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No. 10: Spring 1980

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Luminous Ripples Move Through The Night Sky

A.W. Peterson, during his studies of nighttime airglow in the infrared, has reported three events also invisible to the naked eye. The most spectacular event occurred on the night of April 4-5, 1978, when luminous ripples were observed at about 90 kilometers altitude moving at 91 meters/second, with a crest-to-crest wavelength of 16 kilome ters. The precise source of the visible light is still in doubt as is the identity of the stimulus causing the glowing ripples. Peterson has noted some correlation between the ripples, both visible and infrared, and the lunar high tide in the atmosphere. Gravity waves could thus be the stimulus creating the ripples.

(Peterson, Alan W.; "Airglow Events Visible to the Naked Eye," Applied Optics, 18:3390, 1979.)

Comment. Peterson's work may lead to explanations of the auroral "meteors" and the many reports of "banded sky" from astronomers.

Luminous ripples moving through the night sky

From Science Frontiers #10, Spring 1980. 1980-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987