Space news stories
It’s an exciting time for those interested in space and everything it has to offer us. Between our potential to travel in space and how much we’ve come to learn, and can still learn, from unmanned probes and satellites, it’s hard to not be hopeful for the future of our interest in the seemingly-boundless expanse that surrounds us. NASA’s Acting Administrator Robert M. Lightfoot, Jr., feels the same about the exploration of space. To him, the many plans, projects, and initiatives focused in this respect are well worth getting excited about.
At the Nashville Zoo in TN, the giraffes ran in confused circles, orangutans climbed, the flamingos huddled together, and the rhinos just headed for bed. Over 7,000 visitors that day watched and recorded how the animals behaved when the sky turned dark during the total solar eclipse of August 21. There was plenty to see when the moon slipped in front of the sun. The visitors’ noise — drowned out the zoo animals, crickets and cicadas — and zookeepers still have to figure whether the strange behavior was from the eclipse, or the people there to watch the show. The zoo project was only one of many science experiments planned for the historic event. Citizen-scientists and their more professional counterparts loaded up on pictures, video, data and just plain weird experiences as the eclipse’s shadow crossed the United States.
While surveying the positions of over a billion stars, ESA’s Gaia mission is also measuring their colour, which is a key diagnostic in studying the physical properties of stars. A new image provides a preview of Gaia’s first full-colour all-sky map, which will be unleashed in its highest resolution with the next data release in 2018.
On September 1, an asteroid almost three miles wide named after Florence Nightingale will safely fly by Earth at a distance of 4.4 million miles. The last time it came closer to Earth was 1890 and the next time it will come anywhere near us will be 2500. Florence, is one of the biggest near-Earth objects (NEOs) currently being tracked by NASA and will be the largest to pass us at a relatively close distance since the space agency began monitoring them 20 years ago. It is classified as a “potentially hazardous” by the Minor Planet Center.
In cooperation with colleagues from Germany and the United States, researchers at the Helmholtz-Zentrum Dresden-Rossendorf (HZDR) have managed to demonstrate ‘diamond showers’ forming in the ice giants of our solar system. Using the ultra-strong X-ray laser and other facilities at the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center in California, they simulated the conditions inside the cosmic giant. For the first time ever, they were able to observe the fission of hydrocarbon and the conversion of carbon into diamonds in real time, and published their results in the journal Nature Astronomy.
In an unplanned bit of serendipity for NASA, the International Space Station with a crew of six on board was seen in silhouette as it crossed in front of the sun at roughly five miles per second during a one phase of the August 21 total solar eclipse. The view from the ISS was also out of this world, with astronauts able to see the entire shadow of the moon over the Earth.
The ancient Egyptian civilization was wedded to the Sun, and yet extant records only ever mention the solar aspect as the giver and sustainer of life that shines brightly for all eternity. Sterling astronomers, the Egyptians, unlike the Mayans, never left us details of the times when the sun-god Ra briefly vanished from the sky at daytime. The lack of chronicles of eclipses by the inveterate and meticulous “sky watchers” is utterly baffling. But why would a rare occurrence such as a solar eclipse fail to find mention in their religious and cosmological texts?
Numerous fashion designers are currently trending futuristic designs to emulate NASA and space-related themed fabrics. Bill Nye the Science Guy has a less bleak read on why fashion is suddenly looking to space again: “Space brings out the best in people, because it’s inherently optimistic,” he said. “You’re dipping your toes in the cosmic ocean. We’re exploring, and when you explore, you’re going to have an adventure. That’s what fashion is all about.”
Thought-provoking article in which the curator of the British Museum explores what the ancient people in Babylon and Mesopotamia thought of this celestial choreography phenomenon. Although people remain separated by beliefs today as much as ever before, we share the basic human curiosity about our place in the universe and a thirst for knowledge. We’re lucky to live at a time when we can learn from so many other people, past and present. We have ever more information, and can better understand what it all means. We get to push back the fear, but keep the wonder.
The path of totality—the swath of America that, as the solar eclipse sweeps over the country August 21, will fall under its full shadow — is a busy place to be this week, as people prep for a deluge of tourists, scramble to find safety glasses, and gird themselves for possible encounters with notorious lizard men. In all this hubbub, though, some towns are still finding time to plan for the future: they’re making eclipse-themed time capsules.
Story highlights travelers who planned for 5 years to travel nearly 400 miles to total solar eclipse crossroads college town of Carbondale Illinois.
While not in the ways claimed by astrologers, it can’t be denied that the motions of the heavens sometimes have a strong influence on events on Earth. We can with confidence predict that a full solar eclipse, such as that visible across the USA and online today, will prompt unusual actions from large numbers of people, as well as peculiar animal behaviour and a dip in the generation of solar power, as the sun casts the moon’s shadow over part of the Earth.
The 2017 eclipse is an important chance to track the effects of an eclipse on solar power and learn lessons that will be useful in 2024, when another eclipse will sweep from Texas to Maine. But this isn’t the first time utilities have paid close attention to the grid during a solar eclipse. Back in 1925, the electrical companies serving New York City were interested in the eclipse that passed over Manhattan, and set out to measure its impact.
The regular movements of the heavens are the oldest and deepest intimations of order in the universe. So it is hard, no matter how enlightened you consider yourself to be, not to feel a primordial lurch in your gut when the sun suddenly disappears from the sky. But we are children of the light, and when the light comes back, we’ll be dancing in it. That, by the way, is a fine time to cry.
Developed by a retired NASA astrophysicist, this user-friendly interactive globe showing the routes taken of more than a dozen total eclipses of the sun taking place around the world over the next two decades. In the map below, the three lines of each path represent the northern, central and southern borders of the path of totality. Note: The interactive globe works best in the latest versions of Safari, Chrome and other browsers.
Storytellers have long fixated on the awe-inspiring phenomenon that is a total solar eclipse. From ancient myths about dragons eating the sun to hundreds of more contemporary depictions in any number of sci-fi TV shows eclipses have been so present in fiction that they can be traced through literally thousands of years’ worth of storytelling across a wide range of mediums. Mapped across history, these depictions can provide insight into everything from a writer’s cultural identity to how scientific advancement changed the way humans interpret natural phenomena. But how accurate are they? How are solar eclipses portrayed differently across different mediums? What kinds of narrative trends have they been part of?