A topic about outer-space and everything in it, from little green men to big spirally galaxies

What It Looks Like to Land on an Alien Planet

Plenty of us grew up wanting to be astronauts, dreaming of riding in spaceships and landing on other planets. The high-res video above show you what it might feel like to be landing your own ship on Mars - actually, it *does* show you what it's like, as it is compiled from images taken by the Mars rover Curiosity.

Are Strange Norwegian UFOs Simply Grains of Dust?

Hessdalen Lights (Photo by Leif Havik, copyright Project Hessdalen)

In the Hessdalen valley in Norway, strange lights have been reported floating through the sky for many years. Though interest in the phenomenon peaked in the 1980s, researchers have noted that written records of the luminous mystery go back to 1811. The lights come in a variety of colours (white, yellow and blue), sometimes remain still and sometimes flash, and can suddenly move at extreme speeds upwards into the atmosphere or down into the ground, or into one of the many lakes in the area. Their size has been estimated in some instances to be up to a few cubic metres across, and sometimes they have been observed for longer than ten minutes at a time.

For the past three decades, small groups of scientists have attempted to document and explain the 'Hessdalen Lights', though usually working with few resources and on a shoestring budget. Currently, a collaboration between Norwegian, Italian and French
researchers run 3 different stations at the location, and for a fortnight in September each year they set-up four temporary stations which are manned by up to 100 students and researchers. A couple of recent papers, presented at the 2012 European Geosciences Union General Assembly, suggest that these efforts are starting to make in-roads into the mystery.

In a paper titled "Different states of the transient luminous phenomena in Hessdalen valley, Norway", researchers noted that the Hessdalen Lights observed so far can be categorised into six different 'states' - Doublet, Fireball, Plasma ray, Dust cloud, Flash and Invisible - and that the lights might be caused simply by ionized grains of dust:

The Hessdalen phenomena is not easy to detect, and approximately only 20 observations is done each year. The work done the last 14 years suggests that the phenomenon has different states, at least 6 detected so far. The states are so different that to see a coupling between them is difficult. New work done into dusty plasma physics suggest that the different phenomena’s may be of the same origin, since the ionized grains of dusty plasma can change states from weakly coupled (gaseous) to crystalline, altering shape/formation and leading to different phenomena. Optical spectrometry from 2007 suggested that the luminous phenomena consisted of burning air and dust from the valley. Work done by G.S Paiva and C.A Taft suggests that radon decay from closed mines may be the mechanism that ionizes dust and triggers this phenomena.

The paper notes, however, that further research has indicated that radon is not the energy source, and as such this element of the mystery remains unexplained.

Find out more about Project Hessdalen at the official website, which includes streaming video options if you'd like to keep an eye on the valley yourself.

(via The Examiner, thanks to Jack for the heads-up)

Sh*t Ancient Aliens Say

Sh*t Ancient Aliens Say

Find more alien-themed cartoons at Close Encounters Studios.

(via @levitatingcat)

Flying Saucer Above Mars

Heat-shield from Mars Rover Curiosity

Chances of anything, coming to Mars...

NASA snapped this amazing shot during the descent and landing of the Mars rover Curiosity on August 6th. But the shiny flying disk from another planet wasn't inhabited by Roswellian aliens - it was the newly-discarded heat shield falling from the craft after protecting it from the dangers of entering the Red Planet's atmosphere at high velocity.

Now safely on the ground, Curiosity has just sent back its first high-resolution colour panorama of the alien landscape it now inhabits (see here for the large version).

And not to be outdone by the blow-in, the Mars rover Opportunity - which has been sending back photos of the planet for more than eight and a half years now - recently compiled this absolutely jaw-dropping 360 degree interactive panorama. Assembled from 817 images taken in the last 8 months, it shows Opportunity's view from an outcrop informally named 'Greeley Haven', on the rim of Endeavour Crater.

You need to full-screen this thing, seriously. You can pan around, zoom in...it's like you're standing there on top of the robot, viewing the Martian landscape around you. Absolutely incredible.

Curiosity in the Air (Above Mars)

Curiosity Landing on Mars

What's this? Oh nothing, just A SPACESHIP LANDING ON MARS, PHOTOGRAPHED BY ANOTHER SPACESHIP ORBITING MARS!

In case you've been living under a rock, or watching Olympics 24-7, yesterday the Mars Rover Curiosity/Mars Science Laboratory landed safely on the Red Planet, via an amazing 'sky-crane' manoeuvre from its host spacecraft. The photo above captures it parachuting towards the Martian surface, as imaged by the High-Resolution Imaging Science Experiment (HiRISE) camera aboard NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (and the HiRISE team now think they've also spotted the craft's discarded heat-shield falling in the same shot). Though this isn't the first time that HiRISE has captured such a stunning shot - a couple of years ago it did the same in this spectacular image of the Phoenix lander descending onto Mars.

And if that wasn't enough for you, the Curiosity team have now released time-lapse footage of the rover's landing, from its own perspective:

I'm looking forward to keeping a close eye on Curiosity's investigation of our neighbouring planet. You can too, via the official NASA Mars Science Laboratory website.

The Top Ten UFO Cases, as Voted By UFO Experts

Canadian film-maker Paul Kimball's feature Best Evidence: The Top 10 UFO Cases has been posted to YouTube by UFO-TV, who will also be releasing the documentary in DVD format in the near future. It's an excellent film, featuring some of the top names in the UFO field casting their votes for the strongest UFO cases, and explaining why (see my 2007 review of Best Evidence for a quick summary). Here's an embed of the entire documentary:

Among some of the names featured, you'll find Stan Friedman, Nick Redfern, Kevin Randall, and somewhat poignantly, Karl Pflock and Mac Tonnies.

If the film feels familiar, it may be because I posted a Vimeo version last year. Thought it worth mentioning the new YouTube posting though, for those who may have missed it or prefer watching video through that source.

The Scottish Roswell?

Sputnik

Picture the scene: A shepherd visiting a remote area stumbles upon strange wreckage strewn across the ground which could be the remains of a crashed spaceship. The debris consists of pieces of unusual metal and strange drawings. On reporting his find at the local police station, search teams and military personnel descend on the area. The wreckage disappears – no one knows where – and civilians are told to ‘keep quiet about it.’

You are probably thinking ‘Roswell, New Mexico, 1947’.

But no, this incident occurred in the Scottish Highlands one spring morning in 1962. It has uncanny links to its American cousin, even down to the ‘cover story’ used hide the true identity and purpose of the ‘crashed spaceship.’

On his blog, Dr David Clarke investigates a case from the UK's "UFO Files", citing an investigation by aviation historian Keith Bryers that suggests this "crashed UFO" in Scotland was in fact the payload of an American spy balloon similar to the Mogul balloons which was later claimed (by the USAF) to be the cause of the original Roswell incident.

It's a fascinating look back at the UFO topic during the height of the Cold War - the Cuban Missile Crisis had the entire world on edge, and both East and West were involved in numerous top-secret, high-tech surveillance operations. According to Clarke, in the years before the United States were able to use satellites for observations, the USAF used Scotland as a base for launching dozens of enormous, camera-carrying balloons designed to ride the jet stream to the Soviet Union and take photographs of military and nuclear facilities.

Read: "The Scottish Roswell"

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Oh Blimpic Kind of UFO

While the Olympic Games are usually infested with flying discs, most notably in the discus and trap shooting events, UFO researcher and pundit Nick Pope raised eyebrows a few weeks ago when he suggested that we should keep our eyes on the sky during the Olympic Games, because "if aliens have studied our psychology, they may choose to appear in our skies on a significant date – the closing ceremony of the Olympic Games is one date being widely circulated by conspiracy groups."

But some people at least heeded Pope's advice, because after the opening ceremony of the 2012 Olympics last week, there was suddenly a flurry of internet discussion about a UFO hovering over the event being caught on video footage. Some rational heads suggested it was simply the Goodyear blimp, used for coverage of many sporting events, but many people disagreed, saying that the object was not blimp-shaped, but was instead a disc with the classic flying saucer dome on top:

Personally, all I see is a blimp. It looks like a blimp in profile, with the bright spot at top probably caused by light reflecting from the Moon. This seems more a case of "you see what you want to see". And the blimp suggestion seems far more likely - Goodyear's twitter account acknowledged it was them with a cheeky tweet, and photos on their website and on their Facebook page seem to offer the final nail in the 'Olympic UFO' story.

One ironic note to finish though...one of the photos posted to Goodyear's Facebook page shows the video feed from the blimp looking down on the stadium. And y'know...it's kinda disc-shaped, and has a dome-looking thing in the middle (actually, it looks a bit Spielberg-UFOish)...

Olympic UFO on the Ground?

Adagio in Earth Minor

Another stunning timelapse film, created by Knate Myers from still shots taken on-board the International Space Station, and made even the more brilliant by the accompaniment of John Murphy's Adagio In D Minor from the wonderful soundtrack to the sci-fi film Sunshine. Full-screen the hell out of this, sit back, and pretend you're on your own personal spaceship flying past the Earth:

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UK UFO Files Part 9

The British Ministry of Defence has released the ninth instalment of the public dump of their 'UFO files', which can for a restricted period be freely downloaded from the UFO page at the National Archives. Along with the files you'll find a highlights guide as well as a briefing guide written by Dr David Clarke pointing out some of the more interesting material amongst the mass of documents. Here's Clarke discussing some material from the new release:

Opinions regarding the release of these files over the past couple of years has for the most part polarised into two camps of (a) true believers saying it's all disinformation and a front, and (b) skeptics saying "see, nothing of interest, the government don't care about this phenomenon". I find myself in the middle of these views - while I'm sure most sightings have prosaic explanations, and the release of information may not be a 'front', I personally very much doubt that any national/defence intelligence agency would be casually disregarding constant sightings of strange craft in the sky, both in terms of possible surveillance or armed threat (especially in the post-9/11 age, and now with the rise in use of unmanned drones), and also in terms of a mythos that could be manipulated to their own ends. Ironically, in newly released document DEFE-24-2080-1, one of the MoD's own mentions as much in applying for funds to study the phenomenon more closely:

Until we conduct some analysis of the files we will not have any idea what the many reports represent. If at any stage in the future UAPs (Unidentified Aerial Phenomena) are shown to exist then there is the potential for severe embarrassment. We can justifiably be asked how we could receive so many reports and ignore them. If I had a suspicious nature I might assume that there is a high level remit on the DIS not to investigate UAPs for some reason!

The request for £80,000 of funding came on the back of frustration that although DI 55 had been tasked with the study of UFOs for 13 years (as of the submission in 1995), "during that time the many reports received have been filed and no analysis has ever been undertaken. No serious follow up has ever occurred to any incident". Does anyone seriously think intelligence agencies would not be following up at least some of these reports?

You can find more commentary on the latest release of the 'UK UFO Files' on Dr David Clarke's personal website.

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