5 Facts about the Milky Sea

5 Facts about the Milky Sea

5 Facts about the Milky Sea



Netgenz - Science | Unlike the milky way, or the Milky Way galaxy, which can be seen in the night sky, the milky sea is a very rare version of the shining ocean phenomenon. This incident took place in the middle of the coast that is rarely touched by humans, except for a few sailors who were actually at sea.

Just as the name implies, the very rare natural event of the Milky Sea makes the ocean images taken from satellites at night whiter than their surroundings, which are similar as if they were "milk spilling". To clarify, come on, read the detailed description of the milky sea below!

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Here are 5 Facts about the Milky Sea


1. Starting from the story of the sailors

Starting from the story of the sailors

Ship Illustration



Drawing on HowStuffWorks, this event has long been a story told by several sailors. They spoke of the waters amid the vast ocean which suddenly shone, pounding them with color as pale as milk, and spread wide as far as the eye could see. Since no one could provide any evidence, the testimonies of some of the sailors ended up being viewed as a folk narrative spanning several hundred years.

Because it is very interesting, long before this event was studied by researchers, Jules Verne even included the narrative of several sailors as a recommendation for his classic science fiction novel, entitled Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea which came out in 1870. Verne gave the term milk sea for this event.

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2. Proof of the milky sea phenomenon through satellite imagery

Proof of the milky sea phenomenon through satellite imagery

Satellite Illustration



The stories that keep coming from sailors are sure to pique the curiosity of researchers, including Steven D. Miller and his team, researchers at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory. Going from the testimony of the sailors of the S.S. Lima, in 2000 Miller tried using the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) satellite to find out what was in the northwest Indian Ocean.

As a result, with a row of sympathetic elements, the VIIRS satellite noticed that there was a white stripe in the middle of the ocean. In short, the white lane can be proven as a milky sea event. Miller and his team's research was published in a scientific journal in 2005.

"What's interesting about the milky sea is the evidence that the phenomenon is difficult to understand, generally in the middle off the coast, far from the shipping lane," Miller said, quoted by NASA's Earth Observatory. "Ultimately, their testimony survives as a folk narrative of maritime citizens."

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3. The cause of the milky sea phenomenon

The cause of the milky sea phenomenon

Illustration of bioluminescence on the sea coast



In 1995, a British merchant ship passing through the Arabian Sea tried to take a sample of the water that suddenly seemed to glow. According to the testimony of sailors on merchant ships, it took a minimum of six hours to cross from end to end of the shining sea. It was a pretty terrible experience for them. That six-hour is enough to explain the extent of the Milky Sea event off the coast.

Upon examination, the water sample appears to contain the marine bacterium Vibrio harveyi, a kind of bacteria that can glow. Almost like the bioluminescence events that usually occur on the coast, marine organisms that can emit light are the masterminds of this very rare event.

Vibrio harveyi essentially shines to attract sea bream to eat it because this bacterium likes to live in fish intestines. But, still, no one knows why the bacteria can combine with such large numbers.

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4. Location of the emergence of the milky sea phenomenon

Location of the emergence of the milky sea phenomenon

Milky sea location illustration



Drawing on NASA's Earth Observatory, over the past two decades, Miller and his team have collected more than 200 historical documents and ship reports regarding testimonies of the emergence of shining seawater. As a result, milky sea events generally occur in the northwest Indian Ocean, Arabian Sea, and the Maritime Continent, including Indonesian waters.

In the scientific journal Miller and his team launched in 2005, it was noted that the Milky Sea event existed for several days offshore, was unaffected by wind speed, and sparkled overnight. This event usually occurs when the monsoon winds blow from the southwest flowing from Asia (winter) to Australia (summer).

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5. Recent research in the southern seas of Java

Recent research in the southern seas of Java

Image of Milky sea in the sea south of Java



In a journal published by Miller and his team in 2021, the South Java Sea is one of twelve choices for the location of the milky sea assessment. The research was carried out after optimizing the Day/Night Band (DNB), an important part of the VIIRS satellite which was successful in capturing the milky sea in the northwest Indian Ocean.

The research began when DNB discovered that there was a deviation of light in the South Java Sea on July 25, 2019. After examining it, the sea of ​​light stretched for 100,000 km2, equal to the area of ​​​​East Java. With an estimate of trillions, or even tens of billions of bacteria glowing within it, a clearly unthinkable amount. For now, the milky sea event in the South Java Sea is the largest milky sea event ever seen.

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