Image description: Erin Wilson, a NASA engineer, adds aluminum tape to electrical cables to protect them from the cold during environmental testing of special optical equipment. These tests will verify the alignment of flight instruments that will fly aboard NASA’s James Webb Space Telescope.
When people say something occurs just once in a blue moon, they mean it’s very rare. These days, the speaker is often referring to the modern folklore that, whenever there are two full moons in a calendar month, the second one should be called “a Blue Moon.” Going by this definition, the United States will experience a Blue Moon on the evening of August 31. The first full moon of the month already happened on August 1.
Most months have only one full moon. The 29.5-day cadence of the lunar cycle matches up almost perfectly with the 28 to 31-day length of calendar months. Indeed, the word “month” comes from “moon.”
Occasionally, however, the one-to-one correspondence breaks down when two full moons squeeze into a single month. This happens on average about once every 2.5 years, which…. is actually not all that rare, really.
Will the moon truly appear blue in color tomorrow? Smoke from volcanoes and forest fires can cause a change to blue from the usual pale gray, but it’s unlikely, despite all of the wildfires burning in the hot, dry United States this month. The amount of smoke to create the effect has to be unusually massive. Some kinds of blue moons are rarer than others, it turns out.
The Sloan Digital Sky Survey III (SDSS-III) has released the largest-ever three-dimensional map of massive galaxies and distant black holes, which will help astronomers explain the mysterious “dark matter” and “dark energy” that scientists know makes up 96 percent of the Universe.
This video is a fly-through of the SDSS-III galaxies mapped in the latest data release.
Video courtesy of Miguel A. Aragón (Johns Hopkins University), Mark SubbaRao (Adler Planetarium), Alex Szalay (Johns Hopkins University), Yushu Yao (Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, NERSC), and the SDSS-III Collaboration
Image description: This is one of the first images taken by NASA’s Curiosity rover, which landed on Mars the evening of Aug. 5 PDT (morning of Aug. 6 EDT). It was taken through a “fisheye” wide-angle lens. As planned, the rover’s early images are lower resolution. Larger color images from other cameras are expected later in the week.
Image description: Forty three years ago today, two Americans became the first humans to walk on the moon. Here you see Neil Armstrong working at an equipment storage area on the surface of the moon. This is one of the few photos that show Armstrong during the moonwalk.