A Look Back: Belgium’s UFO Crisis

Alarmed Belgians started to report disc-like objects in the sky on November 25, 1989. These were later believed to be the result of an elaborate nightclub show, but that didn’t change the fact that UFO fever had hit the European nation in a big way.

The “Case”

A black isosceles triangle (shown above) with dancing lights was first spotted by a pair of police officers. No military activity in the region caused the sighting and ultimately, an estimated 13,500 people witnessed the event.

Other witnesses of the object claimed that they heard a sound that resembled the noise that a ventilator makes. They also believed that an object similar to a turbine was spinning behind the apparent alien spacecraft. SOBEPS, the largest UFO organization in Belgium, released at least two volumes detailing the incidents.

Alternative Theory

While it may be disappointing to individuals who put a great deal of stock into the Belgian triangles, at least one scientist argued that the original sighting was caused by exhaust. A pollution cloud coming from a nearby power facility might very well have radiated enough heat to warp the air. Anyone driving on a hot road has seen what heat can do to one’s vision. The lights, for that matter, might very well have come from a smokestack.

Regardless of what caused them, the triangles did cause quite a stir in the small country at the time. What are your thoughts on UFO’s in general? Is there enough evidence that alien crafts are visiting Earth on a regular basis? I remain skeptical however If I were to personally see something in the sky resembling the image above, I have to admit I’d most certainly be alarmed (at the very least). Alas, to date I have yet to personally see a real-life UFO despite the many hours I’ve spent examining the night sky over the years. Perhaps someday I’ll catch a glimpse of something that is worth investigating further. Until then, I’ll continue to indulge my fascination with all the other great things going on up there. Have a great weekend everyone!

Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) Overview

At its completion in 2016, the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope (LSST) will provide the largest ever survey of the night sky. It will deliver 30 terabytes of data each night. LSST will consist of an 8.4 meter telescope and the 3.2 billion pixel camera. Astronomers hope the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope will deliver 5.6 million 15 second images over its ten year lifetime. The images will then be cataloged and made available for viewing by both the public and researchers.  Astronomers hope these images will allow them to create a 3D map of the universe. In addition, they hope it will greatly increase their understanding of dark matter and dark energy.

The location was carefully chosen after much debate. The location has an altitude of 2,715 meters above sea level. The mountain is known to have some of the darkest skies in the world. The area has very little rainfall and one of the most stable environments on Earth. A stable atmosphere with a large number of clear nights will greatly assist astronomers in collecting data. The Cerro Pachon Mountain is currently home to the Gemini South Telescope and the Southern Astrophysical Research Telescope. The planned location is just northwest of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory.

Be back tomorrow with a little information on another amazing endeavor – ESA’s Gaia project!

Reference:

The New Sky | LSST. (n.d.). Large Synoptic Survey Telescope. Retrieved March 27, 2012, from http://www.lsst.org/lsst/

Where Are The Darkest Skies in the World?

Have you ever wondered where the best place in the world is to see the night sky? The International Dark Sky Association has the answer for you. They have designated five places in the world as gold tier international dark sky parks.

In order to qualify for this award, the land must be publically owned, open to the public at least part of the night and meet strict rules in the surrounding area to protect the quality of the night sky from light pollution. While many have tried for this honor, only five in the world have achieved this level of success.

The largest gold tier International Dark Sky Park in the United States is Big Bend National Park in west Texas with 803,000 acres. The park has also been declared as having the darkest skies in the lower 48 states, due to strict light ordinances in the few neighboring communities. Big Bend National Park was not a Dark Sky Park until February, 2012.

Other gold tier dark sky parks in the United States include Cherry Springs in Pennsylvania, Clayton Lake State Park in New Mexico, and National Bridges Natural Monument in Utah. Each of these parks has an active program to help families enjoy the night sky. The only international gold tier dark sky park is Galloway Forest Park located in Scotland.

Now you know where to go for unparalleled star gazing goodness.

Happy universe hunting!

Image Credit: David Hardy

Reference:

http://www.darksky.org/IDSParks