you're reading...
Radiation, Strange, Survival

What Was Enriched Uranium Doing Miles Above the Aleutian Islands

On this date in 2016, a research plane discovered a mysterious radioactive particle in the atmosphere which should not have been there.

On August 3, 2016, seven kilometers above Alaska’s Aleutian Islands, a research plane captured something mysterious: an atmospheric aerosol particle enriched with the kind of uranium used in nuclear fuel and bombs.

It’s the first time scientists have detected such a particle just floating along in the atmosphere in 20 years of plane-based observations.

Uranium is the heaviest element to occur naturally on Earth’s surface in an appreciable amount. Normally it occurs as the slightly radioactive isotope uranium-238, but some amount of uranium-235, the kind humans make bombs and fuel out of, occurs in nature. Uranium-238 is already rare to find floating above the Earth in the atmosphere. But scientists have never before spotted enriched uranium, a sample uranium containing uranium-235, in millions of research plane-captured atmospheric particles.

“One of the main motivations of this paper is to see if someobody who knows more about uranium than any of us would understand the source of the particle,” scientist Dan Murphy from NOAA told me. After all, “aerosol particles containing uranium enriched in uranium-235 are definitely not from a natural source,” he writes in the paper, published recently in the Journal of Environmental Radioactivity.

Murphy has led flights around the world sampling the atmosphere for aerosols. These tiny particles can come from polution, dust, fires, and other sources, and can influence things like cloud formation and the weather. The researchers spotted the mystery particle on a flight over Alaska using their “Particle Analysis by Laser Mass Spectrometry” instrument. They considered that perhaps the signature came from something weird, but evidence seems to point directly at enriched uranium.

Via Gizmodo

Despite the radioactivity, the discovery – made back in August 2016 – wasn’t a cause for concern in itself, owing to the fact the windswept particle was incredibly tiny (at just 580 nanometres in width) and given it seemed to be floating in isolation in the troposphere.

But just what the heck was it doing up there?

“It’s not a significant amount of radioactive debris by itself,” one of the researchers, Daniel Murphy from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) told Gizmodo.

“But it’s the implication that there’s some very small source of uranium that we don’t understand.”

The ultimate significance of that implication remains as yet unknown, but the particle’s existence is a puzzling mystery, given the kinds of uranium it was made up of: uranium-238 and, even more bizarrely, uranium-235.

Uranium 238 is common in nature – if not the atmosphere – but the particle’s richness in the rarer uranium 235, as the researchers explain, meant the sample detected was “definitely not from a natural source”.

“During 20 years of aircraft sampling of millions of particles in the global atmosphere, we have rarely encountered a particle with a similarly high content of 238U and never a particle with enriched 235U,” the authors write in their paper.

via SciAlert

Wild guess: some country tested an atomic powered aircraft and one had a leak?


About Xeno

E pluribus unum.


6 thoughts on “What Was Enriched Uranium Doing Miles Above the Aleutian Islands

  1. Or u.f.o’s are real?

    Posted by Jon | 4 Aug 2018, 3:45 am
    • I saw one once, so I do believe there are unidentified flying objects. I could not ID the glowing green meteor-like thing with an exhaust tail that moved back and forth like a pendulum behind the object that flew over my car on a dark lonely road in CA many years ago on highway 16 near Williams CA. Actually I think there were two in a row, about 10 seconds apart, but it was like I was in a daze on the 2nd one, like I got partially hit with a “forget about it” beam. I figured it must have been space rocks or space junk made of partly copper that were irregularly off-gassing due to different rates of material burning up in the atmosphere. What’s your view on ufos?

      Posted by Xeno | 4 Aug 2018, 5:25 pm
      • I think they must exist. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen two in my lifetime. The universe is to big and we are too small for something else to not be out there. Life would get extremely interesting and the world would change dramatically if aliens suddenly put in a public appearance.

        Posted by Jon | 4 Aug 2018, 9:46 pm
      • I have not seen one but my grandparents once told me a story of one flying over their farm and all the cattle started making a lot of noise wrote it off as a weird story but years later I found that it was actually part of a familiar sighting where the Air Force was involved in the investigation

        Posted by Expedition into the Unknown | 24 Sep 2018, 2:50 pm
      • the universe would be a huge waste of space if it was just us. If intelligent life happened here the chances are good that it happened out there. The only question I have is would they be hostile or friendly?

        Posted by Expedition into the Unknown | 24 Sep 2018, 2:59 pm
      • Sometimes I wonder if all that space is real or just part of a simulation of our universe. If we go too far out, we may just loop around to the other side like in an old-school video game of asteroids. Yes, I’d like to meet the friendly alien races and learn a few things from them. 👍

        Posted by Xeno | 24 Sep 2018, 3:07 pm

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Join 1,681 other followers

Suggest Your Site

Hello! Email me to recommend your Wordpress.com site. If I dig it, it may show up above. I add and remove new sites in rotation, so yours may appear and disappear at times.
the World Peace Research Institute

Oppose violence, promote lasting peace

soulgifts - Telling Tales

Creating magic with words