On April 15th there will be a total eclipse of the Moon. Got clouds? No problem. The event will be broadcast live on the web by the Coca-Cola Science Center.
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MOSTLY QUIET WITH A CHANCE OF FLARES: With no sunspots actively flaring, solar activity is low. However, the quiet might be short-lived. Active regions AR20032 and AR2035 have 'beta-gamma' magnetic fields that harbor energy for M-class solar flares. NOAA forecasters estimate a 35% chance of such an eruption during the next 24 hours.
LUNAR ECLIPSE, TUESDAY MORNING: The mainstream media is abuzz with reports of a "blood moon" on Tuesday morning. The scientific term is "lunar eclipse." On April 15th at 6 minutes past midnight Pacific Time (3:06 a.m Eastern Time), the Moon will enter the sunset-colored colored shadow of Earth, producing a total eclipse of the Moon:
Above: A total lunar eclipse on Dec. 21, 2010. Photo credit: Gary A. Becker
The color of Earth's shadow, and thus the color of the eclipsed Moon, depends substantially on the amount of volcanic ash and other aerosols floating in the stratosphere. According to atmospheric sciences professor Richard Keen of the University of Colorado, the stratosphere is clear. This means the eclipse will be not "blood red," but rather bright orange.
See for yourself. The event will be visible from Australia, New Zealand, and all of the Americas: visibility map. It's so bright, even observers in light-polluted cities will have no trouble enjoying the show. Got clouds? No problem. The event will be broadcast live on the web by the Coca-Cola Science Center at Columbus State University in Georgia.
For more information about the eclipse, get the full story and a video from Science@NASA.
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NASA SPACECRAFT vs. THE LUNAR ECLIPSE: NASA's LADEE spacecraft, now orbiting the Moon on a mission to study the lunar atmosphere, might not survive the lunar eclipse. "LADEE wasn't designed to go through a long eclipse and keep things running," says Richard Elphic, the project scientist for LADEE at NASA Ames.
The spacecraft is solar powered, and it uses battery-driven heaters to keep itself warm. LADEE regularly experiences periods of low-to-no sunlight for 45 minutes when it passes over the nightside of the Moon. During the eclipse, the "shadow time" will last as much as 4 hours.
"Even dipping into the penumbra (the outskirts of Earth's shadow) means we lose power generation, and for the full Earth umbra (the dark core of Earth's shadow) there's no solar array generation at all," continues Elphic. "So we'll be running on battery, with no array generation, and using heaters more than usual to keep things warm."
"There are some areas of the spacecraft that will not be warmed up by heaters – part of LADEE's propulsion system, for example. So it is possible these might freeze and never warm up sufficiently again. We won't know until after eclipse and we get housekeeping and state of health data," says Elphic.
And now for the good news. "Our in flight data show that power and thermal are behaving better than predicted, because of the built in margins, so we expect the spacecraft to survive just fine," reports Butler Hine, the LADEE Project Manager at Ames. "The unheated portions of the propulsion system are mainly what we will be watching for any freezing."
Regardless of how LADEE emerges from the eclipse, the mission is near its end. NASA's plans to crash LADEE into the lunar surface as part of a "skimming" maneuver that will allow the spacecraft to sample the Moon's near-surface atmosphere. "We have already used our extra fuel for the one month extension we are in now," concludes Hine. "Even if we survive the eclipse we will impact as planned. We do get an extra week of science data if we survive the eclipse, however."
Stay tuned for updates from LADEE.
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Every night, a network of NASA all-sky cameras scans the skies above the United States for meteoritic fireballs. Automated software maintained by NASA's Meteoroid Environment Office calculates their orbits, velocity, penetration depth in Earth's atmosphere and many other characteristics. Daily results are presented here on Spaceweather.com.
On Apr. 11, 2014, the network reported 10 fireballs.
In this diagram of the inner solar system, all of the fireball orbits intersect at a single point--Earth. The orbits are color-coded by velocity, from slow (red) to fast (blue). [Larger image] [movies]
Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs
) are space rocks larger than approximately 100m that can come closer to Earth than 0.05 AU. None of the known PHAs is on a collision course with our planet, although astronomers are finding new ones
all the time.
On April 13, 2014 there were 1466 potentially hazardous asteroids. Notes: LD means "Lunar Distance." 1 LD = 384,401 km, the distance between Earth and the Moon. 1 LD also equals 0.00256 AU. MAG is the visual magnitude of the asteroid on the date of closest approach.
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