Milky Way Sea: On the Path of the Mysterious Sea Glow

Sciences Mysterious sea glow

“It feels like sailing on the snow!”

One crew member noted in the log: "Waking up at 2200 the sea was white"

One of the crew recorded in the log: “On waking at 2200 the sea was white.”

Source: Steven Miller, Leon Schommer (ph

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For centuries there have been reports from sailors of an unusual night glow in the sea: the surface of the water then appears as a brightly lit snowy surface. American researchers are now close to sea glare.

nVery rarely, perhaps once or twice a year, parts of the ocean turn a surface glowing like milk at night. It is not yet possible to predict when and where the mysterious sea glow will occur. The researcher hopes for better research options.

With the help of satellite data, in the future, the mysterious sea glare can be identified at an early stage, and thus perhaps it will be better scientifically examined. As reported by Stephen Miller of the University of California, the observations of the crew of the yacht that passed through the so-called “Milky Way” in the eastern Indian Ocean at the beginning of August 2019 correspond to images from space.

Writing in the Proceedings of the US National Academy of Sciences, Miller reported that crew reports at the site dispelled any doubt that the phenomenon could be measured by satellite.

Bacteria may produce glare

For centuries, there have been reports from sailors of an unusual and rare night glow in the sea that gives the surface the appearance of a brightly lit ice sheet. Such observations have been made in the northwest Indian Ocean and in a marine region of Southeast Asia between the Indo-Pacific Oceans.

2019 picture of sea glow in Australia

2019 picture of sea glow in Australia

Source: Steven Miller, Leon Schommer (ph

The persistent glow likely resulted from bacteria capable of bioluminescence, ie emitting visible light, possibly in combination with microalgae.

Due to its extreme rarity and unpredictability, many questions about this phenomenon remain unanswered to this day. According to Miller, measurements from satellites can now make progress possible: The US Meteorological and Oceanographic Administration (NOAA) operates satellites with an instrument that can also detect very weak light.

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Evaluating measurement data from the past 10 years, a team led by Miller recently found, among other things, indications of sea glare between July and September 2019 south of the Indonesian island of Java. It covered an area of ​​more than 100,000 square kilometers – roughly the size of Iceland.

“When I woke up at 2200, the sea was white”

At that time, a 7-man crew yacht passed through the sea area – and noticed the night glow. “Wake up at 2200, the sea is white. There is no moon and the sea seems to be fuller? Plankton? But the bow wave is black! It gives the impression that you are sailing on ice!”

Snapshot of sea glare in Australia

A shot of a glowing sea in Australia

Source: Steven Miller, Leon Schommer (ph

After hearing media reports about satellite measurements of the Milky Way, the crew shared their own experiences with the researchers. Accordingly, they dragged a bucket of water on the ship during the night and identified several points in it with equal glow. Taking water does not cut the glare in the sea, and turns the water dark.

According to the captain’s impression, the glow came from the deeper layers of water, and not from the surface. Miller wrote in his article that this speaks against the hypothesis that the phenomenon arises in association with an organic layer on the surface of the water.

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“Many questions regarding the structure, composition, and significance of the Milky Way Sea can only be fully answered through site sampling. (…) With the newly gained confidence in our space observation posts, a targeted expedition into a sea of ​​milk has become a command. possible.”

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