(TMU) — This week, as long as the skies are clear, stargazers will have an opportunity to hit a double jackpot in the form of the Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower reaching its peak over May 5 and 6 and the Super Flower Full Moon reaching full illumination on May 7, at 06.45 in New York City, NY.
Of course, in some areas of the world, full illumination of the moon will be during the daytime but still a beautiful sight to observe with clear skies. Check the best time and date in your town or city.
While millions of people worldwide are still hunkering down during the pandemic, they are rediscovering the little things they may not have had time for during the daily grind of commuting and work.
By now, the spring cleaning is done and time is being spent playing games, reading books, cooking, baking, gardening, art, sewing, and watching the stars. Older family members will recall nights when they used to lay on the lawn trying to be the first to spot Sputnik in orbit, see shooting stars, and learn about the stars and planets in our galaxy.
In those days, there was often no need to travel far to get away from the glow of city lights, but at this time we don’t necessarily have the same freedom to travel to a wide open space, where the sky is deep and dark, especially to view the Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. Although the shower started April 19 and starts fading towards May 31, it reaches its peak on Tuesday, May 5.
The Eta Aquarids is visible from across the globe but usually gives the Southern Hemisphere a particularly good show. According to a report by Forbes, Eta Aquarids shower is estimated to produce about 60 meteors per hour, unfortunately, this year’s showers may fade against to brilliant Super Moon in its final days before reaching full illumination on May 7, but the showers are usually at their best in the darkest hour, before twilight, which means the Super Moon might not have shown its face yet to steal the show.
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My image from Monday mornings 2019 Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower 2019, the slow moving streaks to the far right appear to be the international space station. Taken at the cape cleveland salt flats. 🛰🌠 #townsvilleshines #supportlocaltownsville #shoplocaltownsville #canonau #nationalgeographic @natgeotravel #billybluephoto #etaaquarid #etaaquarids #etaaquarids2019 #etaaquaridsmeteorshower #iss #natgeotravel
If all else fails, find a ‘moon shadow’ such as a tree, mountain, or building casting a shadow from the moon light to sit under, check the radiant, altitude and direction from your location then switch off all lights and electronics and relax. Your eyes should adjust to the darkness in about 15-20 minutes and it will be a lot easier to spot the meteors.
The Eta Aquarids shower is named after the brightest star, Eta Aquarii, in the constellation of Aquarius, which is the direction from where the shower seems to come from. Both the Eta Aquarids and the Orionid Meteor Shower in October are created by debris from the Comet Halley. Earth passing through Halley’s path of space dust causes the spectacular firework displays. Halley takes approximately 76 years to complete its revolution around the sun and won’t be visible from Earth again until 2061.
Although this week’s Flower Super Moon is the last Super Moon of 2020, we can look forward to some special celestial events in June, starting with a Penumbral Lunar Eclipse on 5-6 June and an Annular Solar Eclipse on 21 June.
Chinese Military Satellite Smashed by Russian Rocket in “Major Confirmed Orbital Collision”
In an incident that is likely illustrative of things to come, Chinese military satellite 1-02 was smashed after it appears to have collided into the debris from a disintegrating Russian rocket.
The collision, which occurred earlier this year, shows the increasing danger of space junk such as satellite parts and other miscellaneous jetsam littering the Earth’s orbit. An estimated 8,000 metric tons of space debris pose the risk of destroying functional equipment such as weather forecasting systems, telecoms and GPS systems – and even manned space travel missions – if the problem isn’t reined in.
The fate of the Chinese satellite was uncovered by Harvard astrophysicist and satellite tracker Jonathan McDowell.
The breakup of Yunhai 1-02 was initially reported by the U.S. Space Force’s 18th Space Control Squadron (18SPCS). However, it wasn’t until recently that McDowell found out what caused the breakup.
The astrophysicist soon found that it was destroyed by space junk that originated from a Russian Zenit-2 rocket that had launched a spy satellite in 1996. On Aug. 14, McDowell found a strange entry in a database on Space-Track.org: “Collided with satellite.”
“This is a new kind of comment entry — haven’t seen such a comment for any other satellites before,” McDowell tweeted.
“A quick analysis of the TLEs show that Yunhai 1-02 (44547) and [the debris object] passed within 1 km of each other (so within the uncertainty of the TLEs) at 0741 UTC Mar 18, exactly when 18SPCS reports Yunhai broke up,” he added, noting that this “looks to be the first major confirmed orbital collision in a decade.”
However, the Yunhai satellite still remains functional and is transmitting radio signals, notes Space.com.
The incident shows the growing likelihood of such collisions in the high-traffic, littered near-Earth orbital zone.
“Collisions are proportional to the square of the number of things in orbit,” McDowell explained. “That is to say, if you have 10 times as many satellites, you’re going to get 100 times as many collisions.”
He added: “So, as the traffic density goes up, collisions are going to go from being a minor constituent of the space junk problem to being the major constituent. That’s just math.”
A worst-case scenario of such collisions is known as the “Kessler Syndrome,” and describes the possibility of one collision setting in motion a chain of collisions. Such a disaster was the premise of the 2013 film “Gravity.”
One hopes that things don’t reach that point.
In the meantime, however, there have been a number of initiatives meant to tackle the growing problem of space debris, such as the ELSA-d spacecraft launched in a demonstration mission earlier this year.
Scientists Find Possible New Signs of Alien Life on Saturn’s Icy Moon
A new study suggests that Saturn moon Enceladus, which is covered in an icy crust, could be a great place for life to exist.
New evidence collected by NASA’s retired Cassini spacecraft offers tantalizing details on the chemical makeup of the water plumes erupting from Enceladus.
The heavy amount of methane – a gas associated with life on Earth – suggests that underneath the icy crust of Enceladus, there could be a huge ocean of briny water potentially teeming with life.
The new study by researchers from the University of Arizona and Paris Sciences & Lettres University also found that there was a relatively high concentration of molecules of dihydrogen and carbon dioxide.
“We wanted to know: Could Earthlike microbes that ‘eat’ the dihydrogen and produce methane explain the surprisingly large amount of methane detected by Cassini?” asked University of Arizona associate professor and lead author of the study Prof. Regis Ferriere.
Scientists have long speculated that conditions on Enceladus, with its subsurface ocean and sources of warmth, could be conducive to the development of living creatures.
However, one possible explanation for the chemical composition of water on Enceladus could be the existence of microbes on the Saturn moon.
“In other words, we can’t discard the ‘life hypothesis’ as highly improbable,” Ferriere noted. “To reject the life hypothesis, we need more data from future missions.”
Confirmation of the “life hypothesis” will likely remain elusive for the foreseeable future.
“Searching for such microbes, known as methanogens, at Enceladus’ seafloor would require extremely challenging deep-dive missions that are not in sight for several decades,” Ferriere said.
Stunning New Images Show Glowing Auroras on Mars
A new probe from the UAE to study the atmosphere of Mars has captured never-before-seen images of a night time aurora on the Red Planet.
The UAE’s Hope Mars mission was meant to study the Martian atmosphere over the course of the year across the totality of its layers. However, before its actual scientific mission began, it managed to snap the shots of the extremely brief phenomenon, reports Space.com.
In images released on Wednesday, the auroras stand out clearly as bright flashes against the pitch-black night sky.
The chance discovery – which wasn’t even a part of the probe’s formal mission – shows the exciting finds other nations’ space programs are capable of finding.
“They’re not easy to catch, and so that’s why seeing them basically right away with [Emirates Mars Mission] was kind of exciting and unexpected,” said Justin Deighan, the deputy science lead of the mission and a planetary scientist at the University of Colorado.
“It’s definitely something that was on our radar, so to speak, but just looking at our first set of nighttime data and saying, ‘Hey, wait a second — is that? — it can’t be — it is!’ — that was a lot of fun,” he added.
On Earth, auroras or “northern lights” are the result of electrons surfing across the electric field during geomagnetic storms, causing atmosphere particles to ionize and create the colorful and dazzling light shows.
On Mar, similar auroras seem unrestricted by the north and south poles and happen across the rest of the planet.
This is because the magnetic atmosphere isn’t aligned like a bar magnet, as it is on Earth.
Rather, the Martian magnetic more resembles a situation where “you took a bag of magnets and dumped them into the crust of the planet,” Deighan told the New York Times.
“And they’re all pointed different ways,” he said. “And they have different strengths.”
This results in solar wind particles firing off in different directions, causing interactions with molecules and atoms across the Red Planet’s upper atmosphere and triggering the aurora.
The Mars Hope team hopes the discovery can lead to fresh insights on how the planet’s atmosphere interacts with solar activity.