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NRL scientists detect 'milky sea' phenomena

y (city lights, fishing boats, etc.) around the world. However, there have been no previous reports or demonstrations of the OLS being used to detect bioluminescence.

Dr. Miller and the research team searched ship reports of milky sea sightings since 1992 and compared these with archived OLS satellite data. A British merchant vessel, the S.S. Lima, was transiting the northwestern Indian Ocean on the night of January 25, 1995 when it encountered the milky sea. Enhancement of OLS imagery collected roughly 30 minutes after the ship's report of initial sighting revealed a massive region of low-level light emission. The glowing waters spanned an area roughly the size of Connecticut (over 15000 km^2) and lasted at least three nights. The event took place in the northwest Indian Ocean, approximately 280 km off the Somali coast. The boundaries of the feature matched closely with a surface ship's reported entry and exit of the brightly glowing waters.

Although such observations cannot be fully explained based on the known features of any light-emitting organism, these so-called "milky seas" are hypothesized to be manifestations of strong bioluminescence produced by colonies of bacteria associated with a microalgal bloom in the surface waters. Because of the lack of scientific observations, a full explanation of milky seas has remained elusive. With the current state of satellite technology, and sampling limitations, remote sensing researchers have generally thought that the detection of bioluminescence emission from space was unlikely if not impossible.

Demonstration of their detection by low-light detectors on current and future satellite systems provides a possible means to targeting these events in the future by properly equipped research vessels. This creates opportunities for new research and insight pertaining to the cause, role, and implications of these poorly understood phenomena, said Dr. Miller. Professor. J. Woodland Hastings of Harvard
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Source:Naval Research Laboratory


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