Saturday, December 12, 2009

Aesthetics first

The mysterious light phenomena over Norway has been explained, but that doesn't change its beauty. The CSM article has more pictures and videos.

Some may have thought it was a prelude to a close encounter of the third kind. But evidence quickly emerged that it was probably a result of a Russian ballistic missile test.
...
The Russian explanation makes the most sense to William Dimpfl, a senior research scientist at the Aeorospace Corporation.

Dr. Dimpfl, whose non-profit conducts missile research for the US Air Force and NASA, and who has carried out research on the way exhaust is emitted from rockets and the space shuttle, says he's fully convinced that the spiral plume was caused by a man-made missile.

"I looked at the video and my first thought was it’s surprising how pretty it is," says Dimpfl.
...
He said after watching the video that he observed no "atmospheric drag" on the event, which implied the missile was higher than 100 kilometers from the earth's surface – beyond the line between our atmosphere and space. The large, white spiral in the video and images is, in his opinion, "an illuminated solid propellent motor." The spiral, he says, "comes when you have a motor firing off the axis of the vehicle at right angles to the line that connects to the center of mass" yielding a "pinwheel."

As to the tighter, bluish covered spiral that UFO believers have pointed to, he says: "The blue plume was from a motor that was still attached to the vehicle." He says the bluish color was from aluminum oxide that is typically added to the solid propellant used for such motors. "What I believe is that the blue is from solar fluorescence from chemicals in the plume. That’s just aluminium oxide that the sunlight is scattering from. Aluminum oxide is the chemical formula for sapphires, so what you’re looking at is sunlight scattering off lots of tiny sapphires."
I love how he brings a little bit of poetry into a description of a rocket plume.  'Tiny sapphires' indeed.

Remember what I wrote about our coworkers in Who's your city?  The best part of my job is my coworkers.

A luminous oil portrait of a boy, his face partially illuminated by a lamp, hangs in a prominent place in Bill's office.   At first, I assumed he had commissioned a portrait of his son.  He painted that in his first oil painting class.  He'd just learned!

And I am also very impressed with his violin playing.  I had private lessons much longer than he, and I never played that well.

PS There are more pictures of rocket plumes in Take your daughter to work a bit early.

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