Category Archives: Space

Super Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse Redux

In case you missed the “Super Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse” Sunday night, as I did, here’s a five-second replay. All four hours of it condensed for quick viewing.

I went out three times to see the event and maybe take some pictures, but the cloud cover was too complete. The moon was just a hazy glow from my apartment in Fort Worth.

Enjoy this replay. Be sure to watch it full size.

Super Blood Moon Lunar Eclipse

A moderately rare “super blood moon” lunar eclipse will be viewable in the sky tonight for those living in North and South America. However, the word “super” should be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. It’ll be slightly larger than average because of its position in orbit, but you probably won’t notice the difference. What you will notice is the reddish color.

Here’s the schedule for Americans again. For most of the country, the moon will be low above the eastern horizon. For people in Colorado, it’ll be in eclipse when it rises. It’ll begin to move into the earth’s shadow at 9:07 P.M. Eastern Time. The eclipse will begin with a bite out of its lower left side.

Note: The previous paragraph should have said “west of Colorado” instead of “in Colorado.”

It’ll take just over an hour for the moon to pass completely into earth’s shadow, and its last sliver will slip into darkness at 10:11. It’ll stay dark for more than an hour; then start to lighten again at 11:23, and be completely out of earth’s shadow at 27 minutes after midnight. Don’t forget to adjust for your time zone.

People in Europe and Africa can see the eclipse in the early hours after midnight.

super blood moon lunar eclipse over water
super blood moon lunar eclipse over water

A blood moon is a special lunar eclipse. It happens when Earth completely blocks sunlight from reaching the moon except for a ring of light refracting through the atmosphere. Instead of going dark, the moon is lit by that refracted light that leaks around the planet, essentially reflecting all of Earth’s sunsets and sunrises onto the surface of the moon at once and giving it its reddish color.

A super moon is when the moon is nearest Earth in its orbit, so it appears as much as 14% larger in area than average. When the two events happen together, we call it a super blood moon lunar eclipse.

See my previous post here for more info.

If you miss it for any reason, you can view it here later: Video: Missed the Blood Moon? Watch the Event Unfold Through NASA’s Footage.

The next total lunar eclipse won’t happen until January 2018.


Source:

  • NASA
  • Bill’s Blog

Super Blood moons in prophecy? Really?

John Hagee is wrong. The flamboyant and ego-inflated pastor of the huge Cornerstone megachurch of San Antonio likes prophecy and signs in the sky. He believes the sky is “God’s billboard,” and that God is writing messages on it for us. The “super blood moon” is supposed to be one of those messages. Not for the first time, Pastor John Hagee is wrong. (No, he’s not the only one. Others are making similar claims. He’s just probably the most prominent one.)

Super Blood Moon Schedule

There is nothing mysterious or even very unusual about the eclipse we’re going to have in a couple of days. Even the word “super” is misleading. Yes, because of its position in orbit, it’ll look a little bit larger than usual; but not so much you’re likely to notice it. Take all the hype with a grain of salt.

In just two days, on the night of Sunday, September 27th, 2015, if the weather permits, a “rare super blood moon” lunar eclipse will be visible in the night sky for people in North and South America. (Well, it’s unusual, but not really all that rare.)

Here’s the schedule. For most of the country, the moon will be low above the eastern horizon. For people in Colorado, it’ll be in eclipse when it rises. It’ll begin to move into the earth’s shadow at 9:07 P.M. Eastern Time. The eclipse will begin with a bite out of its lower left side.

It’ll take just over an hour for the moon to pass completely into earth’s shadow, and its last sliver will slip into darkness at 10:11. It’ll stay dark for more than an hour; then start to lighten again at 11:23, and be completely out of earth’s shadow at 27 minutes after midnight. Don’t forget to adjust for your time zone.

People in Europe and Africa can see the eclipse in the early hours after midnight.

super blood moon

A “super moon” is when the moon is nearest Earth in its orbit, so it appears as much as 14% larger than when it is farther away. This happens because its orbit around earth — like all orbits — is an ellipse, not a circle.

A “blood moon” is an eclipse when the moon happens to be exactly — or almost exactly — in the plane of earth’s orbit around the sun. The moon’s orbit around earth is tilted about five degrees with respect to earth’s orbit around the sun, so the moon crosses the plane of earth’s orbit about every 14 days.

When this coincides with a lunar eclipse, earth comes between the sun and the moon, almost shutting off all light from the sun to the moon. The only sunlight reaching the moon then is refracted around the earth by its atmosphere. Instead of going dark, the moon is lit dimly by that refracted light that leaks around the planet, essentially refracting all of Earth’s sunsets and sunrises onto the surface of the moon at one time and giving it a deep reddish color. We have a “blood moon.”

When the two events happen together, like this time, we call it a “super blood moon” lunar eclipse. It’s unusual, but it’s not mysterious; and there’s absolutely nothing supernatural about it.

The next total lunar eclipse won’t happen until January 2018. If you miss this one for any reason, you can view it here later: Missed the Blood Moon? Watch the Event Unfold Through NASA’s Footage.

Here’s Neil DeGrasse Tyson, everybody’s favorite astrophysicist, discussing a previous “blood moon.”

For more information about eclipses in general, watch Crash Course Astronomy with Phil Plait, the Bad Astronomer.


Sources:

Exoplanets: Crash Course Astronomy

On July 9, I posted a gif of Pluto and Charon orbiting their mutual center of mass, located in a point of space between them. I said this about the video:

We usually think of a satellite orbiting its primary. In this case, it would be Charon, the tiny dot, orbiting Pluto, the larger dot. But we’ve always known this is not really the case. The two objects orbit each other. More accurately, they both orbit their common center of mass (or center of gravity).

Here’s a simulation from Bad Astronomy showing the same principle. This represents a planet and a star instead of a moon and a planet, but they work exactly the same way. The center of mass of the system is called the barycenter. Phil Plait, the “Bad Astronomer,” describes it this way:

barycenter animation

As you can see in the animation, the planet makes a big circle and the star makes a small one. And if you watch closely you’ll see they’re always on opposite sides of the barycenter; when the planet is on the left of its orbit, the star is 180° around on its right.

This wobble in the star’s movement was used to detect most of the first exoplanets, or planets of other stars than our sun. The first two were found in 1992. It wasn’t until three years later, in 1995, that the third was discovered. Now we’ve identified almost 2,000 for sure, ranging in size from smaller than Mercury to several times as large as Jupiter. About 3,000 more probable exoplanets are waiting for verification.

There may very well be more planets in the universe than there are stars.

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Sources:

Mutually Orbiting Objects

Pluto and Charon orbiting each other
Pluto and Charon orbiting each other

This gif I found on the Planetary Society’s website shows Pluto and its largest moon, Charon, mutually orbiting each other.

Their description says:

This animation contains 13 images taken over the course of one Pluto rotation between April 12 and April 18, 2015. During this period, New Horizons was roughly 110 million kilometers from Pluto. Stacking and deconvolution has been used to increase the resolution of the images over the raw data, revealing Pluto’s spotty surface. The brightness variations make Pluto appear lumpy, but it is actually round.

Stacking and deconvolution. Stacking means they took several pictures and put them all together, one on top of the other, to get a better composite. I understand that. I don’t know what deconvolution means. You can tell I’m not  graphics person.

These mutually orbiting dots can tell us a lot.

For a grainy picture of two moving spots of light, this visualization actually gives us a lot of information. For instance, it shows us that Pluto is spotty. It takes about six earth days to rotate once on its axis. During that time, Charon orbits it several times.

But what immediately grabbed my attention is the way the little world dances with its moon.

We usually think of a satellite orbiting its primary. In this case, it would be Charon, the tiny dot, orbiting Pluto, the larger dot. But we’ve always known this is not really the case. The two objects orbit each other. More accurately, they both orbit their common center of mass (or center of gravity).

This is the principle that was first used to find extrasolar planets; and it’s still used, along with other methods.

Other star systems are so far away that we can’t really see the movement, but the Doppler effect is used to infer any wobble as the star moves toward us and away from us. As it moves toward us, the light is blue shifted a little; away from us, it is red shifted. A complex wobble could indicate more than one planet. This same measurement can often tell us how many planets there are, their approximate masses, and something about their orbits.

This is amazing, because a star is usually so much more massive than any planets orbiting it that the common center of mass will actually be inside the star itself. While the planets orbit in wide ellipses, the stars themselves just wobble very slightly like toy tops beginning to run down. This is often true of planet/moon systems as well. For this reason, until a couple of decades ago, it was commonly believed that we would never be able to detect this wobble. Now, of course, it is a routine–though time consuming–procedure. It can take years to observe enough doppler data to determine the number of planets in a system.

In the case of Pluto and Charon, this dance is visible to us because both objects are so near the same mass.  (Back in the days when Pluto was a planet, they have even been referred to by some astronomers as a double planet.)

This is the first time I’ve seen this principle visualized so well.

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Source:

Moon Landings Hoax after All

Science proves NASA faked the moon landings 45 years ago.

Buzz Aldrin salutes US Flag during first moon landing
Buzz Aldrin salutes US Flag during first moon landing

Really? Well, no. Not really.

The moon landings were as real as Columbus’ accidentally stumbling across the New World, only NASA did it on purpose. But some people still think it was a hoax created in Hollywood.

Sorry to disappoint you conspiracy theorists; but no, science proves no such thing. All the moon landings were real. But why won’t some people believe it?

The United States’ Apollo 11 landed on the Moon July 20, 1969, and there were five more manned landings in the next 42 months. Each mission consisted of three male Astronauts, two of which landed and one of which remained in orbit in the command module. A total of twelve men landed. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin on Apollo 11 were first. The last three Moon landings all included rovers.

Apollo 13’s crew was forced to abort the Lunar landing and almost didn’t make it back to Earth alive.

The craft was launched on April 11, 1970, at 13:13 CST from the Kennedy Space Center, Florida, but the lunar landing was aborted after an oxygen tank exploded two days later, crippling the Service Module (SM) upon which the Command Module (CM) depended. Despite great hardship caused by limited power, loss of cabin heat, shortage of potable water, and the critical need to jury-rig the carbon dioxide removal system, the crew returned safely to Earth on April 17.

Wikipedia

One group of Astronauts left a mirror on the Moon, facing precisely toward Earth. Any scientist with a suitable laser can reflect it off that mirror and see the reflection all the way from Earth with his or her instruments. While the mirror was placed there for scientific reasons, the fact that it is still in use today is one more proof (as if it were needed) that NASA really went to the moon. The Moon landings were actually real.

Watch Dr. Kaku make mincemeat out of the men above.

But what about the flag?

It has been pointed out that the flag could not “blow in the wind” on the moon, because there is no air. This is true. That’s why they took a metal flag, which you see in the picture at the top, seeming to wave in an imaginary breeze. It’s an intentional illusion. If NASA wanted to fool you about the Moon landings, they’re smarter than that.

It’s time for new Moon landings.

Apollo Moon Landings by Nasa
Apollo Moon Landings

We should have been making more Moon landings for the last 43 years. Men and women should be living there by now, doing science and building a sheltered city. They should be building factories to manufacture space ships out of Lunar materials. Space ships with which to go on to Mars and explore the Solar System. Doing this work outside of Earth’s gravity field would make it a lot cheaper in the long run.

Things on the Moon weigh only 16.6% of what they would weigh on Earth. Factor in the fact that there is no air on the moon, and space ships landing and taking off from the Moon require maybe 2% or 3% as much fuel as those taking off from or landing on earth. This makes for smaller, lighter space ships while still leaving more room for equipment, freight, and people. It’s pitiful that we wasted all the science and engineering we had developed by just stopping.

It’s time we made some new footprints on the Moon.

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Source:

Change Climate Change

Samantha Says “Change Climate Change”

I believe her.
Astronaut Samantha Christoforetti wants to "Change Climate Change."
Astronaut Samantha Christoforetti wants to “Change Climate Change.”

Samantha Cristoforetti, born in Milan in 1977, boarded the International Space Station on November 23, 2014, becoming became the first Italian woman in space. She wants to “Change Climate Change.”

She was a US foreign exchange student attending Space Camp when she was 18. Now she has a degree in mechanical engineering from the Technical University of Munich, and has studied in France and Russia and graduated in Aeronautics Sciences at the Italian Accademia Aeronautica in Pozzuoli, becoming a lieutenant and fighter pilot in the Italian Air Force. Besides all that, she speaks five languages.

We Must Change Climate Change

I’ve shown her here to discuss her message: Change Climate Change.

No matter what your friends tell you, or your politicians, or even the doctor in your group who likes to think of himself as a scientist … and no matter what you want to believe, climate change is both real and dangerous; and we are causing it. The physics is well understood and the satellites monitoring the planet’s temperature show the lower atmosphere is warmer almost every year that ever before.

Those of us alive now won’t see the worst effects  of it, but our children and grandchildren and their grandchildren will. And it won’t be fun.

We need to change climate change now.

Blue Origin’s New Shepherd First Flight

Blue Origin to the edge of space

Blue Origin Launch
Blue Origin Launch

Blue Origin’s New Shepherd spaceship flew for the first time this Wednesday, April 29, from their range in the West Texas desert (two hours east of El Paso). This is the world’s only privately owned and operated launch site.

The spaceship sat there like a giant phallic symbol jutting up from the desert floor (You tell me! Am I wrong?). Then it rode a pencil of flame at mach 3 almost to the edge of space 58 miles up.

It’s payload parachuted back to earth and landed gently, apparently right where they wanted it to come down. The company website says, “Any astronauts on board would have had a very nice journey into space and a smooth return.” The capsule holds six.

The ship is supposed to be reusable, but there was a problem with hydraulics. It was not shown, but presumably it crashed. SpaceX had a similar problem with their early rockets.

No true edge of space

There is no true edge of space. The atmosphere just keeps on getting thinner until it’s as thin as the tenuous gas between the planets, but 60 miles is usually considered the edge of space. For practical purposes,  it’s a good round number for a test rocket to aim for; and 58 is close enough for a first test.

Blue Origin, run by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, hopes to carry passengers on suborbital flights within two years. It’s important to remember how many other companies have failed at this, of course.

Australian space company didn’t make it

I remember an Australian company was going to be carrying paying passengers to orbit in 1992 to celebrate the 500th anniversary Columbus “discovering” America. It didn’t happen. But a lot has happened in the industry in the 23 years since 1992, and somebody is going to do it soon. Maybe Blue Origin.

American space industry is coming along

SpaceX  was founded in 2002 by former PayPal entrepreneur and Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk with the goal of reducing space transportation costs to enable the colonization of Mars. It is the company that has serviced the ISS a few times and gets most of the press. But Blue Origin is beginning to look impressive with this test shot.

Since the space shuttle was decommissioned in 2011,  the United States has been dependent on foreign governments and private industry to get spaceships, astronauts, supplies, and satellites into space. The fledgling American space industry has not yet come into its own, but it’s coming along.

Companies like Blue Origin and SpaceX are seeing to it.

Hubble Telescope 25th Anniversary Show Tonight

HST Spiral Galaxy M100
HST Spiral Galaxy M100

Twenty-five years ago, NASA launched one of the most ambitious experiments in the history of astronomy: the Hubble Space Telescope. This Friday is Hubble’s 25th anniversary. In honor of this anniversary, NOVA tells the remarkable story of the telescope that forever changed our understanding of the cosmos. Airs at 9 p.m. April 22 on PBS. (Check local listings for airtime.)

From the PBS website

HST Orion Nebula
HST Orion Nebula

That’s tonight, folks. It’s Channel 13 where I live, and I plan to be watching. And recording.

The pictures here are from the HST, and they’re just a sample of the many thousands of wonderful pictures it’s taken since it went to space aboard a shuttle.

You know this is going to be spectacular!

That’s messed up!

Couldn’t have said it any better myself.

Ken Ham is an ignoramus!

In the first place, this idea is just his imagination; because the Bible (where he supposedly gets his information) says nothing at all about life on other worlds. Absolutely nothing!

Secondly, the space program as it exists now is not looking for intelligent life on other worlds. We already know it is extremely unlikely that we’ll find it in this solar system, because we would have already found evidence of it. What we’re looking for now is something like bacteria. Does Ken Ham honestly believe bacteria and other microbes are damned to hell when they die?

I should add that there are groups of scientists and mostly volunteers who are looking for signals from intelligent alien civilizations, but these groups are not part of the space program. They are supported mostly by private donations. They work under the name of SETI, or Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence. SETI looks for radio signals and other signs of life in the vicinity of other stars; not here in the solar system, where our space ships currently explore.

Thirdly, why would any supposedly educated person suppose the only purpose of the space program is to find ET intelligent life? We send space ships to explore the solar system and learn how it works. This helps us understand how earth itself works, and eventually will make it possible to use the resources of space to make life better right here on earth. If life exists away from earth, finding it would increase our knowledge of the universe. That would be a good thing. OTOH, if we explore the solar system and find no sign of anything living anywhere but earth, that was only a small part of the project, anyway.

In the long run, very few things are more important to humans on earth than our space program.

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