Category Archives: The Moon
Totality — that brief period during a solar eclipse when the Moon is completely centered in front of the Sun’s disk — is a truly amazing sight, so much so that many people who have seen it once (a privileged group that doesn’t include me, sadly!) will travel across the globe in an effort witness it again and again.
During solar eclipse totality the sky not only becomes dark, dropping the temperature and sometimes even allowing stars to be seen, but also the Sun’s outer atmosphere is revealed around the silhouette of the Moon for a few short moments. Unfortunately this is not easily captured on camera because of the rapidly changing lighting situations, and when it is it pales in comparison to the real thing (or so I hear.)
The video above, taken during the November 14 eclipse from Queensland, shows the moments of totality pretty nicely although the streamer effect can’t really be made out. Still, we get a good idea of how the light changes and we can see another effect called “Baily’s Beads”, where sunlight peeks through some of the relief of the Moon’s terrain along its outer limb. Also the “diamond ring” effect can be seen as the Sun is uncovered.
Enjoy, and thanks to YouTube user solareclipse eclipsevidgvale for the upload!
Today, tens of thousands of people are gathering in northeastern Australia to witness one of the most amazing and dramatic astronomical events known: a total solar eclipse. At 2:39 p.m. EDT (19:39 UT) the Moon will begin to pass in front of the Sun for viewers around Cairns, Australia, leading up to a brief period of totality at 5:12 p.m. EDT (22:12 UT). At this time, the Sun will be completely blocked by the disk of the Moon, revealing the wispy strands of the Sun’s outer corona. It will be a spectacular view that’s possible at no other time, and will give scientists a chance to study some curious aspectsof the Sun’s atmosphere.
“On a scale of one to ten, a total solar eclipse is a MILLION.” – Fred Espenak, aka “Mr. Eclipse“
In an image reminiscent of the historical photo of Buzz Aldrin’s boot print in the lunar soil, Curiosity leaves a wheel scuff in a wind-formed ripple at a site called “Rocknest”.
The rover’s right Navigation camera took this image of the scuff mark on the mission’s 57th Martian day, or sol (Oct. 3, 2012). For scale, the width of the wheel track is about 16 inches (40 centimeters)… about twice the width of Aldrin’s bootprint.
Want a closer (and color!) look at the wheel mark? Click here.
Aldrin’s lunar boots, as well as Armstrong’s (and all the Apollo moonwalkers besides Cernan and Schmitt) are actually still on the Moon, but their multiple layers of fabrics have likely turned to powder under the constant barrage of UV radiation.
Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech (Apollo image via the Project Apollo Image Archive and NASA)
In honor of International Observe the Moon Night (InOMN) I invite you to see the Moon like never before, with this beautiful HD tour that takes you around our natural satellite as it’s seen by NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.
According to the Lunar and Planetary Institute’s David R. Kring, “The scenes in the video are so dramatic that you may find yourself reaching out to pick up a rock and becoming restless to walk among the lunar peaks.”
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35 years ago today, September 18, 1977, NASA’s Voyager 1 spacecraft turned its camera homeward just about two weeks after its launch, capturing the image above from a distance of 7.25 million miles (11.66 million km). It was the first time an image of its kind had ever been taken, showing the entire Earth and Moon together in a single frame… crescent-lit partners eternally paired in space.
I must say, it brings to mind a quote by the contentious British astrophysicist Sir Fred Hoyle (who famously coined the term “Big Bang”, albeit in disparagement) –
“Once a photograph of the Earth, taken from outside, is available – once the sheer isolation of the Earth becomes known – a new idea as powerful as any in history will be let loose.”
Whatever Hoyle had in mind, it’s quite something to look at your entire planet sitting there amidst the blackness of space and kow that everything that’s ever happened to all living things that we’ve ever known about, human or otherwise, has happened right there, on the surface of that sphere. And that we look awfully small from not very far away… 7.25 million miles is only just about a thirteenth the distance to the Sun (luckily Voyager was headed the other way!)
Of course, then there’s this famous bit of eloquence by the legendary Carl Sagan.
Today the White House issued a proclamation that all U.S. flags are to be flown at half staff ”as a mark of respect for the memory of Neil Armstrong” on the day of his burial.
So, I made a little edit to an image of the flag planted by Armstrong and Aldrin at the Apollo 11 landing site. Were it still standing (which, sadly, it isn’t) and were there any likewise intrepid astronauts standing nearby when the proclamation was…er, proclaimed, this is what one might see shortly thereafter.
The full statement can be found below:
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“That’s one small step for a man… one giant leap for mankind.”
I’m not sure what else need be said about the significance of what happened on this day in 1969, 43 years ago… it was a shining moment in human history, and will be — should be — remembered forever as an example of what people can achieve when challenged, driven and inspired.
Maybe more giant leaps have been made since then, and undoubtedly more will be made in the future, but this was the first.
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