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"Missing" Moon Linked To Major 1761 Eruption? - UPDATE

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Author Topic: "Missing" Moon Linked To Major 1761 Eruption? - UPDATE  (Read 112 times)
Bianca
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« on: January 20, 2009, 10:03:12 am »










                                           "Missing" Moon Linked to Major 1761 Eruption?






Ker Than
for National Geographic News
January 16, 2009

A "disappearing" moon that preceded an unusually bitter winter in China was most likely the result of a mysterious volcanic eruption in the 1700s, a retired NASA scientist says.

Astronomer Kevin D. Pang collected evidence from the fields of geology, biology, and Chinese history that suggests a major eruption belched out enough dust and gas to completely blot out the moon during a 1761 total lunar eclipse.

A total eclipse occurs when the moon enters completely into Earth's shadow.


http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2008/02/080221-eclipse-video-ap.html

(Watch video of the February 2008 lunar eclipse—the last total eclipse of the moon until December 2010.)


Lunar eclipses can vary in brightness and color based on the angle of the moon's path and the composition of Earth's atmosphere.

While no sunlight hits the moon directly, some gets filtered by Earth's atmosphere and is bent toward the moon, causing it to shine in hues ranging from bright orange to blood red.

"But when there's a large volcanic eruption," Pang said, "the moon can drop in brightness by a million times, or in some cases disappear altogether."

Pang presented his results last week during the 213th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Long Beach, California.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2009, 10:26:23 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #1 on: January 20, 2009, 10:11:26 am »









Volcanic Winter



Heavy amounts of particles in the air could explain why, in May of 1761, astronomers reported that the moon appeared very dark or disappeared altogether, even with the aid of telescopes.

An atmosphere clogged by a powerful volcanic eruption would also lead to global cooling and trigger extended bouts of strange weather, experts say.


(Related: "Ancient Global Dimming Linked to Volcanic Eruption" [March 19, 2008].)

                           SEE BELOW


To test his theory, Pang searched the scientific literature about tree rings and ice cores from Antarctica and Greenland. He found evidence of a "volcanic winter" around the same time as the dark eclipse. 

For example, sulfur dioxide gas ejected during a volcanic eruption can react with water vapor in the air to form acid rain, which then leaves chemical fingerprints in polar ice.

Furthermore, bristlecone pine trees high in the Sierra Nevada mountains experienced stunted growth and frost damage in 1761, Pang said.

The researcher also looked through old Chinese weather chronicles from the early 1760s. Those records revealed that large parts of China experienced an unusually bitter winter and heavy snowfall in 1761 and 1762.

Rivers and wells across central China froze, ships could not sail, and innumerable trees, birds, and livestock died due to the cold, the chronicles state.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2009, 10:21:55 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #2 on: January 20, 2009, 10:14:59 am »










Finding a Culprit



A good candidate for the cause of the 1761 events is the Makian volcano on the Indonesian island of Halmahera, Pang thinks. Records show that this volcano experienced a series of eruptions beginning in September of 1760 and lasting until spring of the following year.

Makian's equatorial position could explain why evidence of its eruption was found at both poles.

But it's also possible the culprit volcano went unrecorded, Pang added.

Richard Keen is a climatologist at the University of Colorado in Boulder who was not involved in the study.

"[Pang] is absolutely correct in saying that volcanoes can darken a lunar eclipse," Keen said. But for the 1761 event, he noted, historical accounts about the dimness of the moon varied by geographical location.

Most of the reports of the moon disappearing were from astronomers in Sweden, Finland, and northwestern Russia. At more southern latitudes, the moon only appeared dimmer than usual.

The differing accounts could be due to the patchy distribution of dust and sulfur particles that occurs shortly after a volcanic eruption, said Fred Espenak, an eclipse expert at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland.

"But if this dust is up there long enough, it tends to uniformly distribute itself over weeks or months," said Espenak, who also did not participate in the research.

Espenak witnessed a modern dimming of the moon during a total lunar eclipse in 1992. That event was also probably due to a volcano, he said.

"It was here in Maryland, but the volcano was Mount Pinatubo in the Philippines the year before."

Michael Baillie, a paleoecologist at Queen's University Belfast in the U.K., said Pang's claim is "very interesting and indeed plausible," but he questioned the scientific usefulness of using lunar eclipses to pinpoint historic volcanic eruptions.

Pang is "almost intimating that we should be able to look at very black eclipses and assess that volcanoes have gone off," Baillie said.

"But it's always going to be a patchy thing. If someone didn't see an eclipse, is that because it was obscured [by volcanic smog] or because it was cloudy that night?"
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Bianca
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« Reply #3 on: January 20, 2009, 10:24:08 am »










                                Ancient Global Dimming Linked to Volcanic Eruption







Ker Than
for National Geographic News

March 19, 2008
A "dry fog" that muted the sun's rays in A.D. 536 and plunged half the world into a famine-inducing chill was triggered by the eruption of a supervolcano, a new study says.

The cause of the sixth-century global dimming has long been a matter of debate, but a team of international researchers recently discovered acidic sulphate molecules, which are signs of an eruption, in Greenland ice.

This is the first physical evidence for the A.D. 536 event, which according to ancient texts from Mesoamerica, Europe, and Asia brought on a cold darkness that withered crops, sparked wars, and helped spread pestilence.

Scientists had suspected the dry fog was caused by a volcanic eruption or a comet strike, but searches had failed to uncover evidence for either catastrophe—until now.

"There is no need at the moment to invoke a large-scale extraterrestrial event as the cause, because the evidence is conclusive enough to say that it is certainly consistent with it being a large volcano," said study team member Keith Briffa of the University of East Anglia in the United Kingdom.

The discovery is detailed in a recent issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters
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Bianca
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« Reply #4 on: January 20, 2009, 10:27:02 am »




             


Ancient Global Dimming Linked to Volcanic Eruption 




Filipino farmers plow their rice fields as Mount Pinatubo spews ash following a major eruption in this photo taken July 8, 1991.

A year-long global cooling followed—but it was nothing compared to a massive cooling event in A.D. 536 that withered crops, sparked wars, and helped spread pestilence.

Now scientists have uncovered the first physical evidence that the ancient chill was due to a supervolcano eruption.



Photograph by
Bullit Marquez
/AP
« Last Edit: January 20, 2009, 10:28:54 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2009, 10:30:20 am »









Global Ashfall



Tests show the Greenland sulphate molecules were deposited sometime between A.D. 533 and 536. This date correlates well with a sulphate peak found in an Antarctic ice core.

The team suspects the eruption occurred near the Equator, since its ash fell on both ends of the globe.

The Greenland evidence is also consistent with tree-ring data from around the Northern Hemisphere that show reduced growth rates lasting more than a decade starting in A.D. 536.

Curiously, the eruption's cooling effect did not extend to the southern hemisphere, the scientists say.

Together, the tree-ring and acid evidence suggest the sixth-century eruption was even bigger than Indonesia's Mount Tambora eruption of 1815, which also dimmed the sun.
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« Reply #6 on: January 20, 2009, 10:32:55 am »








Not Definitive



Ken Wohletz, a volcanologist at Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico, said that while the new evidence strongly supports a large volcanic eruption, a space impact can't be ruled out yet.

"Over two-thirds of Earth's surface is covered with water, and because erosion so quickly wipes away evidence of impacts, the knowledge of when large-scale impacts have occurred in the past is still very incomplete," said Wohletz, who was not involved in the study.

To cement their case, volcano advocates will need to find ash layers deposited by the blast, Wohletz said.

William Ryan, an oceanographer at Columbia University's Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory in New York, believes it is only a matter of time until ash layers are found.

"I suspect we haven't searched adequately, but this paper will start a hunt," Ryan said.
« Last Edit: January 20, 2009, 10:34:26 am by Bianca » Report Spam   Logged

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Bianca
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« Reply #7 on: January 20, 2009, 10:34:50 am »









Indelible Mark



According to written records, the dry fog lingered for just over a year—leaving an indelible mark on human history.

Chinese historians recorded famine events and summer frosts for years after the event.

It was also around this time that a band of Mongolian nomads called the Avars migrated westward toward Europe, where they would eventually establish an empire.

The group may have left home when grasslands that their horses grazed on withered under the darkened skies, historians say.

More controversially, some historians claim that drought caused by the fog contributed to the decline of the Mesoamerican city of Teotihuacan.

(Related story: "New Digs Decoding Mexico's Pyramids of Fire'" [October 21, 2005].)

The spread of bubonic plague throughout Europe and the Middle East, the rise of Islam, and even the fall of the Roman Empire have also been controversially tied to the event.
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« Reply #8 on: January 20, 2009, 10:36:23 am »










Still Vulnerable



If a similar volcanic eruption were to occur today, the effects could be just as devastating, experts say.

(See photos of modern volcanoes around the world.)

The reduced sunlight and ashfall would affect agriculture worldwide, and the thick veil of dust and ash could cripple transportation and communication systems.

"Most aircraft cannot fly in [volcanic] dust clouds," Los Alamos's Wohletz said.

"And these dust clouds have a large electrostatic potential that disrupts radio communication."

To make matters worse, there is practically nothing humans can do to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again—or to lessen its effects.

"In today's society, we're no less independent of nature than humankind has ever been," Wohletz said.

"In fact, we might even be more dependent on it."
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