Archive for the ‘Solar Eclipse’ Tag

A Busy Day for Space Fans   Leave a comment


Credits: Event Horizon Telescope collaboration et al.

So where does one begin on a day like today? I can’t honestly say what story could top seeing a photograph of an actual black hole. But the news certainly is fascinating. And check out the link. There’s a complete picture of Messier 87, a giant galaxy some 55 million light years away, located in Virgo.

Einstein theorized in a paper published in 1915 that star’s light rays curved around the sun during an eclipse. That meant the stars appeared about 1.75 second of arc away from their positions.

In May 29, 1919, when a six-minute total eclipse in Brazil caused British astronomer Arthur Eddington to determine that light rays from other stars bent when subjected to the gravitational field of our sun.  He proved this through the use of photographs, and others have proven it since.

Jump to 2016. MIT graduate student Katie Bouman created the algorithm that produced the first image of the black hole. Her contributions seem to be a bit underreported, but thanks to her work, we now see the image pictured above.

Falcon Heavy launching 400 x 600

Credit: Kennedy Space Center

The second big story (to me at least) is Falcon Heavy. It was supposed to launch today, but thanks to high winds aloft, we’re going to have to wait until tomorrow. But the cool thing about it is its three boosters, all expected to land perfectly. I’m always fascinated by this new generation of rockets. Elon Musk, for all his faults, is a genius. Not only did he create a better class of rockets, partly recyclable, he also made their capsules so sleekly modern.

And lastly, on April 11 NASA will host a teleconference on its study of its astronaut twins, Mark Kelly and Scott Kelly. This eagerly-awaited report will detail how Scott Kelly was affected by living in the ISS for 340 days, as compared to his twin brother, Mark Kelly, who remained on Earth. So far, these are the only twins who have both served on the ISS, and, as such, are uniquely qualified for this important study.


Tips from Nature   Leave a comment


Credit: NASA

There’s a whole lot going on in nature this week.  Take, for example, the March 20th total eclipse.  It’s the first total for a couple of years.  The others have been annular, or the kind where the moon doesn’t quite hide the sun and it peeks out like a ring.  And in case you didn’t know, eclipses come in pairs, two weeks apart: the sun hides its face, then the moon.  It’s just the way nature works.  Not everyone gets to see this spectacular event; those in the northern extremes of Europe (and polar regions) will see it just fine, but the rest of Europe will have to settle for a partial eclipse.  That’s fine by me, something is better than nothing.

Eclipses are weird.  I experienced a total eclipse when I was about 7 or 8 years old.  It was covered live on TV, when people still held wonderment and what nature could do.  I clearly remember it got dark, a fairly good representation of the stars came out, birds went silent and all became still.  Mom admonished me for looking up at the sky, yet both of us snuck a peek and I remember getting a chill.  It was so, so strange to see this blackness where the sun ought to be.  Lots of our neighbors came outside and pointed and laughed nervously.  We all knew better.  We knew that the sun’d pop back out again and the warmth would return, birds would wake up, a bit confused at the short night, perhaps, but ready to launch into song once more.  And sure enough, it did.  Everyone retreated to the inside of their houses, catching the few last bits of the broadcast describing the marvel we all experienced.

So what if the sun got stuck, though, behind the moon?  Suppose, just for an hour or two, the sun had had enough of working to warm the planet.  The moon, normally a celestial object waiting to dominate the evening sky, chose not to budge, either.  Let’s say they went to war.  A line was drawn in the sky, and neither of them were giving way until the other relented.  Imagine what people might say then?  Oh, they’d be all right with it for about the first five or ten minutes, but after that?  A nip in the air becomes a chill, then cold, then freeze.  Our balance turns wobbly, then a sickly feeling emerges from our insides.  Hair rises off of our heads as breezes end.  Building creak, water flows everywhere and electricity shorts out.  Planes can’t fly.  Our world ceases, but still exists.  The National Guard is called out, but is helpless against the force of nature.

Take that, Nature says, and keep on ruining the planet.  I’ll take care of matters for myself.  When all of you have had your fill of ignorance, I’ll imbue you with light.  Until then, may the best people evolve, while I clean house.

Ah, if only…

In the meantime, we’re still here, facing the Ides of March, Pi Day, and the inevitable East Coast first day of spring snowstorm from the relentless winter we’ve been experiencing.  Can’t wait to shovel that 3″ – 6″ in the driveway.

Lunar Eclipsed   Leave a comment


Credit: NASA

Darn.  It’s cloudy at my house.  Worse, it’s going to rain soon.  And here I was, all set and poised to watch all sorts of celestial happenings tonight, starting with the total lunar eclipse.  But no, nature has other plans, so I might as well pull the covers under my chin and succumb to Mr. Sandman’s spell.

But wait!  There’s more!

If anyone can’t see tonight’s total eclipse opportunity in the continental United States, there will be at least a partial lunar eclipse on October 8, visible from most of the continental United States and some totality will be visible on the West Coast.  Hawaii and Alaska will have totality.

Here’s something else you might not know: lunar and solar eclipses come in pairs.  Separated by two weeks, the moon and the sun do a dance wherein a lunar eclipse is followed two weeks later by a solar eclipse.  On April 29, 2014, there is a annular solar eclipse visible in the southernmost regains of the globe:  Antarctica, Australia (most of it will be visible only as partial) and regions of the Indian and Pacific Oceans.  An annular eclipse, by the way, means that the moon travels in front of the sun, but there remains a ring of sun around the edge.  It gets dim, but not totally dark.

Now, generally speaking, the shadows for a lunar eclipse are much larger than a solar eclipse.  However, occasionally one region of the globe might see both a lunar and a solar eclipse in the same two-week period.  That will occur in October of this year.  That October 8 lunar eclipse will be visible, from every continent except Africa.  It won’t be a total eclipse in many regions, but nearly the whole globe will catch some action.  On October 23, nearly all of North America, a portion of the Pacific and far eastern Asia, plus a slip of the Atlantic will catch at least a portion of the solar eclipse.  It will only be a partial solar eclipse in all areas, but again, depending upon where one is located, one may see more or less of the sun covered by the moon’s shadow.

If you are lucky enough to see the eclipse tonight, there’s other spectacles to observe.  Right around the moon, there’s bright red Mars, which you can’t miss, and off to the right is Jupiter, located in Gemini.  Spica, the brightest star in Virgo (and where the moon is located presently) is practically knocking on the moon’s door, only one or two degrees from the moon.

So if you’re blessed with clear (or partly-cloudly) skies and not doing very much at 1:20 am EDT  (or 10:20 PDT on the West Coast), go out and have yourself a look!  You won’t be sorry.


Posted April 14, 2014 by seleneymoon in Eclipses

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