Prior to the 1960’s, the biggest storms on Earth could take people by surprise. Someone standing on a beach in Florida might not know if a distant bank of clouds was a routine squall or … the harbinger of a powerful hurricane.
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Step outside on October 16, and take a look at the moon. Not only will the moon be full, but on that day, the moon will be at it’s closest point to our planet as it orbits Earth. This makes the October full moon a supermoon.
In 1963, an astronomy student named Gail Smith working at an observatory in the Netherlands discovered something odd—a massive cloud of gas orbiting the Milky Way galaxy. Smith’s cloud contained enough gas to make 2 million stars the size of our sun, and it was moving through space at 700,000 mph.
For the next 40+ years the cloud remained a curiosity, one of a growing number of so-called high velocity clouds circling the Milky Way--interesting but not sensational.
Summertime airshows are fun to watch, especially when aircraft fly in tight formation. The sight of airplanes soaring overhead practically wingtip to wingtip is thrilling to behold.
Four of NASA’s spacecraft recently performed an equally thrilling maneuver: In Oct. 2015, the satellites of NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale, or MMS, mission gathered into a tetrahedral formation with each spacecraft at the tip of a four-sided pyramid only six miles across. Moving together as one, they raced around Earth at 15,000 mph.
Advances in the understanding of how fluids behave in low gravity is key to spacecraft operations. A long-awaited spin-off is an excellent cup of coffee in space.
As any backcountry 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?
They say you can’t judge a book by its cover. But what about planets?
Take Neptune for example. For many years, especially since 1989 when Voyager 2 flew past Neptune and measured its gravity field, astronomers have known that the blue giant harbors a secret world inside. Hidden deep below the azure cloud tops lies a rocky core not much larger than Earth. Uranus has one, too! These “worlds within worlds” could have exotic properties including scorching hot oceans and diamond rain.
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.