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Entries in Moon (8)

Tuesday
Jul312012

American Flags from Apollo Missions Still Standing

NASA/GSFC/Arizona State University(WASHINGTON) -- American flags planted on the moon by Apollo astronauts are still standing, still casting shadows.

NASA sent six crews to land on the moon between 1969 and 1972.  New photos from NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter show all flags standing except the one posted by Apollo 11. That was not a surprise; astronaut Buzz Aldrin had reported he saw the flag blown over by the exhaust from their ship’s engine as they left the lunar surface.

“Personally I was a bit surprised that the flags survived the harsh ultraviolet light and temperatures of the lunar surface, but they did,” Mark Robinson, the principal investigator for the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Camera (LROC), said in a blog post.  Robinson suggests on his blog that the flags are most likely badly faded.

The images taken by the LROC are the sharpest ever taken in space, according to NASA.

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter was launched in June 2009.  It circles the moon, often from altitudes of less than 20 miles, exploring the moon’s environment to prepare for future expeditions.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May162012

Annular Solar Eclipse 2012: Visible in West on Sunday

PHILIPPE HUGUEN/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- Enjoy the sun. If you live along a narrow band across the southwestern United States, Sunday afternoon will bring the rare treat of an annular solar eclipse -- a ring of sunlight as the new moon, passing between Earth and the Sun, blocks most, but not all, of the Sun’s disc.

Mind you, this is not the kind of eclipse of which you usually see pictures -- the moon blocking the sun completely, creating a few moments of near-night in the middle of the day, with only the sun’s ethereal corona visible around the moon’s edges.  The sky will darken a bit, but there will still be a blindingly bright ring (an “annulus” in Latin) of sun, and it’s dangerous to look directly at it.

Still, there will be a striking sight to see, if you look at a heavily-filtered image projected onto a screen through binoculars or a small telescope, or protect your eyes with No. 14 arcwelders glass (not something found at most hardware stores).

The ring will be visible Sunday afternoon in a strip that begins on the California-Oregon coast and stretches southeastward across Reno, Nev., the Grand Canyon, and Albuquerque, N.M., and ends at sunset near Lubbock, Texas.  

Why this rare annular eclipse?  Because the moon, constant in size as it appears, does not move in a perfect circle around us.  Its orbit is slightly elliptical.  On average, it’s about 239,000 miles away, but at its closest it comes within about 225,000 miles of us.  At its farthest -- as it will be Sunday -- it’s a little more than 250,000 miles away.  It’s just enough of a difference so that the moon will only cover 88 percent of the sun.

The Interior Department points out that a number of national parks -- Redwoods and Lassen in California, Zion in Utah, Glen Canyon National Recreation Area in Arizona, Petroglyph National Monument in New Mexico -- will all be at the center of the eclipse path.

But if you’re in the eclipse path, you really just need a place with a good clear view westward. You may want to go to a local observatory or planetarium, where viewing parties are likely.

And if you don’t feel like investing in welder’s glasses, you may be happy -- seriously -- with a piece of paper, or leafy trees around you.  Prick a small hole in the paper and it will act as a tiny lens, projecting a miniscule image of the sun onto the pavement.  Likewise, take advantage of the natural pinholes in many leaves.  As the eclipse approaches maximum, look down, not up.  If you’re lucky, you’ll see hundreds of little eclipse images dancing on the ground beneath your feet.

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

Monday
Sep122011

Harvest Moon 2011 Brightens September Skies

KAREN BLEIER/AFP/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- This is the night of the Harvest Moon -- the full moon that happens in September and is often one of the year's prettiest.

If you're in a good place and if the weather is kind to you, the moon will loom large in the eastern sky just as the sun disappears in the west.

We're coming up on the autumnal equinox on Sept. 23, when summer turns to fall and the temperature turns, too. At this time of year, night and day are the same length, which is why the sun and moon, just opposite each other in the sky, make for a nice show.

There's no real magic to all this, just the bodies of the solar system doing what they do as they follow the rules of orbital mechanics. But there is a pleasant effect on us earthlings, if we pause to enjoy the combination.

A brief review of the terms at play here:

Harvest Moon: Native American tribes gave names to each of the dozen full moons of the year, and the list now is maintained by the Farmer's Almanac. The Harvest Moon is the one closest to the beginning of fall. It's time for the crops to come in.

The next full moon -- which happens in October -- is referred to by the almanac as the Beaver Moon, though it's also called the Hunter's Moon or Blood Moon. Time to set your traps if you need furs for the winter.

Equinox: The moment when the sun appears to pass directly over the Earth's equator -- in this case southbound as we move from summer to fall. It happens twice a year; if you like warm weather, you may prefer the vernal equinox next March 20, when winter will give way to spring.

Moon Illusion: This last term is the one that perhaps does have a touch of magic to it. If you go out tonight just after sunset, and are lucky enough to have good weather and a clear view of the horizon, you'll see the moon, pumpkin-colored, slowly rising in the east -- and, boy, does it look large.

It is, in fact, no larger in the sky than when it's overhead, but our minds fool us, perhaps because we have a reference point -- something on the horizon -- that we lack when it is high among the stars.

"For instance," said astronomer Tony Phillips, "when you see the moon in close proximity to a tree, your brain will miscalculate the distance to the moon, mentally bringing it closer (like the tree) and thus making it bigger. It seems so real, but this beautiful illusion is all in our minds."

It's a quiet, pleasant show that the heavens put on tonight. If the weather favors you, you will literally get to see the stars align.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Wednesday
May252011

Kennedy's Space Challenge, 50 Years Later

NASA/AFP/Getty Images(CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla.) -- Fifty years ago Wednesday, a fresh-faced president named John F. Kennedy -- just four months into his presidency -- asked Congress for the funding required to send American astronauts to the moon.

"I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth," President Kennedy said at the time. "No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."

Eight years later, on July 16, 1969, Apollo 11 blasted off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., with three men on board. Then, on July 20, the president's goal was realized when the spacecraft and its crew of astronauts -- Buzz Aldrin, Michael Collins and Neil Armstrong -- touched down on the moon.

"I'm at the foot of the ladder," Armstrong told Mission Control as he descended from the lunar lander to the moon’s surface.

With his right hand on the ladder, Armstrong continued, "I'm going to step off."
 
Then, in an image that would become forever ingrained in the minds of millions of Americans who watched the event live on television, Armstrong planted his left foot to the moon's surface.
 
"That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind," he said.

The Russians beat the U.S. into orbit, but Americans won the race to the moon.

Fifty years later, critics say NASA has no timetable for returning men to the moon or to any planet. And though the American shuttle program is scheduled to end this summer, astronaut Mark Kelly, commander of the STS-134 shuttle mission, remains hopeful.

"It's something we need to continue, focus on, invest in," Kelly said last week from Space Shuttle Endeavour, which is currently docked at the International Space Station.

The final American space shuttle mission is slated for July 8.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Sunday
Mar202011

'Supermoon' Lights Up Sky, Biggest In Nearly Two Decades

NASA/Bill Ingalls(NEW YORK) -- Did last night's rare "supermoon" live up to its hype? If the commentary online is any indication, those who had clear skies were not disappointed with the brilliant full moon that lit up the sky.

On Twitter, Facebook and Flickr, skywatchers around the world posted pictures and reactions to the biggest full moon in nearly decades.

During the so-called "supermoon," the moon wasn't just at its closest approach to Earth in its elliptical orbit, it was closer than it has been in 18 years.

After the sun set for East Coasters, #supermoon started trending on Twitter, as people started tweeting about the event. Many even uploaded snapshots of their supermoon views to the photo-sharing website Flickr.

"It's a bird- it's a plane- no, it's Supermoon!," said one Facebook user.

"the supermoon was super beautiful last night," posted another.

Full moons come in different sizes because of the elliptical shape of the moon's orbit -- one side of the ellipse is about 31,000 miles closer to Earth than the other. When the moon is closest to Earth (at its perigee), it is 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than when it's farthest from the planet (at its apogee).

For weeks, Saturday's so-called "supermoon" sparked interest online, with astrologers and amateur astronomers speculating that the extra-large full moon could lead to unusual weather. After Japan's earthquake, some even wondered if the supermoon contributed to the event.

Scientists emphasize that there is no connection between the moon's position and extreme weather or natural disasters here on Earth.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Saturday
Mar192011

Super Full Moon to Grace Skies Saturday

Gaye Gerard/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- When you step outside Saturday night, don't forget to take a good look up at the sky. Assuming clouds don't get in the way, you'll get to gaze at the biggest full moon in nearly two decades.

During what some sky watchers are calling the "supermoon," the moon won't just be at its closest approach to Earth in its elliptical orbit, it will be closer than it has been in 18 years.

"It's going to be big and really bright," said NASA astronomer Dave Williams. "It should be noticeably brighter than a normal full moon."

Full moons come in different sizes because of the elliptical shape of the moon's orbit -- one side of the ellipse is about 31,000 miles closer to Earth than the other. When the moon is closest to Earth (at its perigee), it is 14 percent larger and 30 percent brighter than when it's farthest from the planet (at its apogee).

For weeks, the rare full moon has sparked interest online, with astrologers and amateur astronomers speculating that the "supermoon" could lead to unusual weather. After Japan's earthquake, some even wondered if the supermoon contributed to the event.

In a post earlier this month, AccuWeather blogger Mark Paquette said the phrase "supermoon" originated on the website of astrologer Richard Nolle and spread to astronomers online. According to Nolle's definition, a new or full moon at 90 percent or more of its perigee (or closest approach to Earth) qualifies as a "supermoon." Saturday's full moon won't just be a supermoon but an extreme supermoon, he said, because the moon will be almost precisely at its closest distance to Earth.

According to "new age" forecasts, he said, the supermoon brings strong earthquakes, storms or unusual climate patterns. Scientists emphasize that there is no connection between the moon's position and extreme weather or natural disasters (like Japan's earthquake) here on Earth.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

Monday
Dec202010

Only Lunar Eclipse of 2010 Takes Place Monday Night

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Barring cloudy weather, astronomy enthusiasts and sky gazers across North America will be treated to the only lunar eclipse of the year Monday night.

The eclipse will be visible Monday evening on the West Coast and during the early hours Tuesday on the East Coast.

If the sky is clear, experts say the show might be extra spectacular, as the moon will have a reddish glow.

A lunar eclipse takes place when the sun, Earth, and moon are all perfectly aligned with the Earth in the middle. When the moon passes behind the Earth, the sun's rays are blocked from striking the moon. This can only occur when the moon is full.

As the moon moves deeper into Earth's shadow, indirect sunlight passes through Earth's atmosphere, casting an orange and red hue over the moon.

Unlike a solar eclipse, which can only be seen for a few moments from any specific spot, a lunar eclipse can be viewed for several hours. It is also safe to view a lunar eclipse without special glasses or equipment.

According to NASA, the total phase should last about three and a half hours when it begins as a partial eclipse at 1:33 a.m. ET and it will finish at 5:01 a.m. ET. The totality phase -- when the moon is entirely inside Earth's shadow -- will last approximately 72 minutes.

This year's only lunar eclipse actually coincides with the winter solstice, meaning that the moon will appear high in the night sky, aiding visibility for revelers.

There will be two total lunar eclipses in 2011 -- one in June and one in December. North America will miss the June show and witness only a part of next December's eclipse.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio 

Sunday
Dec192010

Total Lunar Eclipse to Take Place Monday

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Barring cloudy weather, astronomy enthusiasts and sky-gazing revelers across North America will be given an early Christmas gift when they witness a lunar eclipse Monday night.

A lunar eclipse takes place when the sun, earth and moon are all perfectly aligned with the Earth in the middle. When the moon passes behind the earth, the sun's rays are blocked from striking the moon. This can only occur when the moon is full. Unlike a solar eclipse, which can only be seen for a few moments from any specific spot, a lunar eclipse can be viewed for several hours.

The eclipse will happen Monday night on the West Coast and during the early hours Tuesday on the East Coast. According to NASA, although the eclipse is not central, the total phase should last about three and a half hours when it begins as a partial eclipse at 1:33 a.m. ET and it will finish at 5:01 a.m. ET. The totality phase -- when the moon is entirely inside Earth's shadow -- will last a little approximately 72 minutes.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio







ABC News Radio