First Lunar Eclipse of 2014

 

 

 

These photos were shot in south Baton Rouge on Tuesday morning at 2:45 am.  This eclipse marked the beginning of a tetrad, a series of four total lunar eclipses in a row. The next three total eclipses will be occurring on Oct. 8, 2014, April 4, 2015, and the final occurring on Sept. 28, 2015.

 

ECL 1

 

The ‘ghosting’ is the rapid movement of the clouds during a 2 second exposure.

 

ECL 2

 

Below the moon is Spica, in the constellation Virgo, and Mars is further west(right) in the shots.

DSC_0271

 

I expect to have better photos after the next eclipse… weather permitting. Ha.

 

 

SpaceX-3 Commercial Resupply Services flight and Grasshopper test

 

 

 

Mission: SpaceX-3 Commercial Resupply Services flight

Launch Vehicle: Falcon

Launch Site: Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Florida

Launch Date: April 14, 4:58 p.m. EDT

 

NASA’s International Space Station resupply mission includes the legs for RobonautOPALS Lasercomm experiment and much more.  I think, however, the most exciting and dramatic portion of the flight is the possible test of  the ‘Grasshopper’ reusablility system.

Read the detailed story of the SpaceX Grasshopper  program.

Grasshopper Demonstration Flight

Reusability: The Key To Making Human Life Multi-Planetary

(SpaceX)

 

The launch will be webcast live, with commentary from SpaceX corporate headquarters in Hawthorne, CT at spacex.com/webcast and NASA’s Kennedy Space Center at www.nasa.gov/nasatv.

For a detailed description of the mission timeline, overview and SpaceX go to the SpaceX press kit. This is a wonderful resource.

 

 

Total Lunar Eclipse – April 15

Take a late night break from doing your taxes!

lunareclipse

View an eclipse of the moon on April 15!

April 15 – 2 am. Central Time

In the morning of Tuesday, April 15, the full moon will pass through earth’s shadow producing a total lunar eclipse visible across North America.  Lunar eclipses are perfectly safe to view, and an exciting family event.

The total lunar eclipse phase begins at 02.06 am when the edge of the moon first enters the darkest part of earth’s shadow.  The moon will be completely within the shadow for 78 minutes, ending at 3.34 am.

For people in the United States, this eclipse is the first in an extraordinary series of lunar eclipses in what astronomers call a lunar eclipse tetrad—a series of four consecutive total eclipses occurring at approximately six month intervals. The total eclipse of April 15 will be followed by another on Oct. 8, 2014, and another on April 4, 2015, and another on Sept. 28 2015. All four total eclipses will be visible over most of the U.S.  Although lunar eclipse tetrads are rare, they have frequently occurred in the past and there are nine sets of tetrads occurring during the 21st century.

On average, lunar eclipses occur about twice a year, but not all of them are total. There are three types:

A penumbral eclipse is when the moon passes through the pale outskirts of earth’s shadow. It’s so subtle that sky watchers often don’t notice an eclipse is underway.

A partial eclipse is more dramatic. The moon dips into the core of earth’s shadow, but not all the way, so only a fraction of moon is darkened.

A total eclipse, when the entire moon is shadowed, is best of all. The face of the moon turns sunset-red for up to an hour or more as the eclipse slowly unfolds.

Usually, lunar eclipses come in no particular order. A partial can be followed by a total, followed by a penumbral, and so on. Anything goes. Occasionally, though, the sequence is more orderly. When four consecutive lunar eclipses are all total, the series is called a tetrad.

Weather permitting; this Tuesday’s total eclipse will turn the moon red. Why red?

Total lunar eclipses occur only when the moon passes completely through the shadow of the earth, and if you imagined yourself standing on the dusty lunar surface during just an eclipse and looking up at the sky, the shadow of the earth would completely block out the sun.  You might expect earth seen in this way to be utterly dark, but it’s not. The rim of the planet is on fire! As you scan your eye around earth’s circumference, you’re seeing every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once. This incredible light beams into the heart of earth’s shadow, filling it with a coppery glow and transforming the moon into a great red orb.

Mark your calendar for April 15th and let the tetrad begin.

Discovery: The Great Pink Planet

Pink Planet  GJ 504b

I’m well aware of what today is.  Believe me, I debated on whether or not to make a fake April Fools Day blog posting along the lines of “NASA announces the discovery of intelligent life on planet Eps Eri 04-01a,” or “50,000 year old space ship discovered in Antarctica.”  However, there’s stuff out there in space that’s real and strange enough to bring to light without having to result in phoney gags.  For example, a couple of days back I heard about the discovery of a pink planet way out in space.  So here’s the rundown on the lowest-mass planet ever detected around a star like the sun, GJ 504b that just happens to be pink.

Continue reading

Discovery of Ocean Waves off Earth?

alien ocean

It seems that just about every week or so scientists are discovering something weird out there in space.  Some of these discoveries are more exciting than others, i.e., finally discovering water ice on Mars or discovering a star that’s potentially the size of the orbit of Saturn.  But then sometimes new discoveries come and go and few people pay attention to them.  I would like to talk about one such discovery:  the discovery of possible ocean waves on Saturn’s largest moon, Titan.  Could these possible waves be caused by Titan’s winds or something else that lies beneath?

Continue reading

The Big Bang Makes Waves

Astronomers announced Monday that they had discovered what may be one of the greatest triumphs in modern day observational astronomy – ripples in the fabric of space-time that are echoes of the massive expansion of the universe that took place just after the Big Bang some 14 billion years ago.  Predicted by Albert Einstein nearly a century ago, the discovery of ripples, called gravitational waves, would provide evidence how the universe began and evolved into the countless galaxies and stars, dust, and vast stretches of empty space that make up the known universe.

bangMonday’s announcement was also to confirm the more recent theory of cosmic inflation – that when the universe was roughly a trillionth of a trillionth of a trillionth of a second old, the infant cosmos expanded exponentially, inflating in size by 100 trillion times.  This made the cosmos remarkably uniform across vast expanses of space and also energized tiny fluctuations in gravity, producing gravitational waves, undiscovered until now.  The discovery was made by telescopes at the South Pole under the direction of John M. Kovac and a team of astronomers of the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics.

Confirming inflation would mean that the universe we see, extending 14 billion light-years in space with its hundreds of billions of galaxies, is only an infinitesimal patch in a larger cosmos whose extent, architecture and fate are unknowable. Moreover, beyond our own universe there might be an endless number of other universes bubbling into frothy eternity, like a pot of pasta water boiling over.

B A N G !

Cosmic Inflation now has the ‘smoking gun’.  

“The minuscule ripples in space-time are the last prediction of Albert Einstein’s 1916 general theory of relativity to be verified. Until now, there has only been circumstantial evidence of their existence. The discovery also provides a deep connection between general relativity and quantum mechanics, another central pillar of physics.”(Stuart Clark)

Big_bang_theory_1795533g Elise Amendola/AP

 

Scientists, from left, Clem Pryke, Jamie Bock, Chao-Lin Kuo and John Kovac smile during a news conference at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics in Cambridge, Mass., on March 17, 2014.

science-bigbangHandout/REUTERS

The measurements were taken using the BICEP2 instrument at the South Pole Telescope facility.  Now we wait as the scientific community deliberates these findings and maybe, just maybe, we have confirmed more of Einstein’s brilliance. 

A New Way To Search For Alien Life

a new way to search for alien life

Everyone has imagined how excited people would be if alien life were finally discovered.  You’ve all seen those movies where one day a huge spaceship breaks through the clouds and imposes its presence on the world.  I, for one, sometimes think what it would be like if I’m driving down the interstate and suddenly this enormous mothership slowly looms over the horizon.  I’d hunch over my steering wheel and look up at the sky in shock, but then I’d immediately get mad at the other drivers because they would all pull over, or stop right there on the road, just so they can get out and look at it.  “Come on, people.  I’ve got places to be.  Yeah, there’s a spaceship; let’s move on.   I have to be at work in, like, five minutes.”  Well, that’s if the aliens came knocking on our door.  In reality, there are a few ways that scientists search for extraterrestrial life, e.g., searching for radio signals, laser signals, or evidence of neutrinos.  And now we can add one more new way to search for alien life: analyzing for something called “dimers.”

Continue reading