Science & Technology

Eerie bioluminescence that produces the “milky sea” revealed in new satellite research

The sea is vast, deep and dark, and we cannot inhabit the creatures that live in vulnerable lands. There are many things that are unknown or poorly understood in its undulating, undulating belly.

Technology is changing that.

For over a century, sailors have reported an eerie and beautiful phenomenon called the “milky sea.” This is a huge glowing spot of water that lasts for several nights in a row. This phenomenon was finally confirmed in 2005. In the form of photographs taken from low earth orbit satellites.

Scientists are now using satellite data worth nearly a decade to reveal the phenomenon in detail. There are many things that have yet to be discovered, but we have taken some important steps to understand the largest known bioluminescent morphology on Earth.

In his 1872 novel Undersea 20,000 leagues, Jules Verne wrote “It’s called Milk Sea .. Most of the white wavelets commonly found on the shores of Amboina .. The whiteness that surprises you is caused only by the presence of countless Infsoria, a kind of bright little bug.”

The worm was speculated on Verne’s side, but the milky sea is otherwise genuine. Patches for this phenomenon can exceed 100,000 square kilometers (about 39,000 square miles) and have been reported in large numbers in the last century or so. Between 1915 and 1993, 235 sightings were cataloged. This suggests an incidence of at least 3 times. Per year.

But I only have a research vessel once I managed to sail one, In the Arabian Sea in 1985.

The water they collected contained, among other organisms, what are called bioluminescent marine bacteria. Vibrio harveyiResearchers aboard the ship concluded that this was probably the cause of the brilliance, but some features remained unexplained. Moreover, their conclusions have not yet been verified.

There are some validation issues. Milky seas occur mainly in remote areas. And they are unpredictable. In other words, it is almost impossible to place a research vessel in that position before it appears. Now, using satellite imagery, a team of scientists led by Colorado State University marine biologist Stephen Miller wants to fill the gap.

NOAA’s Suomi NPP and NOAA-20 are two meteorological satellites with various sensors including instruments called day / night bands. This sensor is designed to capture low emission sources under a variety of lighting conditions.

This means that you can uniquely see the faintly glowing sea patches that you won’t find on any other device. Indeed, Miller and his colleagues examined 12 cases of this phenomenon when examining day / night band data for three milky sea locations commonly reported between 2012 and 2021. Did.

A three-night sequence from 2018 showing the opalescent waters of the Somali Sea. (Miller et al., Sci. Rep., 2021)

The day / night band continues to amaze me with the ability to characterize the light of the night. ” Miller said.. “Like Captain Ahab Moby-DickThe pursuit of these bioluminescent milky oceans has been like my personal “beluga” for many years. “

Shine has long been known as strange. Bioluminescent algae flash with warning signals in response to obstructions, and unlike tumbling waves and turbulent ship wakes, the milky seas shine widely and stably. I don’t know how they are formed, why, or how glows are constructed and structured.

Team data reveal that the milky ocean appears to resonate with the monsoon in the northwestern Indian Ocean. Monsoons produce cold upwelling of nutrient-rich water, but no such monsoon association was found in the maritime continental region.

This means that when the milky sea appears there, other processes may be providing nutrient upwelling.

They also found that they were stable and stable even in waters where bioluminescence was unstable. This does not occur if the glow is limited to the smooth part of the surface. This suggests a well-mixed layer of water containing glowing organisms.

Of course, physically sampling the milky sea will help solve the mystery completely. The team wants to show us how their satellite data can find them more easily.

“The milky ocean is a wonderful expression of our biosphere, and its importance in nature is not yet understood.” Miller said..

“Their existence itself is likely to connect the surface to the sky, the microscopic to the global scale, and human experience and technology from the 18th century merchant ships to the modern spacecraft, timelessly. Weaving a non-convincing story. The day / night band has illuminated yet another path to scientific discovery. “

The study is published at Science report..

Eerie bioluminescence that produces the “milky sea” revealed in new satellite research Eerie bioluminescence that produces the “milky sea” revealed in new satellite research

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