12 Dec 2009

Mysterious Blue Spiral

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Unfortunately dim 0:30 video

The Escapist describes the mysterious sign that appeared in the Norwegian skies, appropriately timed to mark Barack Obama’s Nobel Peace Prize.

Astronomers and Norwegian citizens alike have been baffled by the appearance of a strange blue spiral light in the sky above the Scandinavian country last night: Was it aliens, evil Russians, or just a Dante’s Inferno marketing stunt? …

Witnesses in the north of the country reported an unusual atmospheric phenomenon that began when “what appeared to be a blue light seemed to soar up from behind a mountain. It stopped mid-air, then began to circulate … Within seconds a giant spiral had covered the entire sky. Then a green-blue beam of light shot out from its centre – lasting for ten to twelve minutes before disappearing completely.”

The Norwegian Meteorological Institute was hammered by a flood of telephone calls after the light show had concluded, though astronomers say that the startling display was not connected to the Aurora Borealis.

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Daily Tech reports that Russian news sources have identified the source of the phenomenon, and it had nothing to do with peace.

on Thursday the Russian newspaper Vedomosti cited a military source as saying the phenomenon was caused by a failed test launch of a intercontinental missile, dubbed Bulava. Past launches had failed on the first stage, but this launch reportedly went off without a hitch, before experiencing the strange failure on the third stage.

The Russia armed forces initially denied these reports. However, another source, stationed in Severodvinsk, told newspaper Kommersant that the Russian nuclear sub “Dmitri Donskoy” launched Monday for a program of test launches at sea. The “Dmitri Donskoy” is reportedly the only sub capable of launching the Bulava missile.

On Thursday, more than 24 hours after the incident Russia decided to take responsibility for the incident. The Ministry of Defense’s press service told ITAR-TSS that the strange show was indeed generated by a third stage failure of the missile.

There are still unexplained details about the event that are sure to excite conspiracy theorists. First of all the blue-green light would suggest the presence of copper(II) chloride in the rocket flame. However, copper chloride, while commonly used in pyrotechnics, isn’t hasn’t traditionally been used in rocket fuel (though it has been reportedly investigated as a catalyst in propellant reactions). Also strange is that a similar spiral and explosion occurred over China last year, according to the Daily Mail. If it was indeed the third stage that caused the scene over Norway, and no previous launch had made it past the first stage, it’s unclear what might have caused the similar scene in China.

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