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We Are about to Witness the Biggest Supermoon Since 1948

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We are to witness something amazing on the eve of November 14. On that day, the distance between our planet and the moon will be the shortest in almost 70 years! The last time it happened was in January 1948.

Earth’s natural satellite will appear about 14% bigger and 30% brighter in comparison with an average full moon. It is estimated that the next supermoon of this size will take place on 25 November 2034, so make sure you don’t miss this beautiful celestial event (if the weather conditions in your region are favorable for skywatching, of course)!

As NASA reports:

“The full moon of November 14 is not only the closest full moon of 2016 but also the closest full moon to date in the 21st century. The full moon won’t come this close to Earth again until 25 November 2034.”

What Is a Supermoon

Almost all celestial bodies have elliptical orbits; that’s why the distance between our planet and the moon is not always the same. The further side of the moon’s orbit is called apogee and the closer one is called perigee. In short, when a full moon occurs on the perigee, then we get a supermoon phenomenon, which causes our natural satellite to appear closer and brighter in the night sky.

While supermoons are quite frequent (this year, we will have three of those), the full moon of November 14 will be within approximately 2 hours of perigee, which makes it a truly rare phenomenon.

How to Watch a Supermoon

A perfect location to enjoy the coming supermoon (as well as any other astronomical phenomenon) is somewhere away from the city so that the urban lights don’t interfere with skywatching.

Don’t forget that the difference between a regular full moon and a supermoon is best seen to the human eye when the moon is close to the horizon.

According to NASA, “When the moon is near the horizon, it can look unnaturally large when viewed through trees, buildings, or other foreground objects.”

The moon will be at the peak of its full phase and, therefore, will appear the biggest at 8:52am EST. For those of you living in Australia, the moon will reach its full phase at 12:52 a.m. AEST on November 15.

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Awesome New Infrared Goggles Could Help Blind People ‘See’ Surroundings

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People who are blind or deal with low vision face a unique number of challenges in their daily lives, ranging from accessing published material to holding a job or living on one’s own.

However, emerging infrared technology under research could help the blind and visually impaired navigate the world around them using a pair of innovative goggles.

In new research recently published and yet to be peer-reviewed, Manuel Zahn and Armaghan Ahmad Khan at Germany’s Technical University of Munich explored how their 3D camera and haptic feedback armband can assist people with low vision.

“Even in the present era, visually impaired people face a constant challenge of navigation,” the pair wrote. “The most common tool available to them is the cane. Although the cane allows good detection of objects in the user’s immediate vicinity, it lacks the ability to detect obstacles further away.”

The two students’ design deploys two infrared cameras placed in a 3D-printed goggles prototype to get a stereoscopic view that is transformed by a small computer into a map of the user’s surroundings. The infrared gear also works in the dark. The armband then uses 25 actuators arranged in a grid that vibrates when users come close to objects while also assisting them in their orientation. As users walk near obstacles, the vibration intensity of the actuators increases.

In tests, subjects enjoyed roughly 98 percent accuracy while getting through obstacle pathways, with all five participants completing the course in their first run. After two additional runs, the volunteers were able to navigate the obstacles more rapidly.

Zahn and Khan frequently cited Microsoft’s Kinect motion detection system for the Xbox in their study, but the pair are confident that their own setup will be far smaller, cheaper and less conspicuous than the gaming device.

The new headset could offer an interesting opportunity for blind and partially sighted people to clear the myriad obstacles they face when performing regular tasks or navigating the world around them.

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NASA Finds “Unusual” Signs of Life on Mars

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New research unveiled on Sunday by NASA could point to the existence of life on the Red Planet, as well as a range of other exciting possibilities.

On Sunday, the space agency generated buzz with a statement about the latest find by its Curiosity rover: rocks that contain organic carbon, which may indicate the existence of ancient bacteria or any other diverse examples of “complex organic molecules formed by life.”

While analyzing rocks and other sediment collected by the rover across the Red Planet, researchers found an ancient carbon cycle that could have a “biological basis” and resembles the types of fossilized remains of microbial life discovered in parts of our own planet that date back some 2.7 billion years.

A tell-tale sign could be found in the two stable isotopes – 12 and 13 – that were found in the Martian carbon.

While the find offers tantalizing hope that life may have existed on Mars, the researchers are holding out hope that they can find other indicators of what caused these carbon signatures.

“On Earth, processes that would produce the carbon signal we’re detecting on Mars are biological,” said Prof. Christopher House at Penn State University, the lead author of the study. “We have to understand whether the same explanation works for Mars, or if there are other explanations, because Mars is very different.”

Indeed, a complex range of different factors may make biological processes radically different on Mars than on Earth. The Red Planet, for example, is far smaller, colder, and has weaker gravity as well as different gases in its atmosphere. Likewise, Martian carbon could be circulating in the absence of any life, unlike here on Earth.

“There’s a huge chunk of the carbon cycle on Earth that involves life, and because of life, there is a chunk of the carbon cycle on Earth we can’t understand, because everywhere we look there is life,” noted Curiosity researcher Andrew Steele from the Carnegie Institution for Science in Washington, D.C.

Researchers are looking into the widespread existence of the simple organic molecule methane as a potential telltale sign of microbial life, with the focus of exploration lying near the Gale Crater – a deep lake that is 3.5 billion years old and is said to store complex organic molecules and many of the key ingredients for the existence of ife.

“Defining the carbon cycle on Mars is absolutely key to trying to understand how life could fit into that cycle,” Steele noted. “We have done that really successfully on Earth, but we are just beginning to define that cycle for Mars.”  

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