Monday, July 29, 2013

Unearthly Spirals in the Sky?

Some of the strangest things you'll ever see in the sky are not necessarily UFO's.

Just do a Google image-search on the term Norway sky spiralor just sky spiral and you’ll get tons of photos from the Dec. 9, 2009 event seen by hundreds in the sky over Norway. Oh, and by the way, you may end up on some very strange websites... so be warned.

As unbelievably strange and Photoshopped as those images seem – that’s exactly what these events look like. What you are seeing is not cumulative time-smeared imagery, these portray immediate "snapshots" of the effect of a moment's glance at the sky....

I can say so, because I have seen one myself.

And as I said above, that's exactly what they look like. The night was Aug.12, 1986 and I was doing one of my annual public Stargazing presentations for the South Park Nature Program...  It was the night of the Perseid Meteor shower and we had 25 witnesses at our event, including John Doyle, the park naturalist. Of course, being the night of the annual Perseid Meteor Shower, many hundreds of folks all over the eastern United States were already watching the sky that night and saw the (8/12/1986) event also. 

- For full details of that event, see this excellent article by 

author of several  fascinating histories of the American and Russian space programs...  


Sorry, UFO / Conspiracy enthusiasts,  there are few if any unknowns here...

1.) A rocket is launched to insert a satellite into orbit...

2.) Upon the rocket reaching orbital speed and altitude, its payload is released into orbit.

3.) Either if successful in it's attempt to achieve #2., or not, the booster's remaining fuel is released ("vented") at a specific moment with the intent of slowing the booster and thereby causing the booster to drop out of orbit and fall harmlessly into the ocean.

4.) As the fuel is released (un-ignited) and with guidance systems and stabilizing jets no longer effective, the booster spins wildly as the fuel sprays out into the vacuum of space. The rarified vapor from the fuel expands exponentially and disperses in a cloud which rapidly spreads over an area of literally dozens (hundreds?) of miles and it's of such an altitude that, if the timing is right, its effects can be seen illuminated by the Sun's light although the area on the ground below from which it's being observed may already have been rolled over into the Earth's shadow (nighttime) for several hours. 

If this had happened against a sunlit sky over the daylight side of the Earth (or much later at night and therefore completely within the Earth's shadow) the event would have been invisible.
(c) 2013 Eric Canali 
ADDENDUM   re the 2009 Norway event, from:
“ UPDATE ( Dec. 10. 2009):

    Russia has finally admitted a missile accident with the Bulava ICBM. 
This rocket already has failed six of 13 previous tests, according to the BBC, 
so Russia might have been a little embarrassed about it.
    In what seems to confirm a rocket launch, yesterday, 

a message from NAVTEX was issued message warning airplanes not to fly, 
and ships not to sail in that area :
          ZCZC FA79
          031230 UTC DEC 09
          1.ROCKET LAUNCHING 2300 07 DEC TO 0600 08 DEC
          09 DC 0200 TO 0900 10 DEC 0100 TO 0900



Wednesday, June 26, 2013


Friday, JULY 12th9-PM to midnight 
at the South Park WAVE POOL PARKING LOT...

Our annual STARGAZING program for the South Park Nature program...
Eric Canali's been doing this program for South Park since the mid 1980's and in recent years Erik and Tony have become indispensable additions to to the event.

We'll have a number of different types of telescopes and, weather permitting, we'll be looking at Saturn, and the Moon and a host of star clusters and nebulae as well as lots of first-hand instruction on learning your way around the sky including how the sky "works" and which constellations are up and where to look.

Those of you who need help are welcome to bring your own scopes and we'll help you with learning how to setup and use them too.


Thursday, March 14, 2013

Comet PanSTARRS over the South Hills

Comet PanSTARRS has arrived in our skies. It's one of the nicest
we've had in the last couple years but will require clear skies and
a low, unobstructed view of the northwest horizon.

Keep up with the latest observing info on S&T's page:

What to expect...
HERE'S MY NOTES from my first view of the comet:

It took until around 8:15 PM EDT before I could pick it up. Sunset was around 7:26 or so; beautiful clear sky but a full 12 degrees or more of horizon-murk persisted the whole time. It was only about 8 degrees off the horizon when I located it and about 5-10 degrees north of due west. 

I was using my 20x80 Celestron Binocs on heavy studio-style photo-tripod. Observing site: my 3rd floor window at my home along the ridgetop of Brookline. My view from that window gives me nearly 180 degrees of unobstructed SW/W/NW horizon which I confirmed as virtually Zero-degrees altitude by using a finely graduated pendulum-protractor squared on the center-axle  of my 20x80's. 

 Watched it dim in and out as the layers of horizon-murk passed between me and it. Tracked it down to just under 5 degrees. I can't imagine that dark-sky sites would be worth the trouble; far more important here will be skies that run dead-clear down from 10 degrees through the last 5 degrees to the horizon. 

Looks like a comet, albeit wedge-shaped, not just a fuzz-patch.

Assessing it from this session vs. the published maps, I'd say looking for it will -remain- as challenging as this and will continue to require nights as clear as tonight and better, of course the (unlikely) occurrence of less horizon-murk would call for "exceptional" skies. I say "remain challenging" since the maps indicate that it's not due to climb much higher but instead simply creep northward through the coming weeks. 

 - ERIC C. @Thurs. March 14th, 2013