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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