An aurora called Steve, and other strange things seen in the skies
HEAVEN’S PURPLE RIBBON
A group of aurora enthusiasts have found a new type of light in the night sky and named it Steve. Eric Donovan from the University of Calgary in Canada spotted the feature in photos shared on the Facebook group Alberta Aurora Chasers. He didn’t recognise it as a catalogued phenomenon and although the group were calling it a proton arc, he knew proton auroras were not visible. He knew Steve was not anything like an aurora and then found it had been recorded by his own network of cameras, but he had not noticed it. It was also picked up by one of the three satellites of the European Space Agency’s Swarm mission, which orbit Earth, measuring magnetic and electrical activity in the upper atmosphere. By chance, one of them flew through a purple streak on 26 July 2016, matching photographs taken from the ground at exactly the same time. Prof Donovan could also follow the streak as it swept westwards from the Hudson Bay to Alaska.
“The satellite flew straight through Steve and data from the instrument showed very clear changes,” said Prof Donovan. “The temperature 300km [190 miles] above the Earth’s surface jumped by 3,000˚C [5,432˚F] and the data revealed a 25km [15-mile] wide ribbon of gas flowing westwards at about 6km/s [13,400mph] compared to a speed of about 10m/s [22mph] either side of the ribbon. Our idea is this is heating the upper atmosphere, causing it to glow. ”
No one fully understands the underlying physics of the ribbon, but it appears it is not an aurora as it does not stem from the interaction of solar particles with the Earth’s magnetic field. The group reportedly called it Steve in homage to a 2006 children’s film, Over the Hedge, where a group of animals are faced with a vast hedge and do not know what it is, so they name it Steve. A member of Alberta Aurora Chasers suggested this could stand for “Strong Thermal Emission Velocity Enhancement”.
Roger Haagmans of the ESA said: “It is amazing how a beautiful natural phenomenon, seen by observant citizens, can trigger scientists’ curiosity. It turns out that Steve is actually remarkably common, but we hadn’t noticed it before. It’s thanks to ground-based observations, satellites, today’s explosion of access to data and an army of citizen scientists joining forces to document it.” “Weather Eye” by Paul Simons (Times, 3 May); spaceweather.com, 22 May; BBC News, 23 April 2017.
Heavy April rainfall caused a series of massive landslides in the Colombian city of Manizales when an entire average month’s worth of rain fell in one night, taking the lives of 17 people. Nearly a week later, residents were stunned when the clouds parted and a beam of white light formed into a quasi-humanoid shape that the more devout saw as Jesus. Crowds gathered to film the apparition and cheer, with some crying “Dios mio!”
Others suggested it was related to atmospheric weapons like NASA’s alleged Project Blue Beam, part of a conspiracy theory that claims NASA has been testing holographic projection technology to beam
hallucinatory visions in the sky to terrify the world’s citizens into surrendering to New World Order religion/government. In the conspirasphere, Blue Beam is often cited as a cause of strange aerial apparitions or bizarre meteorological phenomena. BBC News, 20 April; mysteriousuniverse.org, 28 April 2017.
‘BLACK CUBE’ RETURNS
A bizarre black cube supposedly emerged from clouds over El Paso, Texas, in early March. Walter C Lands, who captured the cube on his mobile phone, said: “It began to get very windy and I noticed a small portion of clouds begin to swirl and circle in on each other, forming a portal shape – at which point the portal became jet black.” A second eyewitness, a woman accountant who did not wish to be named, also took a picture. “I noticed a square-shaped figure,” she said. “It was a giant solid thing with designs around it and a faint magnetic oscillationtype humming.” Mr Lands passed his video to phenomenon investigators Secureteam10, a spokesman for which said: “It can only be described as a massive three-dimensional cube-shaped UFO which in the first image can be seen shooting out at a pretty fair rate of speed from what looks like a massive black hole-type portal. The fact that this craft arrived by suddenly appearing from a black hole in the sky leads us to believe this is not man-made.”
It was only a few miles from White Sands, the military testing site where the first atomic bomb was detonated. Almost all the experimental weapons research carried out here is highly classified. Whether this has any bearing on the black cube is anyone’s guess.
It turns out that this story was already doing the rounds two years ago before being inexplicably revived by the
Daily Express. Sceptics smelled a hoax back then, pointing out anomalies with the supposed video ‘evidence’ and concluding that: “SecureTeam10 is a serial hoaxer and is making up the ‘witnesses’ and stories to go with them”. Houston Chronicle, 8 July; doubtfulnews.com, 9 July 2015; express.co.uk, 11 Mar 2017.
Thomas Beresford photographed the above cloud resembling the Concorde aircraft over the Ribblehead viaduct in North Yorkshire on 5 May. Meteorologist Paul Hudson said it was called a roll cloud and was quite rare. “In this instance it’s caused by air flowing over the top of Whernside from the east, creating effectively a stationary type of lenticular cloud – the shape and size of which is dependent on the wavelength of the stationary wave,” he said. The lens-shaped clouds form when the air is stable and winds blow from the same direction. Concorde was retired in 2003 by British Airways and Air France who decommissioned it for “commercial reasons” amid declining passenger numbers. BBC News, 8 May 2017.
ABOVE: The new type of light spotted by aurora chasers and named ‘Steve’. BELOW: The ‘Jesus cloud’ photographed in Manizales, Colombia.
ABOVE: The ‘Concorde’-shaped cloud over the Ribblehead viaduct in North Yorkshire. BELOW: The El Paso ‘Black Cube’.