Mystery Ocean Glow Confirmed in Satellite Photos

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Mystery Ocean Glow Confirmed in Satellite Photos

Postby TeMerc » Tue Sep 02, 2008 12:24 pm

By Robert Roy Britt, LiveScience Managing Editor
posted: 04 October 2005 04:23 pm ET

Mariners have long told of rare nighttime events in which the ocean glows intensely as far as the eye can see in all directions.

Fictionally, such a "milky sea" is encountered by the Nautilus in Jules Verne classic "20,000 Leagues Under the Sea."


Scientists don't have a good handle what's going on. But satellite sensors have now provided the first pictures of a milky sea and given new hope to learning more about the elusive events.

The newly released images show a vast region of the Indian Ocean, about the size of Connecticut, glowing three nights in a row. The luminescence was also spotted from a ship in the area.

The leading idea
Scientists suspect bioluminescent bacteria are behind the phenomenon. Such creatures produce a continuous glow, in contrast to the brief, bright flashes of light produced by "dinoflagellate" bioluminescent organims that are seen more commonly lighting up ship wakes and breaking waves.

"The problem with the bacteria hypothesis is that an extremely high concentration of bacteria must exist before they begin to produce light," Miller told LiveScience. "But what could possibly support the occurrence of such a large population?"

One idea, put forward by the lone research vessel to ever encounter a milky sea, is that the bacteria are not free-living, but instead are living off some local supporting "substrate."

nwz Continued @ Live Science
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