been getting more advanced since the solstice, with whirls and knots glowing electric blue above a yellow midnight sunset horizon.” He observed this ‘noctilucent tornado’ on June 25th:

nlc tornado, noctilucent cloud tornado
Taken by Martin McKenna on June 25, 2018 @ Maghera, Co. Derry, N. Ireland via Nightskyhunter.com

This area then morphed into an succession of dynamic shapes–a wedge, a funnel, angel wings, an electrified smoke ring, then a long rope tornado which reached towards the horizon.

What creates these forms? The answer is “gravity waves.”

Gravity waves are, essentially, waves of pressure and temperature spawned by powerful storm systems. Gravity does not vary inside the waves; they get their name from the fact that gravity acts as a restoring force that tries to restore equilibrium to up-and-down moving air. Gravity waves can propagate all the way from Earth’s surface up to the mesosphere, where they imprint themselves on the the forms of noctilucent clouds. When a sufficient number of gravity waves meet, they can interfere to produce all of the structures McKenna saw–plus many more.

MIDNIGHT RAINBOW

A rainbow at midnight? Believe it. On June 25th, red rays from the midnight sun in Nome, Alaska, lanced into a bank of rain clouds, producing this strange red arc:

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Rare RED midnight rainbow Rainbow. Taken by John Dean on June 26, 2018 @ Nome, AK

The rainbow developed, then disappeared and reappeared, slowly growing into a full arc around 1:30am there in Alaska.

At the time, the sun was hugging the horizon, barely half a degree high. This explains why the rainbow was red. Normal rainbows are red, yellow, green and blue. In this case, however, red was the only color available. All of the other colors had been scattered away by air molecules and dust particles in front of the low-hanging sun.

Red rainbows are more common than you might think. They appear with frequency at sunrise or sunset, all around the world.

NOCTILUCENT CLOUDS VS. AURORAS

The cockpit of an airplane can be a good place to see space weather in action. On June 20th a rare coincidence of two space weather apparitions was witnessed by pilot Ulrich C. Beinert on his way from Los Angeles to Munich, passing over Canada, when a rippling band of noctilucent clouds (NLCs) appeared. Soon they were joined by Northern Lights:

nlc with aurora, Noctilucent clouds with auroras, Noctilucent clouds with auroras canada
Noctilucent clouds with auroras over Canada. Taken by Ulrich C. Beinert on June 20, 2018 @ Northeastern Canada

Beinert’s photo captures an unusual meeting of green auroras and electric-blue NLCs. The auroras were caused by solar wind gently buffeting Earth’s magnetic field, sparking a verdant glow 100 to 200 km above Earth’s surface. Noctilucent clouds are completely different. They are formed when summertime wisps of water vapor rise to the top of the atmosphere and crystallize around specks of meteor smoke. NLCs float about 80 km high, just below the aurora zone.

nlc with aurora, Noctilucent clouds with auroras, Noctilucent clouds with auroras canada
Noctilucent clouds with auroras over Canada. Taken by Ulrich C. Beinert on June 20, 2018 @ Northeastern Canada

NLCs are our planet’s highest clouds. They form when summertime wisps of water vapor rise to the top of Earth’s atmosphere and crystalize around specks of meteor smoke. Rippling mesospheric winds gather the resulting ice crystals into swarms floating ~80 km above the ground.

When noctilucent clouds first appeared in the 19th century, you had to travel to the Arctic to see them. In recent years, however, NLCs have intensified and spread with summer sightings as far south as Utah and Colorado. Observing tips: Look west 30 to 60 minutes after sunset when the sun has dipped well below the horizon. If you see luminous blue-white tendrils spreading across the sky, you may have spotted a noctilucent cloud.

Indeed, some really strange and surprising sky phenomena.

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Pictures via SpaceWeather.com and SpaceWeathergallery.com





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