Two years from today: get ready for the Great American Solar Eclipse of 2017

A total eclipse of the Sun, showing the Sun’s atmosphere, or corona, stretching out into space, which is not normally visible during daylight. Photo Credit: Fred Espenak/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center
A total eclipse of the Sun, showing the Sun’s atmosphere, or corona, stretching out into space, which is not normally visible during daylight. Photo Credit: Fred Espenak/NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center

Exactly two years from today, on Aug. 21, 2017, a rare total solar eclipse will be seen again in the skies of the United States, racing east from Oregon to South Carolina. For a brief couple of minutes, the skies will darken as the Moon passes in front of the Sun, revealing the Sun’s corona, which is not normally visible in daylight, to millions of people as it crosses coast to coast for the first time in nearly a century. A total solar eclipse is one of the greatest sights in nature, not to be missed, and many are already making plans to witness the event.

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Our ‘glowing Moon’: LADEE spacecraft discovers neon in lunar atmosphere

Artist’s conception of the LADEE spacecraft orbiting the Moon. Its findings will help scientists to better understand thin exospheres, such as the one our own Moon has. Image Credit: NASA Ames/Dana Berry
Artist’s conception of the LADEE spacecraft orbiting the Moon. Its findings will help scientists to better understand thin exospheres, such as the one our own Moon has. Image Credit: NASA Ames/Dana Berry

The existence of neon gas in our Moon’s ultra-thin atmosphere has been confirmed for the first time, by NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft. Its presence had been theorized for decades, but has now finally been confirmed and found to be relatively abundant, even though it’s not nearly enough for the Moon to actually glow like a neon sign.

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Image Gallery: Moon passing in front of Earth

Still frame from the animation showing the Moon passing in front of the Earth. Image Credit: NASA/NOAA
Still frame from the animation showing the Moon passing in front of the Earth. Image Credit: NASA/NOAA

A beautiful and unique view of the Moon passing in front of the Earth as seen from the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite. The far side of the Moon, never seen from Earth, is visible here as the Moon passes between the satellite and Earth. The video animation is here. The images were taken between 3:50 p.m. and 8:45 p.m. EDT on July 16, 2015 from 1,609,000 kilometres (1,000,000 miles) away.

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New Chang’e 3 images from the Moon

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View of the Yutu rover on the Moon, taken by the Chang'e 3 lander. Credit: cnr.cn
View of the Yutu rover, taken by the Chang’e 3 lander. Credit: cnr.cn

Here are a couple of new images taken by the Chinese Chang’e 3 lander and Yutu rover on the Moon. Much better resolution than the first earlier images and nice to finally have some new views from the lunar surface after all these decades! An interesting change from the Mars rovers, which look at a bright, dusty Martian sky, while here there is virtually no atmosphere and perpetual blackness overhead…

View of the Chang'e 3 lander, taken by the Yutu rover. Credit: cnr.cn
View of the Chang’e 3 lander, taken by the Yutu rover. Credit: cnr.cn

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China’s ‘Jade Rabbit’ rover rolls onto Moon’s surface

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The Chinese rover Yutu or Jade Rabbit, on the lunar surface. Credit: CNTV/CCTV
The Chinese rover Yutu or “Jade Rabbit,” as photographed by the lander, on the lunar surface. Credit: CNTV/CCTV

After a very successful landing by the Chang’e 3 spacecraft on Saturday, the attached rover, called Yutu or “Jade Rabbit,” detached itself from the lander yesterday, rolling off a ramp and onto the lunar surface at 4:30 am Beijing time.

The landing by a Chinese spacecraft is the first soft landing on the Moon since the manned Apollo missions ended in the 1970s and the Soviet Union’s Luna 24 lander in 1976. Like the launch and landing, the release of the rover was virtually flawless, allowing China to celebrate its continued space exploration achievements in recent years.

The Chang'e 3 lander, as photographed by the rover. Credit: CNTV/CCTV
The Chang’e 3 lander, as photographed by the rover. Credit: CNTV/CCTV

Yutu is a six-wheeled, 140 kg (308 pound) solar-powered rover which will explore the landing area of Sinus Iridum or “Bay of Rainbows.” Compared to the Mars rovers, Yutu is rather small, measuring only about 1.5 metres long (with its solar panels folded) but will be capable of conducting detailed analysis of rocks and soil during its nominal 3-month mission. It even has ground-penetrating radar under its belly which can reach below the surface to a depth of about 30-100 metres (100-330 feet).

The full landing sequence video of Chang’e 3 can be watched here.

China is now only the third country to have landed on the Moon, after the United States and the former Soviet Union.

This article was first published on Examiner.com.

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Orbiting outpost proposed for far side of the Moon

Artist’s conception of the proposed orbiting outpost near the Moon. Astronauts on board could help direct robotic missions on the lunar surface. Credit: Lockheed Martin

The prospect of when, or even if, NASA astronauts will return to the Moon has been a subject of much debate in recent years. Some experts see it as a necessary stepping stone before future Mars missions. Others see it as a case of “been there, done that.”

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New images show Apollo flags still standing on the Moon

LRO image of Apollo 17 landing site, with flag still standing nearby. Credit: NASA / GSFC / Arizona State University

Images taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter have helped to answer a long-standing question about the old Apollo landing sites on the Moon – are any of the flags planted there by the astronauts still standing today? It turns out that yes, almost all of them are.

See Examiner.com for the full article.

Mystery Moon flashes caused by meteorite impacts

Example of a lunar flash, photographed in 1953. Credit: Leon Stuart/Columbia University Department of Astronomy

For hundreds of years, people have seen tiny flashes of light on the surface of the Moon. Very brief, but bright enough to be seen from Earth, these odd flashes still hadn’t been adequately explained up until now. Also known as Transient Lunar Phenomena (TLPs), they’ve been observed on many occasions, but rarely photographed. On Earth, meteorites burning up in the atmosphere can produce similar flashes, but the Moon has no atmosphere for anything to burn up in, so what could be causing them? As it turns out, according to a new study, the answer is still meteorites, but for a slightly different reason…

See Universe Today for the full article.

ASU researchers propose looking for ancient alien artifacts on the Moon

The "Blair Cuspids" photographed by Lunar Orbiter 2 in 1966. Credit: NASA

Two researchers at Arizona State University (ASU) have made a rather controversial proposal: have the public and other researchers study the high-resolution photographs of the Moon already being taken by the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO), to look foranomalies that may possibly be evidence of artifacts leftover from previous alien visitation. The theory is that if our solar system had been visited in the past, the Moon would have made an ideal base from which to study the Earth. The paper has just been recently published in the journal Acta Astronautica

See Universe Today for the full article.