Moon

Days on Earth Are Getting Longer, Thanks to the Moon

Days on Earth are getting longer as the moon slowly moves farther away from us, new research shows. The moon is about 4.5 billion years old and resides some 239,000 miles (385,000 kilometers) away from Earth, on average. However, due to tidal forces between our planet and the moon, the natural satellite slowly spirals away from Earth at a rate of about 1.5 inches (3.82 centimeters) per year, causing our planet to rotate more slowly around its axis. Using a new statistical method called astrochronology, astronomers peered into Earth’s deep geologic past and reconstructed the planet’s history. This work revealed that, just 1.4 billion years ago, the moon was significantly closer to Earth, which made the planet spin faster. As a result, a day on Earth lasted just over 18 hours back then, according to a statement from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. “As the moon moves away, the Earth is like a spinning figure skater who slows down as they stretch their arms out,” study co-author Stephen Meyers, a professor of geoscience at UW-Madison, said in the statement. “One of our ambitions was to use astrochronology to tell time in the most distant past, to develop very ancient geological time scales. We want to be able to study rocks that are billions of years old in a way that is comparable to how we study modern geologic processes.” Astrochronology combines astronomical theory with geological observation, allowing researchers to reconstruct the history of the solar system and better understand ancient climate change as captured in the rock record, according to the statement. The moon and other bodies in the solar system largely influence Earth’s rotation, creating orbital variations called Milankovitch cycles. These variations ultimately determine where sunlight is distributed on Earth, based on the planet’s rotation and tilt. Earth’s climate rhythms are captured in the rock record, going back hundreds of millions of years. However, regarding our planet’s ancient past, which spans billions of years, this geological record is fairly limited, researchers said in the statement. This can lead to some uncertainty and confusion. For example, the current rate at which the moon is moving away from Earth suggests that “beyond about 1.5 billion years ago, the moon would have been close enough that its gravitational interactions with the Earth would have ripped the moon apart,” Meyers said. Using their new statistical method, the researchers were able to compensate for the uncertainty across time. This approach was tested on two stratigraphic rock layers: The 1.4-billion-year-old Xiamaling Formation from northern China and a 55-million-year-old record from Walvis Ridge, in the southern Atlantic Ocean. Examining the geologic record captured in the rock layers and integrating the measure of uncertainty revealed changes in Earth’s rotation, orbit and distance from the moon throughout history, as well as how the length of day on Earth has steadily increased. “The geologic record is an astronomical observatory for the early solar system,” Meyers said in the statement. “We are looking at its pulsing rhythm, preserved in the rock and the history of life.” The new study was published Monday (June 4) in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

Fascinating!!  🙂

NASA and Russia reveal plan to build SPACE STATION orbiting the MOON

Moscow and Washington have agreed to build the station called Deep Space Gateway – finally bringing a long standing concept into reality. Russia’s space agency Roscosmos announced the ambitious project today in a speech at International Astronautical Congress in Adelaide, Australia. Following in the footsteps of the International Space Station, the moon ship would be open to astronauts and cosmonauts from around the world. Space bosses hope the Deep Space Gateway will allow mankind to stage space flights to Mars and elsewhere in the Solar System. It comes after US President Donald Trump announced in his debut speech on Capitol Hill he wanted astronauts to arrive on “distant worlds” within the next ten years. NASA and Roscosmos hope the space station’s first modules would be completed by 2026 – the 250th anniversary of the United States. “We have agreed to join the project to build a new international Deep Space Gateway station in the moon’s orbit,” Russian space chief Igor Komarov said. The space station could provide a staging point for the proposed Deep Space Transport vessel – which would ferry astronauts around the solar system. It is hoped technology developed for the Deep Space Gateway could be implemented into surface bases on the Moon and Mars. In a mission statement for the project, NASA said: “NASA is leading the next steps into deep space near the moon, where astronauts will build and begin testing the systems needed for challenging missions to deep space destinations including Mars. “The area of space near the moon offers a true deep space environment to gain experience for human missions that push farther into the solar system, access the lunar surface for robotic missions but with the ability to return to Earth if needed in days rather than weeks or months.” The space agency added: “The gateway and transport could potentially support mission after mission as a hub of activity in deep space near the moon, representing multiple countries and agencies with partners from both government and private industry. “NASA is open to new ideas of both a technical and programmatic nature suggestions as we develop, mature and implement this plan.” Speaking in March, Trump said, “American footprints on distant worlds are not too big a dream” and added all was possible if, “we set free the dreams of our people.”

Agreed!!

Get set for December supermoon, Geminid meteor shower

Two bright celestial scenes are going to play out in the heavens on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning: a supermoon and a meteor shower. While the supermoon of November was the subject of plenty of attention, the evening of December 14 will also host a supermoon, which is a phenomenon that occurs when the moon (which has an elliptical orbit) is closest to our planet at the same time it appears to be full from our vantage point here on Earth. The combination of the two factors makes it brighter— as much as 30 percent, NASA says. An extra bright full moon makes for a powerful sight in the sky, but it’s going to outshine another phenomenon: the annual Geminid meteor shower, when the Earth passes through material from an “extinct comet” dubbed 3200 Phaethon, according to NASA. The meteors streak across the sky as they burn up, making for stunning shooting stars. NASA said that the ideal time to check out the meteors is right before daybreak on Wednesday morning. In short, to see December’s supermoon, check it out on Tuesday evening; to try to glimpse as many Geminid shooting stars as possible, find a dark place to stargaze on Wednesday morning while it’s still dark out. NASA scientists will be taking questions from the public via Twitter on Tuesday night.

Very cool!!  See it if ya can!

The best times to see November’s big supermoon

This Monday stargazers will get to experience a rare, extra bright supermoon. Want to make sure to spy it? According to NASA, the best time to see it is early Monday morning before sunrise, as the moon is closest to Earth at 6:22 am, EST. But Sunday night and Monday night are also really good times to see Earth’s natural satellite. “I’ve been telling people to go out at night on either Sunday or Monday night to see the supermoon,” Noah Petro, deputy project scientist for NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter mission, said in a statement. “The difference in distance from one night to the next will be very subtle, so if it’s cloudy on Sunday, go out on Monday. Any time after sunset should be fine.” The last time the full moon was this close to Earth was 1948, NASA says. The moon only appears full from Earth when our planet is between the sun and the moon. But since the moon’s orbit has an elliptical shape, sometimes it is closer to Earth than other times. Astronomers call the closest-to-the-Earth moment the perigee. What makes November 14 special is that the moon “becomes full within about two hours of perigee—arguably making it an extra-super moon,” NASA explained. In short: a so-called supermoon occurs when a full moon happens as the moon is also closest to Earth. NASA says that Earth can be bathed in 30 percent more moonlight during a supermoon. This year actually has three supermoons. Besides November’s, there was one on October 16 and will be another on December 14, although neither are as close as this month’s. The November 14 supermoon is not only the closest full moon of the century so far, it won’t be matched until 2034. So if you miss this one, mark your calendar for November 25 of that year.

Fun!   🙂

Mystery of how the Moon got its bull’s-eye may be solved

One of the biggest impact craters on the moon is mysteriously shaped like a three-ringed bull’s-eye. After decades of deliberation, scientists said they may have finally figured out how those rings came to be. The crater in question, called the Orientale impact basin, is located on the edge of the moon’s near side, so the feature is barely visible from Earth. The crater formed about 3.8 billion years ago. Three concentric rings circle the basin, the biggest of which measures nearly 580 miles across. These strange circles have lacked a solid explanation until now. To understand Orientale’s rings, scientists needed to look deeper than the lunar surface and into the moon’s interior structure. With the help of NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL) mission, they did exactly that. In two sister studies published today in the journal Science, researchers explained how they used data about the moon’s gravity to get a look at the satellite’s subsurface structure. They then used that information to model the impact that formed the crater to determine how the rings were formed. “We use gravity to map the interior of a planet in ways somewhat analogous to an X-ray,” said Maria Zuber, a geophysicist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology who led the gravity field study. Because the interior of a planet or moon contains materials that vary in composition, temperature and density, and [because] the surface can have features like craters and mountains, the gravitational field around these objects is not the same all around, Zuber explained. So studying the variations in gravity around the moon can provide clues about what lies beneath the surface. “In the past, our view of Orientale basin was largely related to its surface features, but we didn’t know what the subsurface structure looked like in detail,” Jim Head, a geologist at Brown University in Rhode Island, a GRAIL scientist and a co-author of the new research, said in a statement. “The beauty of the GRAIL data is that it is like putting Orientale in an X-ray machine and learning in great detail what the surface features correspond to in the subsurface.” Brandon Johnson, a geologist at Brown University and a co-author of Zuber’s paper, led a second study to use the GRAIL data to determine how the rings at the Orientale basin formed. His study determined that an object about 40 miles across traveling at a speed of about 9 miles per second struck the moon. The study also found that none of the rings at Orientale correspond with the transient crater, or the dent created by the initial impact. Instead, the rings formed via processes that occurred beneath the moon’s surface in a reaction to the impact. “Warm material at depth collapses inward more easily than the material above it, and that pulls in the brittle crust along with that inflowing mantle material, causing the crust to kind of break into mega blocks that then give you these large fault scarps,” or circular cracks in the surface, Johnson said. The outer two rings formed via this process, but the inner ring, called the “inner rook,” formed a bit differently, Johnson said. When an impactor strikes a planet or a moon, the crust can sometimes rebound, leaving a mound of material in the center of the crater called the central peak. Orientale’s central peak was large — several miles high — and unstable, so it collapsed within minutes of the impact. As the collapsing material flowed outward from the crater’s center, it formed a circle of loose material, Johnson explained. “Big impacts like the one that formed Orientale were the most important drivers of change on planetary crusts in the early solar system,” Johnson said in a statement. “Thanks to the tremendous data supplied by GRAIL, we have a much better idea of how these basins form, and we can apply that knowledge to big basins on other planets and moons.” NASA’s GRAIL mission sent two orbiter spacecraft to study the moon’s gravity in 2011. The mission ended in 2012 after the orbiters swooped lower than 1.2 miles above the Orientale crater to create the highest-resolution gravity map yet. In the future, missions like GRAIL could help researchers study the gravity and internal structure of other bodies in the solar system, like Venus and Mars, Zuber said. The two research papers, “Formation of the Orientale Lunar Multiring Basin” and “Gravity Field of the Orientale Basin from the Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory Mission,” appeared today in the journal Science.

Very cool!!  🙂

Black moon set to rise this week in ‘rare’ lunar event – but what is it?

A ‘rare’ black moon is set to rise tonight/ Saturday morning– but what exactly is the lunar event and will we be able to see it? ‘Black Moon Rising’ may sound like the title of an apocalyptic sci-fi film but the astronomical event is unlikely to signal the end of the world, despite the concerns of some doomsayers. From blood moons to strawberry ones and those of the ‘super’ variety, it can be difficult to keep up with all the different names given to the Earth’s natural satellite. The latest causing excitement among skygazers is the so-called black moon, however there are several definitions about what it actually is. Most experts agree the term black moon refers to the second new moon in a calendar month. It shouldn’t be confused with a blue moon, a phenomenon that occurs when there is a second full moon in one calendar month. Joe Rao from space.com explains: “A second full moon in a single calendar month is sometimes called a blue moon. A black moon is supposedly the flip side of a blue moon; the second new moon in a single calendar month.” The last black moon was in March 2014 and the next one after this year’s is expected in 2019. Time and Date explains: “Black Moon is not a well-known term in the astronomy world. In recent years, the term has been made popular by astrologers and followers of the Wiccan religion.” A new moon occurs every 29.5 days. The moon ‘disappears’ from the sky when it is between the earth and the sun with it’s illuminated side facing away from us. The black moon event will take place in the early hours of Saturday morning at 1:11am (GMT) for those in the Western Hemisphere. The black moon will coincide with Halloween for those in the Eastern hemisphere. Unfortunately, you won’t actually be able to see it as the moon will appear invisible. It will just be very dark. Don’t worry, it’s very unlikely the black moon with affect your weekend plans, despite doomsayers predicting it could be the end of humanity.

Indeed..  And yet, all of the crazies will probably be out there..  So, you’ve been warned.  For those that want to try and “see” it anyway, try looking up around 8:11pm ET (6:11pm MDT) this evening. Muhahahahaha!!!       🙂

‘Blue moon’ rises Saturday — but it won’t be blue: A full moon history

This weekend, a full moon will rise in the night sky, a so-called “Blue Moon.” Typically, a Blue Moon is defined as the second full moon that occurs during a calendar month, but the full moon this Saturday (May 21) will be the only full moon of May 2016. So, how can it be called a Blue Moon? The explanation points back to a somewhat obscure rule. In fact, the current rule of two full moons in one month has superseded the rule that would allow this month’s full moon to be called “blue.” If you’re confused, don’t worry.

You’re not alone.. I’m right there with ya’. Just click on the text above to read “the rest of the story.” Then, go out this evening to see this “Blue Moon.” 🙂