The Northern Lights are one of the most spectacular natural phenomena.
The night sky is lit up by the most amazing colours.
WHAT ARE NORTHERN LIGHTS?
The bright dancing lights of the aurora are actually collisions between electrically charged particles from the sun that enter the earth’s atmosphere.
The lights are seen above the magnetic poles of the northern and southern hemispheres. They are known as ‘Aurora borealis’ in the north and ‘Aurora Australis’ in the south.
Auroral displays appear in many colours although pale green and pink are the most common. Shades of red, yellow, green, blue, and violet have been reported.
The lights appear in many forms from patches or scattered clouds of light to streamers, arcs, rippling curtains or shooting rays that light up the sky with an eerie glow.
WHAT CAUSES THE NORTHERN LIGHTS?
The Northern Lights are actually the result of collisions between gaseous particles in the Earth’s atmosphere with charged particles released from the sun’s atmosphere. Variations in colour are due to the type of gas particles that are colliding.
The most common auroral color, a pale yellowish-green, is produced by oxygen molecules located about 60 miles above the earth. Rare, all-red auroras are produced by high-altitude oxygen, at heights of up to 200 miles. Nitrogen produces blue or purplish-red aurora.
The connection between the Northern Lights and sunspot activity has been suspected since about 1880.
Thanks to research conducted since the 1950’s, we now know that electrons and protons from the sun are blown towards the earth on the ‘solar wind’. (Note: 1957-58 was International Geophysical Year and the atmosphere was studied extensively with balloons, radar, rockets and satellites.
Rocket research is still conducted by scientists at Poker Flats, a facility under the direction of the University of Alaska at Fairbanks – see web page http://www.gi.alaska.edu/
The temperature above the surface of the sun is millions of degrees Celsius. At this temperature, collisions between gas molecules are frequent and explosive.
Free electrons and protons are thrown from the sun’s atmosphere by the rotation of the sun and escape through holes in the magnetic field. Blown towards the earth by the solar wind, the charged particles are largely deflected by the earth’s magnetic field.
However, the earth’s magnetic field is weaker at either pole and therefore some particles enter the earth’s atmosphere and collide with gas particles. These collisions emit light that we perceive as the dancing lights of the north (and the south).
The lights of the Aurora generally extend from 80 kilometres (50 miles) to as high as 640 kilometres (400 miles) above the earth’s surface.
Bone Diggers: Mystery of a Lost Predator, Thylacoleo – The Marsupial Lion
Australia is known for its cute marsupials, the koala, the kangaroo and the wombat among others. Very few people are aware that there was once a marsupial that was a deadly “creep up and get ya” predator that was more ferocious than a sabre tooth tiger. It was Thylacoleo Carnifex — the Marsupial Lion Australia’s lost predator.
The Nullarbor Plain is a remote treeless desert resting between the Great Australian Bight and the Great Sandy Desert. It is hard, stony country…flat and featureless.
In May of 2002 an group of cavers, in an Indiana Jones style operation, discovered three caves, which had never been entered by man. The entrance to one of the caves was mere shoulder-width, vertical tube that rapidly expanded to cathedral proportions. In the first cave their head torches illuminated a sight that caused scientific wonderment and a world-wide media frenzy.
At the far end of a side tunnel the cavers discovered the pristine and complete skeleton of the fabled marsupial lion, Thylacoleo. It lay there as if it had died only a year ago. The skeleton was bleach white against the red earth and not a speck of dust on it. Their immediate reaction was to take a photo and get out – their main concern was to preserve the site for scientific analysis.
The photo of Thylacoleo and the cave coordinates ended up on the desk of Dr John Long, vertebrate palaeontologist a world renowned Bone Digger with the Western Australian Museum. Within a matter of weeks funding and an expedition to recover the remains had been arranged. It would prove a journey full of surprises both during the expedition and later as the remains were studied. The first surprise to take John and his team by surprise was the age of the remains. He was sure the skeleton could only be about 40,000 years old — several dating techniques later and a shattering date of at least 500,000 years suddenly propelled the find into mega-star status.
Bone Diggers – Mystery of a Lost Predator is the amazing story of the dangerous recovery mission and how the remains of the marsupial lion allowed science a unique opportunity to reconstruct the beast and it’s behaviour.
From recreating its brain to morphological analysis, the life and form of Thylacoleo began to take shape – this is science at its best!
A co-production between Storyteller Media and the Western Australian Museum.
Storyteller produce and distribute documentaries and factual programming specialising in animals and nature; from endangered species and what’s being done to save them to mysterious animal and monster stories. Follow @AnimalXTV
Would you believe this, music especially composed to help your cat relax.
This hour long compilation is specially designed to help soothe your cat in any situation.
Relax My Cat are experts in creating relaxing music to help calm your cat and help them sleep. Our music is composed in-house by our team of producers, and uses binaural technology designed to relax and calm your cat. If your cat has sleeping problems or anxiety problems or is even stressed during construction, fireworks or other loud noises, you should try our music.
Relax My Cat’s music will help to calm and soothe your cat or kitten in a variety of situations. Minimise separation anxiety, reduce hyperactivity, minimise fear of thunderstorms or fireworks, stop unwanted whining, comfort sick or injured cats and calm your cat on car journeys – Relax My Cat does it all!
Our music is based on feline vocal communication and environmental sounds that pique the interest of cats; it is written in a musical language that is uniquely designed to appeal to the domestic cat. All of the music is recorded on traditional instruments and the human voice. No actual cat, mouse, or bird calls are used (although it may sound like it).
Relax My Cat’s music is unique, and will help in a variety of situations as a substitute for medication. We have helped thousands of cats and kittens worldwide to sleep and reduce their anxiety. Music therapy for your cat can keep them calm, happy and healthy, and it is a great way to rehabilitate rescue cats – or just get your kitten or cat used to their new home.
Being re-homed is an incredibly stressful time for cats – as they have to get used to a lot of different sights and sounds, as well as their new family and any other pets in the household. We recommend that you play Relax My Cat during this time, and it will help reduce their heart rate and relax them while they explore their new surroundings. No more whining kittens – they will get used to your home in no time at all with the help of Relax My Cat’s music.
♫♫♫ Relax My Cat Music on iTunes:
Here’s a story about a ghostly cat from Ireland. The story of the Black Cat of Killakee.
Kathy Cooper was tending to her cattle this week when she discovered another cow had been killed and mutilated — approximately one year from the first time it happened.
Cooper and her husband, John, have lost more than 20 cows on their 200-plus acre South Hall farm to a mysterious crime over the past year.
Despite their best efforts and help from the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and the University of Georgia’s veterinary school, they are no closer to finding out who is killing their cows and removing only their udders and genitals.
“Detectives don’t have any clues what they do with these parts,” Cooper said. “It’s very obvious that’s what they’re after. That’s all they cut off.”
The 5-year-old cow Cooper discovered dead Monday exhibited the same surgically precise, almost spherical, incisions on its belly where its udders and milk bag had been cleanly removed.
Cooper found just one trace of whoever killed the cow left in the soft dirt caused by Monday’s rain, but no footprints leading anywhere.
“You could see where they went in there on their knees and elbows and lifted her tail up and just cut it off,” she said. “That’s the first sign of any kind.”
Cooper said the mutilated cows are typically found in a gully or wooded area rather than open pasture. The first week of May, seven cows were killed and mutilated on their property. Several more were killed last fall.
Cattle mutilations have been reported across the country with little explanation despite extensive studies. The mutilations are often attributed to a variety of causes, including everything from extraterrestrials and cults to natural predators and decomposition.
Col. Jeff Strickland of the Hall County Sheriff’s Office said investigators have been working on the case for the past year with little luck.
“This has been an ongoing investigation. At this time we don’t have any suspects in the case,” Strickland said.
“We’re going to continue to investigate the case and follow any leads.”
Strickland said there have been no other reports of cattle mutilations in the county.
“It is very bizarre and very unusual. We’ve had no incidents in the adjoining pastures owned by different people,” Strickland said.
Cooper said she is ready to catch whoever is behind this.
“It is a big thing to lose that many cows,” Cooper said. “That’s how we make our living.”
Cattle mutilations have been going on for decades all over the world.
A giant squid provided a rare treat for onlookers in Toyama Bay when one swam into the harbour.
The 3.7m (12ft) cephalopod was much smaller than the 13m they can grow to.
It spent several hours in the harbour on Christmas Eve and was filmed by local divers.
Professional underwater cameraman Takayoshi Kojima told the BBC he rushed to the harbour when a marina manager called and he helped guide the squid to the exit to the sea, where it finally disappeared.
Japanese researchers took pictures of the elusive creature hunting 900m down, enveloping its prey by coiling its tentacles into a ball.
The images show giant squid, known as Architeuthis, are more vigorous hunters than has been supposed.
The images, captured in the Pacific Ocean, appear in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B.
Documentary companies have invested millions of dollars trying to film adult giant squid in their natural environment. These efforts have met with little success – though one team has managed to capture a juvenile on film.
Japanese fishermen have taken snaps of an adult at the surface but, until now, no one had obtained images of the animal in its deep-sea hunting grounds.
In their efforts to photograph the huge cephalopod, Tsunemi Kubodera and Kyoichi Mori, have been using a camera and depth recorder attached to a long-line, which they lower into the sea from their research vessel.
Below the camera, they suspend a weighted jig – a set of ganged hooks to snag the squid – along with a single Japanese common squid as bait and an odour lure consisting of chopped-up shrimps.
At 0915 local time on 30 September 2004, they struck lucky. At a depth close to 1km in waters off Japan’s Ogasawara Islands, an 8m-long Architeuthis wrapped its long tentacles around the bait, snagging one of them on the jig.
Kubodera and Mori took more than 550 images of the giant squid as it made repeated attempts to detach itself.
The pictures show the squid spreading its arms, enveloping the long-line and swimming away in its efforts to struggle free.
Finally, four hours and 13 minutes after it was first snagged, the attached tentacle broke off, allowing the squid to escape. The researchers retrieved a 5.5m portion with the line.
“It was exciting to get a live Architeuthis tentacle. It was still functioning when we got it on the boat,” Dr Kubodera told BBC News.
giant squid tentacle
The large suckers repeatedly gripped the boat deck – and Dr Kubodera’s fingers when he prodded the severed appendage.
“The grip wasn’t as strong as I expected; it felt sticky,” he explained.
But while other researchers have suggested that Architeuthis is a rather sluggish creature, the images show it is in fact an energetic predator.
Dr Steve O’Shea, of the Auckland University of Technology, New Zealand, told the BBC News website that he was extremely pleased for the researchers.
Kubodera, he said, had “ever-so-quietly been working away in the background on this for a number of years”.
And Dr O’Shea, a world renowned expert on giant squid, added: “From the point of view of the public, who believe this squid is the largest, the meanest, most aggressive squid that we have – it is hugely significant.”
The Auckland-based researcher said now that the squid had been caught on camera, researchers could focus on other, lesser known squid species and on conservation.
Bottom-trawling by fisheries is destroying squid egg masses on the seabed, Dr O’Shea claimed. Evidence for this comes from an efficient squid predator – the sperm whale.
“Five of the species of squid that were staple in the diet of the sperm whale are recognised in New Zealand as threatened solely as a consequence of the effects of deep-sea bottom-trawling.”
“[Sperm whales] are returning from the Antarctic on their historic migratory route to one of the richest regions on Earth in terms of squid diversity. But the larder is bare and the poor things are washing up on the beaches here starved.”
The giant squid is by no means the largest known. Several other species, including the colossal squid Mesonychoteuthis hamiltoni, are thought to grow larger.
Conspiracy theorists claim that ‘800-year-old cell phone’ was brought here by time traveling aliens
Conspiracy theorists are claiming that an “800-year-old cell phone” was left behind by time traveling aliens.
The London Daily Mail reported that an object which resembles a cell phone with cuneiform characters was reportedly found in Austria.
MysteriousUniverse.org reported that the object was recently found by archaeologists digging in Fuschl am See, an Austrian municipality.
But little is known about the apparent dig, leading many to believe the story is an elaborate hoax.
Conspiracy theorists and “alien hunters” have been discussing the object online and some seem to believe the object proves that aliens exist.
“It is evident from this cell phone like device that someone with an advanced knowledge of the future created it,” wrote Scott Waring, editor of UFO Sighting Daily.
The markings on the “phone” resemble that of Cuneiform, a system of ancient writing developed by the Sumerians of Mesopotamia.
“Researchers unearthed a mysterious artifact from the thirteenth century with cuneiform writing that strangely resembles a cell phone,” according to the conspiracy website tothedeathmedia.com.
The YouTube channel Paranormal Crucible posted a video about the alleged finding asking, “What is it? Is it evidence of an advanced civilization or time travel?”
“Until further analysis of this Cuneiform tablet is completed we can only speculate at what it truly represents,” according to Paranormal Crucible. “Maybe one day, our true history will become clear and the bright light of truth will finally reveal its secrets.”
Many people claim to have had an alien encounter. Even to have been abducted by aliens.
Here’s an interview with two such people who claim to have been abducted by aliens.
Saved as puppies from being fur coats or captive prey for trophy hunters, wolves Timber and Aurora were raised to be in wildlife films and now face homelessness. Please contribute so they can keep having a safe life and playing roles in educational media.
Conservationist, environmentalist and filmmaker Matthew Todd is striving to save these two timber wolves.
These wolves are in trouble and need your help immediately please!
We have always loved nature and supported environmental causes. We have even made wildlife films to share our views and hopefully inspire others. But we realized it was not enough. We wanted to take direct action. In this case we adopted two wolf pups that were heading for certain death. They were being bred to be fur coats or prey for canned trophy hunting farms (places tourists pay to kill wildlife in enclosed areas) in Saskatchewan. We decided to raise the pups in captivity in the best natural way possible and to socialize them just enough to get used to being around humans. We are happy they are still alive and healthy but it has been at great sacrifice…
We first got female pup Aurora and a year later male pup Timber. From the beginning it has been difficult: enclosures, cages, insurance, veterinarians, keepers and food costs. We have forsaken our social life as have had to live in isolated places where people are not disturbed by our having wolves, we had to move a few times (including a huge government approved enclosure) and there is endless bureaucracy dealing with tightening government regulations. Now, after 7 hard years the wolves are losing their present home and we are determined to make sure they do not end up homeless.
We need to raise us much money as possible immediately to ensure these wolves have a safe home to live out their lives. The funds will be used for housing, insurance, veterinarians, food, travel, and plans for long term care.
Please HELP wolves Timber and Aurora secure a well deserved home! We will do everything in our power to promote the wolves in the media as a symbol for all wildlife. By your helping to save them now will allow them to be in more films in future and continue to educate people of all ages to cherish and respect nature. We need support to keep them from homelessness…
Please help Matt. Here’s a link to his fund raising page
People around the world have observed a rare celestial event, as a lunar eclipse coincided with a so-called “supermoon”.
A supermoon occurs when the Moon is in the closest part of its orbit to Earth, meaning it appears larger in the sky.
The eclipse – which made the Moon appear red – has been visible in North America, South America, West Africa and Western Europe.
This phenomenon was last observed in 1982 and will not be back before 2033.
But the definition of a supermoon is debated among astronomers.
The supermoon from Belgium
The view at Glastonbury in western England
A plane flies in front of the supermoon over Geneva, Switzerland
The partially eclipsed supermoon over the US city of Las Vegas
Skywatchers in the western half of North America, the rest of Europe and Africa, the Middle East and South Asia saw a partial eclipse.
From the UK, observers watched the Moon pass through the Earth’s shadow in the early hours of Monday morning. In North and South America the eclipse was seen on Sunday evening.
The supermoon, where Earth’s satellite is near its minimum distance from our planet, means that the Moon appears 7-8% larger in the sky
The moon looks rust-coloured during a total lunar eclipse – giving rise to its nickname Blood Moon. This is because the Earth’s atmosphere scatters blue light more strongly than red light, and it is this red light that reaches the lunar surface
During the eclipse, the Moon lies in front of the stars of the constellation Pisces
In a total lunar eclipse, the Earth, Sun and Moon are almost exactly in line and the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun.
As the full Moon moves into our planet’s shadow, it dims dramatically but usually remains visible, lit by sunlight that passes through the Earth’s atmosphere.
As this light travels through our planet’s gaseous envelope, the green to violet portions get filtered out more than the red portion, with the result that light reaching the lunar surface is predominantly red in colour.
Observers on Earth may see a Moon that is brick-coloured, rusty, blood red or sometimes dark grey, depending on terrestrial conditions.
Dr Robert Massey, deputy executive director of the UK’s Royal Astronomical Society, told BBC News that the eclipse is an “incredibly beautiful event”.
A supermoon occurs when a full or new moon coincides with a Moon that is nearing its minimum distance (perigee) to Earth.
The Moon takes an elliptical orbit around Earth, which means that its average distance changes from as far as 405,000km (its apogee) to as close as 363,000km at the perigee.
The coincidence between a supermoon and an eclipse means that Earth’s lone companion is expected to look 7-8% bigger. But Dr Massey added: “The definition of ‘supermoon’ is slightly problematic.
“Is a supermoon taking place at the perigee, the day before, the day after? Does a supermoon have to be a particularly close perigee, or can it be a bit further out? It’s not very well defined.”
He said a supermoon was to some extent a moveable feast compared with an eclipse, where the timing can be measured precisely.
As a result, Dr Massey explained, claims of the extreme rarity of a supermoon coinciding with an eclipse were overstated.
The supermoon should also not be confused with the Moon Illusion, which causes the Moon to appear larger near the horizon than it does higher up in the sky.
The eclipse began at 00:11 GMT, when the Moon entered the lightest part of the Earth’s shadow, known as the penumbra, and adopted a yellowish colour. At 02:11 GMT the Moon completely entered the umbra – the inner dark corpus of our planet’s shadow.
The point of greatest eclipse occurred at 02:47 GMT, when the Moon was closest to the centre of the umbra, with the eclipse ending at 05:22 GMT.
The Royal Astronomical Society says that unlike the solar equivalent, a total lunar eclipse event is safe to watch and needs no special equipment.
This clip from the BBC looks at our exploration of the stars.
At the Keck Observatory in Hawaii, scientists are engaged in one of the most important quests of modern astronomy. They’re scanning the universe for new planets.
Planets that might support life now or in the future. Planets that might be like earth. Our desire to reach out into space is a compulsion.
The more we soar, the greater that compulsion. In the 1970s, after decades of careful planning, 4 probes, Pioneer 10, Pioneer 11, Voyager One, and Voyager 2 were sent on missions to the outer limits of our solar system. Their journeys would last almost 30 years, and cover more than 8 billion miles. These probes brought mankind astonishing images of the planets in our solar system. Mankinds first giant leap was made with hot air in balloons. Tied to balloons, man could leave the ground and travel higher than ever before.
In 1960, a balloon carrying US airforce captain Joe Kittinger ascended to the edge of space, some 100,000 feet off the ground. Then he jumped out. In 4 minutes, Kittinger reached the speed of sound.
Scientists are using cutting-edge technology to map dinosaur tracks
Scientists are trying to reconstruct ancient Australian landscapes once roamed by some of the biggest dinosaurs to have ever walked the planet by surveying thousands of fossilised tracks in remote Western Australia.
Along a 100km stretch (62 miles) of coast in Western Australia’s Kimberley region, tens of thousands of dinosaur tracks are fossilised in sandstone.
The 130-million-year-old footprints are virtually the only record of dinosaurs in the western half of the continent.
They date to the Early Cretaceous Period when the continent was still connected by a land bridge to Antarctica and covered in towering conifer forests.
“These tracks are at least 15 to 20 million years older than the majority of dinosaur fossils that have been found at sites in eastern Australia,” says Dr Steve Salisbury, a palaeontologist from the University of Queensland.
“They provide a very detailed snapshot of the dinosaur fauna from a time and place where there’s almost nothing else,” he told the BBC.
Drones and low-speed aircraft sweep over the prints on the rare times they are exposed by the sea
The fossils also hold immense cultural value for local indigenous communities.
Dr Salisbury says they feature in an Aboriginal “song cycle” that extends along the coastline, and that “knowledge of the tracks probably extends back thousands of years”.
He was first invited to the region in 2011 by the Goolarabooloo people who were trying to halt the development of a proposed A$35bn ($24bn; £16bn) natural gas precinct at an area known as James Price Point, 50km north of Broome.
In 2013, two years after a section of the coast was granted National Heritage Status, the development was finally cancelled.
Dr Salisbury is now leading a project to digitally catalogue the fossils and reconstruct the landscapes these dinosaurs wandered through.
‘We’re talking huge, huge tracks’
To date, researchers have identified about 20 different types of tracks. The footprints include three-toed tracks belonging to carnivorous theropods that walked on two legs, as well as tracks believed to have been made by armoured dinosaurs like stegosaurs.
Some of the Broome dinosaur tracks are similar to those found at Lark Quarry in central-western Queensland, which the team recently determined were probably made by a large, two-legged plant-eating dinosaur similar to Muttaburrasaurus.
The Broome tracks are similar to those made elsewhere by Muttaburrasaurus
There are also large cylindrical depressions stamped into the earth by at least five different types of long-necked, long-tailed sauropods.
These are the only sauropod tracks in Australia and some of the depressions measure longer than 1.5m.
“They’re beyond the size that you normally expect dinosaur tracks to be,” says Dr Salisbury.
“We’re talking huge, huge tracks, probably made by some of the biggest animals to ever walk the planet.”
The tracks are found along coastal rock shelves and reefs, which are subject to some of the most extreme tides in Australia, with water levels rising 10 to 11m daily, he says.
Many are only exposed for a few hours each day, and only a few days each year, meaning the team has to work quickly.
“It’s a dynamic landscape, and we’ve seen tracks disappear altogether in the time we’ve been working there. Some get buried by shifting sands, while others are destroyed by pounding surf,” says Dr Salisbury.
To speed up the process of mapping and imaging the tracks, the team has adopted a range of new remote sensing technologies.
In addition to making physical moulds of the footprints using a rapid-setting silicon rubber and taking photographs on ground-mounted tripods, the team is now using a handheld LiDAR unit developed by Australia’s national science organisation, the CSIRO.
Dr Salisbury and colleagues can work out how the dinosaurs were moving by using the drones to view them from the air
They are also taking aerial photographs of the track sites using a remote controlled drone and a specialised, low-speed aircraft, which is also fitted with LiDAR.
A LiDAR uses pulsating laser light coupled with a global positioning system. It records the points where the laser light reflects off hard surfaces, combining data from multiple passes to generate a detailed 3D map of the coastline, says Prof Jorg Hacker, director of Airborne Research Australia at Flinders University.
Prof Hacker, the other main investigator on the project, says that for a 3km stretch of beach he usually spends about 1.5 hours flying his motor glider, making roughly 30 passes at altitudes between 20 to 100 metres.
Dr Salisbury says his team can now contextualise the tracks over larger geographic areas, and can better understand which direction the dinosaurs were travelling, whether they were walking or running, and if they were interacting or crossing the landscape in groups, searching for food, or trying to escape predators.
“We can, to a degree, accurately reconstruct scenes that happened 130 million years ago. That’s not imagination, that’s piecing it together from the evidence found in the rocks,” he says.
Best in the world?
“It’s a powerful way of bringing these ancient worlds back to life.”
Footprints require favourable circumstances to fossilise but when that happens a broad array of information is captured in the fossils, says Professor Anthony Martin, a palaeontologist from Emory University in the US specialising in animal tracks, who is not involved in the project.
“From a single, well-preserved dinosaur track way, we can determine the approximate type of dinosaur, its size, its speed, gait, and even how it was reacting to other dinosaurs or the landscape around it,” says Prof Martin.
“Once these tracks are properly surveyed, I would not be surprised if this area turns out to be one of the best dinosaur track sites in the world,” he says.
Once the dinosaurs died out Australia was occupied by the Mega Fauna. Wombats the size of a VW Beetle. Twenty foot tall Kangaroos and the largest carnivorous marsupial – Thylocaleo Carnifex – the Marsupial Lion.
Here is the documentary we made with NOVA and NHK on the excavation from a deep cave underneath Australia’s Nullarbor Plane, of the only fully intact thylacoleo skeleton