Blood Moon 2018: Longest Total Lunar Eclipse of Century Occurs July 27

The longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st century takes place this Friday, July 27.

The total phase of the “blood moon” eclipse of July 27 will last 1 hour and 43 minutes, during which Earth’s natural satellite will turn a spectacular red or ruddy-brown color. From start to finish, the entire celestial event will last nearly 4 hours.

The eclipse won’t be visible to viewers in North America, except via webcasts. But observers in much of Africa, the Middle East, southern Asia and the Indian Ocean region will get an eyeful, given the cooperative weather, according to lunar scientist Noah Petro, of NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland. [In Photos: The Rare Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse of 2018]

July’s total lunar eclipse occurs on the same day the planet Mars reaches its opposition when it will shine at its best in the night sky. This month, Mars will be at its closest to Earth since 2003. After opposition, when Mars will be brightest, it will reach that closest point on July 31. You can learn more about that event in our dedicated guide here: Mars at Opposition 2018: How to See It and What to Expect

What is the Blood Moon of July 27?

Unlike with solar eclipses, you need no special equipment to observe lunar eclipses. These latter events, which occur when the moon passes into Earth’s shadow, are safe to view directly with the naked eye, telescopes or binoculars.

The moon turns deep red or reddish brown during eclipses, instead of going completely dark. That’s because some of the sunlight going through Earth’s atmosphere is bent around the edge of our planet and falls onto the moon’s surface. Earth’s air also scatters more shorter-wavelength light (in colors such as green or blue); what’s left is the longer-wavelength, redder end of the spectrum.

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UK selects Scottish site for first spaceport

The UK has selected the site for its first spaceport. The chosen location is Sutherland, on the A’Mhoine peninsula on the north coast of Scotland. Local business development agency the Highlands and Islands Enterprise will receive £2.5 million in funding ($3.3 million) from the UK government, and the first rocket launches are planned for the early 2020s.

The spaceport is being built with the hope that the UK can grab a slice of the growing market for small satellite launches. The country is already home to many component and satellite makers, like Printech Circuit Laboratories and Surrey Satellite Technology, and adding the ability to launch satellites locally would increase its international appeal.

In recent years, a new breed of small satellites has created a boom in the space industry. These satellites are often the size of a shoebox or smaller, and far more technologically capable than older, larger models. This means they’re cheaper to launch and can be put to a range of uses from communications to weather monitoring to scientific experiments. It’s estimated that the global market for such launches (including supporting infrastructure) is currently worth $339 billion, and will grow eightfold by 2045 to $2.7 trillion.

The Sutherland site was selected in part due to its beneficial geography. It’s located on the coast in a sparsely populated area, meaning any rocket failures can fall harmlessly into the ocean or empty land. Rockets can also take a direct path from the tip of the Scottish peninsula to above the Arctic Circle. This is a good fit for small satellites particularly, which are often placed in polar orbits, circling the Earth, and passing over the Arctic and Antarctic

The UK Space Agency has said that the spaceflight market could add £3.8 billion ($5 billion) to the country’s economy over the next decade. Along with the vertical launch site in Sutherland, the government is also putting aside money for a “horizontal” spaceport elsewhere in the country. Such launches will use modified commercial airplanes to ferry satellites to a certain altitude above the ocean before releasing them into orbit.

Brexit won’t scare away all investment, though, and the Sutherland site will be built with the help of a consortium that includes US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin. Patrick Wood, Lockheed Martin’s UK executive for space, noted in a statement that the UK has not invested in space launch vehicles since the 1970s, when the Black Arrow rocket was used to launch the Prospero satellite from Woomera, in Australia. This time, the launches will be local. As Wood said, “The countdown to the first orbital rocket launch from UK soil has officially begun.”

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NASA Funding Project To Turn Asteroids Into Spaceships: Report

NASA has recently announced it would give funds to a California-based 3D printing company for finding ways to turn asteroids into giant, autonomous spacecraft, which could fly to outposts in space, the media reported.

Made In Space’s project, known as RAMA (Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata), could one day enable space colonization by helping make off-Earth manufacturing efficient and economically viable, Space.com reported.

About RAMA (Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata):

Project RAMA, Reconstituting Asteroids into Mechanical Automata, has been designed to leverage the advancing trends of additive manufacturing (AM) and in-situ resource utilization (ISRU).

The project aims to enable asteroid rendezvous missions in which a set of technically simple robotic processes convert asteroid elements into very basic versions of spacecraft subsystems (GNC, Propulsion, Avionics).

Upon completion, the asteroid will be a programmed mechanical automata carrying out a given mission objective; such as relocation to an Earth-Moon liberation point for human rendezvous.

This technique could someday create an affordable and scalable way for NASA to achieve future roadmap items for exploring the solar system.

These techniques could be beneficial to scientific goals for understanding the solar system and its formation, as it is estimated that an order of magnitude increase in NEO targets could be explored for the same mission cost compared to the SOA.

RAMA would enable this by removing the need to launch all spacecraft subsystems and instead converting the asteroid material in-situ.

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NASA prepares to extract data as Kepler runs very low on fuel

Scientists at NASA are preparing to download the latest bit of data stored in its planet-hunting Kepler space telescope as the spacecraft is now running “very low” on fuel.

The US space agency has placed the spacecraft in a no-fuel-use safe mode to save the remaining fuel so that data extraction can be completed, NASA said on Friday.

Launched in 2009, the Kepler mission is specifically designed to survey our region of the Milky Way galaxy to discover hundreds of Earth-size and smaller planets in or near the habitable zone and determine the fraction of the hundreds of billions of stars in our galaxy that might have such planets.

Since the launch of the observatory in 2009, astronomers have discovered thousands of extra-solar planets, or exoplanets, through this telescope alone. Most of them are planets that are ranging between the size of Earth and Neptune (which itself is four times the size of Earth). Most of these planets were discovered in a small region of the constellation Cygnus, at which Kepler was pointed for the first four years of its mission.

As of March 2018, Kepler had found 2,342 confirmed planets; add potential planets, and its find of exoworlds stands at 4,587.

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The spacecraft that will ‘touch the sun’

NASA will launch its long-anticipated space probe that hopes to ‘touch the sun’ from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station next month, the space agency has revealed.

The Parker Solar Probe will fly at speeds of up to 430,000mph (700,000kph) in an attempt to get closer to the surface of the star than any other mission before it.

Today NASA revealed the launch date for the groundbreaking mission and reveals new pictures of the revolutionary eight-foot-diameter heat shield that will safeguard the probe.

About the Parker solar probe:

NASA’s historic Parker Solar Probe mission will revolutionize our understanding of the sun, where changing conditions can propagate out into the solar system, affecting Earth and other worlds. Parker Solar Probe will travel through the sun’s atmosphere, closer to the surface than any spacecraft before it, facing brutal heat and radiation conditions — and ultimately providing humanity with the closest-ever observations of a star.

In order to unlock the mysteries of the sun’s atmosphere, Parker Solar Probe will use Venus’ gravity during seven flybys over nearly seven years to gradually bring its orbit closer to the sun. The spacecraft will fly through the sun’s atmosphere as close as 3.9 million miles to our star’s surface, well within the orbit of Mercury and more than seven times closer than any spacecraft has come before.

The primary science goals for the mission are to trace how energy and heat move through the solar corona and to explore what accelerates the solar wind as well as solar energetic particles.

Parker Solar Probe has three detailed science objectives:

  • Trace the flow of energy that heats and accelerates the solar corona and solar wind.
  • Determine the structure and dynamics of the plasma and magnetic fields at the sources of the solar wind.
  • Explore mechanisms that accelerate and transport energetic particles.

Why do we study the sun and the solar wind?

The sun is the only star we can study up close. By studying this star we live with, we learn more about stars throughout the universe.

The sun is a source of light and heat for life on Earth. The more we know about it, the more we can understand how life on Earth developed.

The sun also affects Earth in less familiar ways. It is the source of the solar wind; a flow of ionized gases from the sun that streams past Earth at speeds of more than 500 km per second (a million miles per hour).

Disturbances in the solar wind shake Earth’s magnetic field and pump energy into the radiation belts, part of a set of changes in near-Earth space known as space weather.

Space weather can change the orbits of satellites, shorten their lifetimes, or interfere with onboard electronics. The more we learn about what causes space weather – and how to predict it – the more we can protect the satellites we depend on.

The solar wind also fills up much of the solar system, dominating the space environment far past Earth. As we send spacecraft and astronauts further and further from home, we must understand this space environment just as early seafarers needed to understand the ocean.

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Hubble Captures Cluster of Aging Stars

This rich and dense smattering of stars is a massive globular cluster, a gravitationally bound collection of stars that orbits the Milky Way. Globular clusters are denser and more spherical than open star clusters like the famous Pleiades. They typically contain hundreds of thousands of stars that are thought to have formed at roughly the same time.

Studies have shown that this globular cluster, named NGC 6139, is home to an aging population of stars. Most globular clusters orbiting the Milky Way are estimated to be over 10 billion years old; as a result, they contain some of the oldest stars in our galaxy, formed very early in the galaxy’s history. However, their role in galactic evolution is still a matter of study.

Globular clusters are denser and more spherical than open star clusters like the famous Pleiades. They typically contain hundreds of thousands of stars that are thought to have formed at roughly the same time.

About the Hubble Space Telescope:

The Hubble Space Telescope is a large telescope in space. NASA launched Hubble in 1990.

It was built by the United States space agency NASA, with contributions from the European Space Agency.

Hubble is the only telescope designed to be serviced in space by astronauts.

Expanding the frontiers of the visible Universe, the Hubble Space Telescope looks deep into space with cameras that can see across the entire optical spectrum from infrared to ultraviolet.

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THE 100 KG SPACECRAFT DEPLOYED BY ISS IS SET TO CLEAN UP SPACE JUNK ORBITING THE EARTH

The Britain-built satellite, named RemoveDEBRIS mission, is one of the world’s first attempts to tackle the build-up of dangerous space debris orbiting the Earth, the British space agency said in a statement late on 22 June. The 100-kg RemoveDebris spacecraft will attempt to capture simulated space debris using a net and a harpoon while also testing advanced cameras and radar systems.

RemoveDebris is an EU (European Union) research project to develop and fly a low-cost in-orbit demonstrator mission that aims to de-risk and verify technologies needed for future ADR (Active Debris Removal) missions.

RemoveDebris is aimed at performing key ADR technology demonstrations (e.g., capture, deorbiting) representative of an operational scenario during a low-cost mission using novel key technologies for ADR. The project is based on and aimed at contributing to global/European ADR roadmaps.

A microsatellite called here RemoveSAT, will release, capture and deorbit two space debris targets, called DebrisSats, in sequence using various rendezvous, capture and deorbiting technologies thus demonstrating in orbit, key ADR technologies for future missions in what promises to be the first ADR technology mission internationally.

Space junk is an ever-growing problem with more than 7,500 tonnes of redundant hardware now thought to be circling the Earth. Ranging from old rocket bodies and defunct spacecraft through to screws and even flecks of paint – this material poses a collision hazard to operational missions.

The rising population of space debris increases the potential danger to all space vehicles, but especially to the International Space Station (ISS), space shuttles, satellites and other spacecraft.

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Three baby planets detected around a faraway star for the very first time

One of the world’s biggest radio telescopes has detected the first ever newborn planets, still enveloped in the swirling disc of gas and dust that made them. The star is called HD 163296. It’s 330 light-years from Earth in the direction of the constellation Sagittarius.

The Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array (ALMA) is an international partnership of the European Southern Observatory (ESO), the U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF) and the National Institutes of Natural Sciences (NINS) of Japan, together with NRC (Canada), NSC and ASIAA (Taiwan), and KASI (Republic of Korea), in cooperation with the Republic of Chile.

ALMA -the largest astronomical project in existence- is a single telescope of revolutionary design, composed of 66 high precision antennas located on the Chajnantor plateau, 5000 meters altitude in northern Chile.

ALMA allows scientists to unravel longstanding and important astronomical mysteries, in search of our Cosmic Origins.

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Cabinet approves MoU between India and Oman on Cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space

The Union Cabinet chaired by Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi was apprised of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed between India represented by the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Oman represented by the Ministry of Transport and Communications on Cooperation in the peaceful uses of outer space, in February, 2018 at Muscat.

This MoU shall enable the following areas of cooperation such as, space science, technology and applications including remote sensing of the earth; satellite based navigation; Space science and planetary exploration; use of spacecraft and space systems and ground system; and application of space technology.

Space exploration is governed by a complex series of international treaties and agreements which have been in place for years. The first and probably most important of them is the Outer Space Treaty.

The treaty was initially signed by the United States of America, the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union on January 27, 1967 and it came into effect from October 10, 1967. The treaty was initially called ‘Treaty on Principles Governing the Activities of States in the Exploration and Use of Outer Space, including the Moon and other Celestial bodies.

The treaty forbids countries from deploying “nuclear weapons or any other kinds of weapons of mass destruction” in outer space. The term “weapons of mass destruction” is not defined, but it is commonly understood to include nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons. The treaty, however, does not prohibit the launching of ballistic missiles, which could be armed with WMD warheads, through space.

The treaty’s key arms control provisions are in Article IV. States-parties commit not to:

Place in orbit around the Earth or other celestial bodies any nuclear weapons or objects carrying WMD.

Install WMD on celestial bodies or station WMD in outer space in any other manner.

Establish military bases or installations, test “any type of weapons,” or conduct military exercises on the moon and other celestial bodies.

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China launches relay satellite to explore far side of moon

China launched a relay satellite as part of a groundbreaking programme to be the first to land a spacecraft on the far side of the moon later this year. The satellite, lofted into space aboard a Long March-4C rocket, will facilitate communication between controllers on Earth and the Chang’e 4 mission, the China National Space Administration said on its website.

China hopes to become the first country to soft-land a probe on the moon’s far side, also known as the dark side because it faces away from the earth and is comparatively unknown. The satellite, named Queqiao, or “Magpie Bridge,” after an ancient Chinese folk tale, was launched from the Xichang Satellite Launch Centre in the southwestern province of Sichuan, the space administration said.

The launch is a “key step,” but the satellite’s mission must still overcome challenges, including making multiple adjustments to its orbit, “braking” near the moon and using lunar gravity to its advantage, project manager Zhang Lihua was quoted as saying by the official Xinhua News Agency.

According to the administration and website space.com, Queqiao was expected to arrive shortly at the Earth-moon Lagrange point 2, a gravitationally stable spot located 64,000 km beyond the far side of the moon. Without such a communications relay link, spacecraft on the far side would have to “send their signals through the moon’s rocky bulk,” space.com said.

China previously landed its Jade Rabbit rover on the moon and plans to land its Chang’e 5 probes there next year.

China conducted its first crewed space mission in 2003, making it only the third country after Russia and the U.S. to do so and has put a pair of space stations into orbit. Upcoming missions include the launch of the 20-ton core module for the still orbiting Tiangong 2 station, along with components for a 60-ton station that is due to come online in 2022 and a Mars rover planned for mid-2020s.

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