Washington, D.C. – In the days before light bulbs, farmers relied on moonlight to help them harvest their crops. Many crops ripen all at once in late summer and early autumn so farmers found themselves extremely busy at this time of year. They had to work after sundown. Moonlight became an essential part of farming, and thus, the Harvest Moon was born.
According to folklore, the Harvest Moon is the full Moon that falls closest to the autumnal equinox, the hectic beginning of northern autumn. In 2015, the Moon is full on September 28th, less than a week after the equinox of September 23rd. The coincidence sets the stage for a nice display of harvest moonlight.
Written by Ashley Morrow
Greenbelt, MD – On the evening of September 27th, 2015, into the early morning of September 28th EDT, operators of NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) will wait as Earth blots out the sun and the moon goes dark.
The flight operations team at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, have seen LRO safely through three lunar eclipses in about a year and a half. Although it is certainly not an ordinary night, science operations planner Dawn Myers at Goddard said the team knows the routine.
“We have a method and it works well,” she said. “It’s always stressful during the approach of the eclipse, but we follow the same procedures every time and we haven’t had any trouble.”
Written by Amy Blanchett and Laurie Abadie
Houston, TX – Bugs are winning out, and that’s a good thing according to NASA’s Human Research Program. As part of NASA’s One-Year Mission, researchers are studying how microbes living on astronauts’ skin, inside their bodies and on the International Space Station impact their health.
To prepare for a journey to Mars, it is important to understand how long-duration spaceflight affects microorganisms because changes to this complex ecosystem could be detrimental to future missions.
Science at NASA
Washington, D.C. – As any back country hiker knows, Global Positioning System, or GPS, trackers are crucial for navigation. But they can also be a little finicky. Units sometimes lose lock when you walk into the shadow of a canyon wall, when you point the units at the ground, or even when you make a sharp turn.
Now imagine a GPS system flying through the vacuum of space at 22,000 mph, rapidly spinning 43,000 miles above the surface of the blue planet below. Would it work?
Turns out, the answer is yes. NASA has developed a GPS navigation system for the newly-launched MMS satellites that operates under these incredible conditions.
Washington, D.C. – The latest images from NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft have scientists stunned – not only for their breathtaking views of Pluto’s majestic icy mountains, streams of frozen nitrogen and haunting low-lying hazes, but also for their strangely familiar, arctic look.
This new view of Pluto’s crescent — taken by New Horizons’ wide-angle Ralph/Multispectral Visual Imaging Camera (MVIC) on July 14th and downlinked to Earth on September 13th — offers an oblique look across Plutonian landscapes with dramatic backlighting from the sun.
Written by Kathryn Mersmann
Greenbelt, MD – For years, science fiction writers from Edgar Rice Burroughs to C. S. Lewis have imagined what it would be like for humans to walk on Mars. As mankind comes closer to taking its first steps on the Red Planet, authors’ depictions of the experience have become more realistic.
Andy Weir’s “The Martian” begins with a massive dust storm that strands fictional astronaut Mark Watney on Mars. In the scene, powerful wind rips an antenna out of a piece of equipment and destroys parts of the astronauts’ camp.
Mars is infamous for intense dust storms, which sometimes kick up enough dust to be seen by telescopes on Earth.
Written by Whitney Clavin
Pasadena, CA – Entangled by gravity and destined to merge, two candidate black holes in a distant galaxy appear to be locked in an intricate dance.
Researchers using data from NASA’s Galaxy Evolution Explorer (GALEX) and NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope have come up with the most compelling confirmation yet for the existence of these merging black holes and have found new details about their odd, cyclical light signal.
The candidate black hole duo, called PG 1302-102, was first identified earlier this year using ground-based telescopes.
NASA’s Cassini spacecraft discovers Saturn’s Moon Enceladus has a global ocean under it’s icy surface
Written by Preston Dyches
Pasadena, CA – A global ocean lies beneath the icy crust of Saturn’s geologically active moon Enceladus, according to new research using data from NASA’s Cassini mission.
Researchers found the magnitude of the moon’s very slight wobble, as it orbits Saturn, can only be accounted for if its outer ice shell is not frozen solid to its interior, meaning a global ocean must be present.
The finding implies the fine spray of water vapor, icy particles and simple organic molecules Cassini has observed coming from fractures near the moon’s south pole is being fed by this vast liquid water reservoir. The research is presented in a paper published online this week in the journal Icarus.
Written by Alan Buis
Pasadena, CA – A new University of California/NASA study finds Southern California autumn wildfires driven by Santa Ana winds have been 10 times as costly in the past 20 years as summer wildfires, even though both types of fires have consumed about the same total acreage.
Both types of fires are predicted to increase by midcentury, but non-Santa Ana fires are expected to increase more.
The research could assist policymakers and response agencies in better allocating firefighting resources in the future.
Written by Ashley Morrow
Greenbelt, MD – Coming soon for the first time in more than 30 years: you’ll be able to witness a supermoon in combination with a lunar eclipse.
Late on September 27th, 2015, in the U.S. and much of the world, a total lunar eclipse will mask the moon’s larger-than-life face for more than an hour.
But what is this behemoth of the night sky? Not a bird, not a plane, it’s a supermoon! Although this incarnation of the moon comes around only once every year, it’s not as mysterious as you might think.
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