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The most mystifying phenomena of nature

Ancient (and not only ancient) people, not knowing the structure of the world, came up with the most interesting explanations for various natural phenomena. I suggest today to recall some of these phenomena, the legends associated with them, and find out what it really is.

St. Elmo’s lights

Sometimes mysterious lights appear on the masts and yards of the ship, which suddenly light up and so EE suddenly disappear, leaving not even a trace of flame on the tree. The sailor’s legend of these lights combines two versions. According to the first version, this phenomenon is associated with Saint Elm (aka Saint Erasmus) – the patron Saint of sailors. Allegedly, before his death, he promised the sailors to appear in some form to warn them of the danger. In different situations, the lights that appeared on the masts were regarded differently: sometimes the captains considered them a good omen, sometimes-the opposite.
According to the second version (also sometimes good, and sometimes – on the contrary), the lights were the souls of the drowned, who did not receive a Church repose. Both of these versions are medieval, but the ancient Greeks considered the lights to be phenomena of the demigod brothers castor and Polydeucus and their sister Helen. And the Greeks had a clear definition: if the lights are double – then fortunately, if single-then wait for trouble.

In fact, this is just an electrical discharge (the so-called “corona discharge”) that occurs at the sharp ends of tall objects. And it can be anything-towers, masts, standing alone trees, sharp peaks of rocks and sometimes (though rarely) even a person. Such discharges are formed when the electric field intensity in the atmosphere reaches 500 volts per meter or more near these objects: this happens during or shortly before a storm, and in winter – during snowstorms. Another case of such fires was first recorded on June 24, 1982, when a British Airways Boeing 747-236B was caught in a cloud of volcanic ash over the island of Java. Fortunately, no one was injured then.

Solar eclipse

Oh, and what terrible omens were not attributed to the solar Eclipse by various peoples! From wars, the birth of tyrants and the murder of rulers to the end of the world. If you believe each such prediction, then humanity should die about 237 times in a hundred years – this is how many solar eclipses (160 — partial, 63 — total, 14 — ring-shaped) occur during this time.
Today we know that in fact nothing terrible happens to the Sun: no giant snakes or wolves devour our sun. It’s just that the shadow of the moon blocks the light from our star for a while, that’s all.

By the way, the next total solar Eclipse in Moscow will be visible only on 16.10.2126. So we are, alas,”not shining”.

Parade of planets

A phenomenon that a person who is not interested in astronomy will not notice at all was considered very important by ancient and medieval magicians, priests, and simply astronomers and astrologers. There were hundreds of interpretations, and all of them were chosen: one was darker than the other.

Today we are already aware that there is nothing mystical in this, just from time to time it turns out that the “movement charts” of the planets coincide and several planets become visible simultaneously in one segment of the starry sky. Moreover, astronomers distinguish a Small parade (four planets are lined up in one line – most often it is Venus, Mars, Saturn and mercury. This parade happens every year.) and a Large parade (six planets line up, usually Earth, Venus, Jupiter, Mars, Saturn, and Uranus . This phenomenon is more rare, only once in 20 years)
Four planets and the Moon before dawn may 1, 2011, Paranal Observatory

And despite all the knowledge, the Parade of planets continue to give the most terrible properties. So in the movie “2012” because of the parade of planets on earth, there are many disasters; in the movie “Mummy: Prince of Egypt” because of the parade of planets, the same evil mummy is resurrected; and in the 13th episode of season 3 of the X-files, two girls born during the parade of planets were the focus of evil.


Do you think that mirages are somewhere far away in the deserts, and only caravaneers from Eastern fairy tales have seen them? Well, there is another myth around mirages! In fact, we see mirages so often that we do not even attach importance to them. Remember the haze over the hot asphalt, when it glistens like water on it. This is a Mirage! The real one. It’s just that in deserts, mountains, and the sea, such optical phenomena occur much more often and they are more voluminous.

A Mirage is actually an optical illusion that occurs at the border of different density layers of air. Because of this, the observer sees the reflection of the object (or part of the sky) distorted, shifted relative to the object, and so on. There is even a classification of mirages: lower, upper and side.

In the first case, a Mirage occurs when the air temperature drops sharply with altitude – this is just the effect over a desert, paved road, etc.. In this case, we see a distorted reflection of the sky and clouds.
Mirage over the paved road

In the second case (upper Mirage), this is completely the opposite situation – the temperature at the surface is lower than at altitude (Yes,it happens!). Then the Mirage is reversed. The reflection of objects from the ground is projected onto the sky. This is how the legends of omens, flying cities, and sky riders arose.

With the side, too, everything is clear – the mechanism of the phenomenon is the same as in the first two.

But there are two other types of mirages. They are the most interesting and mysterious. The first is a three-dimensional Mirage. This phenomenon is very rare and even a modern person can be very annoying. It’s no joke-you’re walking through the mountains and suddenly you come face to face with… yourself! Naturally, there is no double, just under a very special set of circumstances (among which there must be the presence of “standing” water vapor in the air), you see such a reflection. A similar, but not so plausible effect can be seen when you get into a very dense fog. I saw – not a very pleasant impression…

But the most fascinating type of Mirage is the Fata Morgana. It is also very rare, because it is not a single Mirage, but a whole group of mirages that overlap each other. As a result, the reflections of objects are repeatedly duplicated, distorted, and give rise to completely new visual effects.

Look at the photo: it shows Fata Morgana near the city of Santa Cruz in California on the North shore of Monterey Bay. It seems that a long bridge is visible in the fog, although in fact there is no bridge (or even anything like it!) in these places there is no. 33 minutes passed between the first and last image of the Mirage.

Incredible, isn’t it?

Northern lights

Oh, how many legends the Aurora Borealis is covered with! In ancient Germano-Norse mythology, it was transformed (from a combination of the Aurora Borealis and the rainbow) into a shining bridge connecting Midgard (the world of men) with Asgard (the world of the gods). By the way, people were not allowed to cross this bridge because the base of the bridge was made of flames. So only the gods could walk through it.

The same Norsemen sometimes attributed the celestial flashes to the glow of torches carried by Valkyries when escorting the bravest warriors to Valhalla. Plus, the torchlight is reflected in the Valkyries ‘ armor.

Other Northern peoples believed that the glow in the sky appears when the dead virgins dance – their dance has always served as a harbinger of snow and winds.
Shining in winter in Alaska

The Eskimos believed that the Northern lights were caused by whistling, and that a loud clap of the hands could make them disappear. However, according to another version of the same Eskimos, the Northern lights happen when the gods play a kind of football, but, of course, not with a ball, but with the skull of a walrus.

But the Australian aborigines (I feel that now you are surprised) are sure that this is a joyous dance of the gods in the sky, so this glow is rather a good sign.

So about the Australian aborigines: in Australia, you can really see the glow. Because actually it is not called the North, and the Arctic. And it depends not on the cold, but on the magnetic poles. This radiance occurs due to the interaction of the upper layers of the planets ‘ atmospheres and the plasma layer (the region of near-planetary space) with charged particles of the solar wind. And about the planets, this is also not a reservation: almost identical phenomena occur on other planets, this has already been scientifically recorded.

When the energetic particles of the plasma layer collide with the upper atmosphere, the atoms and gas molecules that make up it are excited. The color of the radiance depends on this. For Earth, the most striking colors are the colors of excited oxygen and nitrogen and their combinations (we see them as red, green, bright white, and blue).

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