Space Oddity - Can any one explain the green glow in the night sky?
April 17, 2008 1:27 AM   Subscribe

Astronomy question: there's been a vertical green glow in the night sky, south by southwest (near the moon) for the last two nights in the Pacific North West. Any suggestions what it might be?

Specifically, I saw it near the endowment lands in Vancouver west. It's been seen over the last two nights. I know tonight was overcast and the origins might be terrestrial, however, any suggestions as to what it might be would be greatly appreciated!
posted by phyrewerx to Science & Nature (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Possibly moon rings or moon pillars?
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 2:17 AM on April 17, 2008

Not a lot of natural things glow green. I'd expect it is terrestrial - probably man made - and made more visible by some phenomenon like le morte suggests. I think this is especially likely if you've seen it from the same location (or at least approximately) both times.
posted by edd at 2:27 AM on April 17, 2008

aurora borealis can be many colors, but green and red are the most common. green is the easiest to see, because the human eye is most sensitive to green light. apparently the aurora is sometimes visible in vancouver.
posted by sergeant sandwich at 4:37 AM on April 17, 2008

I'd be surprised if the northern lights were seen mostly to the south.
posted by edd at 4:47 AM on April 17, 2008

Total shot in the dark, but it might be one of the super greenhouses. In South Delta they produce quite an eerie glow at night, but I don't remember any of them ever being green.
posted by synecdoche at 5:21 AM on April 17, 2008

I don't know jhow close you are to the ocean there, but could it be Squid fishing? Squid boats shine bright lights into the water to attract squid. I've seen something similar near beaches in Rhode Island.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 5:56 AM on April 17, 2008

Some astronomical observatories use powerful green lasers (doubled Nd:YAGs) for "seeing" correction as well as other applications. An example with another color laser.
posted by fatllama at 7:00 AM on April 17, 2008

... and one of those "other applications" is laser lunar ranging, which might explain why it seems pointed at the moon.
posted by fatllama at 7:03 AM on April 17, 2008

Not that many telescopes have laser guide stars fitted. I can't think of any sizeable enough that would be near Vancouver - no offense to those living that way but I doubt it's got the best skies for that kind of thing. And it'd be unlikely to be described as a 'glow' - a laser guide star isn't much good if the conditions make it seem diffuse.
posted by edd at 7:58 AM on April 17, 2008

There was an odd swarm of earthquakes off the coast of Oregon reported a few days ago. Maybe it's some kind of an oceanic variation of the electrcal phenomena associated with earthquake glow interacting with the northern lights. You are fairly near the "deformation zone" of the Juan De Fuca plate, and the earthquakes happened near the center of that plate.
posted by jamjam at 8:41 AM on April 17, 2008

Maybe the approach lighting for the airport?
posted by cardboard at 8:49 AM on April 17, 2008

Google Blog Search - By date - 4th down.

Laser in sky a research project
"That intense green light shooting into space from the University of B.C. on clear nights isn't a signal to aliens to land at Wreck Beach or some malevolent party intent on blinding the cockpit crew of a jumbo jet using Vancouver International Airport.

A Vancouver Sun reader had called on Tuesday after seeing the green light, concerned that it posed a threat to aircraft.

But Transport Canada communications adviser Jillian Glover said Wednesday it was nothing to be alarmed over. "It's a laser operated by the Centre for Atmospheric Research Experiments at UBC," said Glover."
posted by B(oYo)BIES at 8:55 AM on April 17, 2008

Utah State University in Logan, UT also has a huge green laser on top of one of the dormitory buildings, dubbed The Green Beam.

The beam must be six inches to a foot across, because you can see it from anywhere in town when it's running, and presumably from Logan Canyon as well. It's quite striking the first time you see it.

Wow cool, Google comes through.
posted by SlyBevel at 7:18 AM on April 18, 2008

It's quite striking the first time you see it.

In fact, the first time I saw it, I was staying with a friend at USU. I'm pretty sure my exact words at the time were:

"Good hell, that is a HUGE laser. What are they doing over there?"
posted by SlyBevel at 7:29 AM on April 18, 2008

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