Astronomy

Get set for strawberry moon: NASA’s top tips for June skywatchers

The next full moon, known as the strawberry moon, will light up the sky this week. Here are NASA’s top tips for June skywatchers. The moon will be full on Friday, June 5, at 3:12 p.m. EDT. “The Moon will appear full for about 3 days around this time, from early Thursday morning into early Sunday morning,” NASA explains on its website. Citing the Maine Farmer’s Almanac, NASA notes that the June full moon was dubbed the strawberry moon by Algonquin tribes. “The name comes from the relatively short season for harvesting strawberries in the north-eastern United States,” the space agency explains. “An old European name for this full Moon is the Mead Moon or the Honey Moon.” Mead is an alcoholic drink made from a fermented mixture of honey and water. “Some writings suggest that the time around the end of June was when honey was ripe and ready to be harvested from hives or from the wild, which made this the ‘sweetest’ Moon,” explains NASA. The Old Farmer’s Almanac notes that the name strawberry moon was used by every Algonquin tribe. The celestial event was also known as the rose moon in Europe, it adds. The June full moon may also be linked to the phrase “honeymoon,” according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. “In the past, June has been the most popular month for weddings, leading some to suggest that the Moon’s honey-colored appearance in June was the origin of the ‘honeymoon’ phrase,” it explains on its website. “Nowadays, however, the most popular wedding months are August, September, and October, plus a little research shows that the Moon’s color never did have anything to do with that expression.” The strawberry moon, however, will not be a supermoon. The May full moon, known as the flower moon, was the last supermoon of 2020. In April, skywatchers enjoyed the super pink moon, which was the largest supermoon of the year. NASA notes that a partial eclipse is also on deck for June 5, although this will not be visible for most people in the Americas. “The Moon will be close enough to opposite the Sun that it will pass through part of the partial shadow of the Earth, called a partial penumbral eclipse of the Moon,” it explains on its website. “During this eclipse the Moon will not be in the sky for most of the Americas. If we could see the Moon, the slight dimming during this eclipse will not be noticeable without instrumentation.” “It’s the most subtle kind of lunar eclipse, one that most people won’t even notice,” adds the EarthSky website. The summer solstice will occur later this month, on June 20. “As spring ends and summer begins, the daily periods of sunlight reach their longest on the solstice, then begin to shorten again,” explains NASA on its website. “Summer Solstice will be on Saturday, June 20, at 5:43 PM. This will be the day with the longest period of sunlight, 14 hours, 53 minutes, and 41.5 seconds,” it adds. The ancient site of Stonehenge in Southern England has become synonymous with solstices. Some scientists believe that Stonehenge was built to mark the summer and winter solstices. NASA also offers other skywatching tips for this month. “As twilight ends on the evening of the full Moon on Friday, June 5, (at 9:42 PM EDT for the Washington, DC area), the planet Mercury will appear about 6 degrees above the horizon in the west-northwest,” it explains, on its website. “The bright star appearing nearest to directly overhead will be Arcturus, appearing (for Washington, DC and similar latitudes) 68 degrees above the horizon in the south-southeast. Also near to directly overhead will be the constellation Ursa Major, also known as the Great Bear or the Big Dipper.”

For more info, click on the text above.  And, remember to check for that Strawberry Moon this Friday afternoon at 1:12p MDT, for those of us here in sunny Colorado.     🙂

 

Astronomer puts odds on extraterrestrial life existing: ‘Universe teeming with life … the favored bet’

Despite no clear-cut evidence, mankind has wondered for eons whether we’re alone in the universe. One astronomer, however, is almost sure that extraterrestrial life exists. In a new study, Columbia University astronomer David Kipping used the Bayesian model to determine the odds that life should exist on Earth. He found the odds are 9:1 or higher, despite scientists still not clearly understanding “how life occurred” on the planet, even if it’s widely accepted life started billions of years ago. “The rapid emergence of life and the late evolution of humanity, in the context of the timeline of evolution, are certainly suggestive,” Kipping said in a statement. “But in this study it’s possible to actually quantify what the facts tell us.” The Earth itself is widely believed to be approximately 4.5 billion years old. The Bayesian statistical inference, which is used to “update the probability for a hypothesis as evidence or new information becomes available,” found that intelligent life on Earth likely formed against the odds. The model looked at four possible answers: life is common and often develops intelligence; life is rare but often develops intelligence; life is common and rarely develops intelligence; lastly, life is rare and rarely develops intelligence. Kipping noted the “common-life scenario is always at least nine times more likely than the rare one,” but the odds of life being intelligent are weak. “[T]he possibility that intelligence is extremely rare and Earth ‘lucked out’ remains quite viable,” Kipping wrote in the study. “Overall, we find a weak preference, 3:2 betting odds, that intelligence rarely emerges given our late arrival.” “If we played Earth’s history again, the emergence of intelligence is actually somewhat unlikely,” he added in the statement. However, Kipling pointed out that the analysis “purely concerns the Earth,” and should not be applied to “potentially exoplanets being discovered.” “The analysis can only provide statistical probabilities, but the case for a universe teeming with life emerges as the favored bet,” Kipping explained in the statement. “The search for intelligent life in worlds beyond Earth should be by no means discouraged.” The research has been published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. As of April 2020, more than 4,000 exoplanets have been identified, including a “one in a million” super-Earth that was recently discovered. In early March, an astronomy student from the University of British Columbia discovered 17 new exoplanets, including one that is roughly the same size as Earth. Known as KIC-7340288 b, the exoplanet is “small enough to be considered rocky,” at just 1.5 times the size of Earth, and is in the habitable zone of the star it orbits. Another recently discovered exoplanet, K2-18b, is also “potentially habitable” and is just 124 light-years from Earth.

Mr. Kipping is saying what we’ve been saying here for many years; that the likelihood of life out there, on another planet, is FAR greater than not…given just how vast space is.     🙂

Super pink moon: NASA’s top tips for April skywatchers

Skywatchers are in for a treat in April when the super pink moon, the biggest supermoon of 2020, lights up the night sky. The April full moon is the closest supermoon of the year, which means that it is the largest, according to EarthSky. “That’s because this full moon more closely coincides with lunar perigee – the moon’s closest point to Earth in its monthly obit – than any other full moon in the year 2020,” the website explains. Supermoons happen when the moon’s elliptical orbit brings it to the closest point to the Earth while the moon is full. The phrase was coined in 1979, according to NASA. The space agency explains that the moon will be at perigee, at 2:08 pm EDT on April 7. The moon will be full at 10:35 pm EDT that day. “For the best view of this lovely spring Moon, find an open area and watch as the Moon rises just above the horizon, at which point it will appear its biggest and take on a golden hue!,” explains the Old Farmer’s Almanac, on its website. The April full moon is known as the pink moon, on account of the herb moss pink, also known as wild ground phlox, according to NASA. In the eastern U.S., the herb moss pink is one of the earliest widespread flowers of Spring, the space agency explains, on its website. “Other names for this Moon include the Sprouting Grass Moon, the Egg Moon, and among coastal tribes the Fish Moon, as this was the time that the shad swam upstream to spawn,” it says. Skygazers recently enjoyed the stunning March full moon, or worm moon, which was also a supermoon. Some experts described the spectacular February full moon, or snow moon, as a supermoon, although others feel that it does not qualify as that category of celestial event. The snow moon was one of the largest full moons of 2020.

🙂

Full worm supermoon on deck: What you need to know

Skywatchers are in for a treat next week when the full worm supermoon rises in the sky. “March’s full Moon, called the full Worm Moon, reaches peak fullness at 1:48 p.m. EDT on Monday, March 9,” explains the Old Farmer’s Almanac. “Look for the spectacularly bright Moon as it rises above the horizon that evening!” The celestial event will be the first of three supermoons in 2020, according to the Old Farmer’s Almanac. EarthSky notes that the full worm moon will be the second-closest of the year’s supermoons. Supermoons happen when the moon’s elliptical orbit brings it to the closest point to Earth while the moon is full. The phrase was coined in 1979, according to NASA. “The Moon will appear full for about 3 days centered on this time, from early Sunday morning into early Wednesday morning,” adds NASA, on its website. The March full moon, which is also known as the crow moon, crust moon, sap moon and sugar moon, played an important role in Native American culture. “The more northern tribes of the northeastern United States knew this as the Crow Moon, when the cawing of crows signaled the end of winter,” explains NASA, on its website. “Other northern names were the Crust Moon, because the snow cover becomes crusted from thawing by day and freezing by night, or the Sap (or Sugar) Moon as this is the time for tapping maple trees.” Southern tribes, however, dubbed the celestial event the “worm moon,” as a result of the casts left by earthworms on the thawing ground. Some experts described the spectacular February full moon, or snow moon, as a supermoon, although others feel that it does not qualify as that category of celestial event. The snow moon was one of the largest full moons of 2020.

Very cool!!  Catch it Monday, if ya can!     🙂

Molecular oxygen discovered in another galaxy for first time ever

Astronomers have announced a significant discovery: they have found molecular oxygen for the first time ever outside the Solar System. In a research published in The Astrophysical Journal, they noted that it was discovered in the Markarian 231 galaxy, 561 million light-years from Earth. A light-year, which measures distance in space, equals about 6 trillion miles. “This first detection of extragalactic molecular oxygen provides an ideal tool to study AGN-driven molecular outflows on dynamic timescales of tens of megayears,” the researchers wrote in the study’s abstract. The find is significant since the galaxy is powered by a quasar, a highly active supermassive black hole. Some astronomers believe there are two quasars at the center of the galaxy. though that has yet to be proven. Quasars are considered the brightest objects in the universe and the quasar at the center of Markarian 231 is the closest one to Earth. The researchers used the IRAM 30-meter radio telescope in Spain to make their observations after looking at it for four days. It’s unclear what is causing the oxygen to appear, but it may be due to “the interaction between the active galactic nucleus-driven molecular outflow and the outer disc molecular clouds,” the researchers wrote in the study. Oxygen is necessary for life as we know it, according to the University Corporation for Atmospheric Research, but so far, molecular oxygen has been difficult to find. It has been detected in the Orion nebula, but since it experiences intense radiation from the young stars being formed, it’s possible the water ice is split into a molecular level, allowing for the discovery of oxygen. Oxigen is the third most abundant element in the universe, trailing hydrogen and helium. Some scientists believe oxygen in space is stuck with hydrogen in the form of water ice, which could be why it is hard to detect. In November, NASA’s Curiosity rover discovered that oxygen “behaves in a way that so far scientists cannot explain” on Mars. The Curiosity rover, which has been exploring the Gale Crater since it landed on Mars in August 2012, found that the oxygen in the atmosphere did not behave in the same way that nitrogen and argon did, following “a predictable season pattern, waxing and waning in concentration in Gale Crater throughout the year relative to how much CO2 is in the air.” Instead, the amount of oxygen in the air throughout the spring and summer rose by as much as 30 percent, then dropped to levels that were predicted by known chemistry in the fall.

Fascinating!!   🙂

Black Moon is coming tonight: What that means

We’ve seen all kinds of interesting phases of the Moon, from “Super blood Moons” to “full worm supermoons” to even the stunning Strawberry Moon. But July 31 will mark a rare occurrence for Earth’s natural satellite — a phenomenon known as a black Moon. The sparse celestial event will be seen in North America, marking the first occurrence since 2016. The rest of the planet will see the black Moon on Aug. 30. Although there is no one single definition of a black Moon, according to Time and Date, it is most commonly used to represent the second new Moon of a month. This rarely happens outside of leap years, as lunar cycles largely take 29 days to complete. But every 32 months or so, there are two full Moons in a month, with the first being known as a blue Moon. Officially, the black Moon will occur at 11:13 p.m. EDT, for the Western Hemisphere according to Space.com. For the Eastern Hemisphere, it will occur after midnight on Aug. 1, but it is not the second new Moon, so it does not count as a black Moon. New Moons are not able to be seen, as they travel “across the sky with the Sun during the day,” according to EarthSky.org. “But the gravitational influence of the new moon and sun combine to physically affect our water planet, which people along the ocean coastlines may notice in the coming days.” Other meanings of a black Moon include a third new Moon in a season of four new Moons; no new Moon in February; and no full Moon in February. Tomorrow’s black Moon will also be a supermoon, which means the new Moon happens at the closest point to Earth in its monthly orbit.

Very cool!  So, again, it’ll be at 11:13pm EDT, or 9:13pm for those of us here in sunny Colorado.    🙂

Astronomers discover radio signal from galaxy billions of light-years away, report says

Canadian astronomers have reportedly discovered a repetitive radio signal some 2.5 billion light-years away from Earth — only the second example known to mankind. A telescope in British Columbia, otherwise known as Canadian Hydrogen Intensity Mapping Experiment (CHIME), detected 13 pulses — or fast radio bursts (FRBs) — in July and August, according to a Monday report from Nature, a British scientific journal. The findings were announced by Deborah Good, an astronomer at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, at a meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Washington on Wednesday. “Look! We see FRBs,” she said of the cosmic flashes, which remain a mystery to astronomers. Before they were spotted over the summer, astronomers reportedly found between 50 and 60 examples of the radio bursts. Good said that “if we had 1,000 examples, we would be able to say many more things about what FRBs are like.” The CHIME telescope found, as phrased by Nature.com, “the second known FRB that repeats, meaning that the radio flashes re-appear at the same point in the sky.” The first FRB that repeats was detected in 2012. The majority of the FRBs discovered by the telescope showed signs of “scattering,” Phys.org reported — which led the CHIME team to believe the radio bursts are “powerful astrophysical objects.” “That could mean in some sort of dense clump like a supernova remnant,” Cherry Ng, an astronomer at the University of Toronto, told the news outlet. “Or near the central black hole in a galaxy. But it has to be in some special place to give us all the scattering that we see.” Astronomers’ studying of FRBs can teach those who study more about where the bursts come from, and whether that region in its galaxy is home to turbulent gas. “Until now, there was only one known repeating FRB.,” astronomer Ingrid Stairs, also a member of the CHIME team, said. “Knowing that there is another suggests that there could be more out there. And with more repeaters and more sources available for study, we may be able to understand these cosmic puzzles — where they’re from and what causes them.”

Fascinating!!   🙂