The Great Conjunction

The 2020 great conjunction of #Jupiter and #Saturn will be the closest since 1623 and the closest observable since 1226! 2020’s extra-close Jupiter-Saturn conjunction won’t be matched again until the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction of March 15, 2080

Express.uk  What is the Great Conjunction?
Jupiter and Saturn are so bright, in fact, that they are visible even from city lights

Dr Henry Throop, astronomer in the Planetary Science Division at NASA Headquarters, has revealed why this conjunction has attracted so much attention.

He told Express.co.uk: “It’s been nearly 400 years since the planets passed this close to each other in the sky, and nearly 800 years since the alignment of Saturn and Jupiter occurred at night, as it will for 2020, allowing nearly everyone around the world to witness this ‘great conjunction’.

“The conjunction can be seen by mostly everyone on Earth. Jupiter and Saturn are so bright, in fact, that they are visible even from city lights. “Folks just need to have a clear view of the southwestern horizon about an hour after sunset.”

Dr Throop explained why NASA refers to this event as a Great Conjunction of planets.

He said: “For thousands of years, people have had a strong connection to events in the sky.

“Modern historians and astronomers have identified many cosmic events that can be tied to culture or religion.

“There was a conjunction between Saturn and Jupiter in the year seven BC.

Read more at Express.uk re: Next Great Conjunction etc

What is a Blood Moon?

Via Earthsky.org:  The origin of the term is religious, at least according to Christian pastor John Hagee, who wrote a 2013 book about Blood Moons.

Meanwhile, both astronomers and some proponents of Christian prophesy are talking about the upcoming lunar tetrad – the series of four total lunar eclipses – beginning on the night of April 14-15.

Total eclipse of October 27, 2004 via Fred Espenak of NASA

Total eclipse of October 27, 2004 via Fred Espenak of NASA

Other times in astronomy you hear “moon” and “blood” in same sentence. The full moon nearly always appears coppery red during a total lunar eclipse. That’s because the dispersed light from all the Earth’s sunrises and sunsets falls on the face of the moon at mid-eclipse. Thus the termblood moon can be and probably is applied to any and all total lunar eclipses. It’s only in years where volcanic activity is pronounced that the moon’s face during a total lunar eclipse might appear more brownish or gray in color. Usually, the moon looks red. We astronomy writers often say it looks blood red. Why? Because it sounds dramatic, and a lunar eclipse is a dramatic natural event. Read more here: Why does the moon look red during a total lunar eclipse?

What’s more, in folklore, all the full moons have names. The names typically coincide with months of the year, or seasons. One of the most famous moon names is the Hunter’s Moon. It is the the full moon immediately following the Harvest Moon, which is the full moon occurring most closely to the autumnal equinox.

The Hunter’s Moon, in skylore, is also sometimes called the Blood Moon. Why? Probably because it’s a characteristic of these autumn full moons that they appear nearly full – and rise soon after sunset – for several evenings in a row. Many people see them when they are low in the sky, shortly after they’ve risen, at which time there’s more atmosphere between you and the moon than when the moon is overhead. When you see the moon low in the sky, the extra air between you and the moon makes the moon look reddish. Voila. Blood moon.

The second total lunar eclipse of the coming lunar tetrad will take place on October 8, the same night as the Hunter’s Moon. So there will be two reasons to use the term Blood Moon that night.

Dates for the Northern Hemisphere’s Harvest and Hunter’s Moons in 2014 and 2015:

2014:
Harvest Moon: September 9
Autumn Equinox: September 23
Hunter’s (Blood) Moon: October 8

2015:
Autumn Equinox: September 23
Harvest Moon: September 28
Hunter’s (Blood) Moon: October 27

Bottom line: The term Blood Moon in Biblical prophecy appears to have been popularized by two Christian pastors, Mark Blitz and John Hagee. They use the term Blood Moon to apply to the full moons of the upcoming tetrad – four successive total lunar eclipses, with no partial lunar eclipses in between, each of which is separated from the other by six lunar months (six full moons) – beginning on the night of April 14-15, 2014.

Read This Full Story at Earth Sky Org

Follow their links below to learn more about Blood Moons:

What is a lunar tetrad?

Blood Moons in Biblical prophecy

Dates of Biblical prophecy Blood Moons in 2014 and 2015

How common is a tetrad of total lunar eclipses?

Why is the term Blood Moon being used to mean a full moon of a lunar tetrad?

Other times in astronomy you hear “moon” and “blood” in same sentence.

Dates of Harvest and Hunter’s Moons in 2014 and 2015

Total lunar eclipse for the Americas on night of April 14-15

Not too late. EarthSky’s moon calendar as a fun way to enjoy the moon phases throughout the year.

A planisphere is virtually indispensable for beginning stargazers. Order your EarthSky planisphere today.

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Blood Moon ~ Lunar Eclipse ~ 15 April 2014

 

Following story via space.com:

(except gif)

The moon took on an eerie blood-red hue early Tuesday during the first total lunar eclipse of 2014, a celestial sight that wowed potentially millions of stargazers across North and South America.

The total lunar eclipse of April 15 lasted about 3.5 hours between late Monday and early Tuesday, with the Earth’s shadow slowing darkening the face of the so-called “Blood Moon” in a jaw-dropping sight for stargazers willing to stay up extra late or rise super-early for the event.

“Definitely worth the early wake-up call,” skywatcher Brett Bonine of Arkansas told Space.com in an email. [Blood Moon Photos: Amazing Total Lunar Eclipse Views for April 15]

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Photographer Sean Parker of Tucson, Ariz., created this mosaic of the total lunar eclipse phases on April 15, 2014 using images taken with a through a 12" LX Meade 200 telescope with a Canon 6D camera.

Photographer Sean Parker of Tucson, Ariz., created this mosaic of the total lunar eclipse phases on April 15, 2014 using images taken with a through a 12″ LX Meade 200 telescope with a Canon 6D camera.

 

Photographer Tyler Leavitt of Las Vegas, Nevada, took this series of photos of the total lunar eclipse on April 15, 2014 as the moon appeared from his front driveway.

The lunar eclipse peaked at 3 a.m. EDT (0700 GMT), with the moon taking 78 minutes to pass through the darkest point of Earth’s shadow. It was visible from most of North and South America, Hawaii and parts of Alaska. The eclipse was the first of four consecutive total lunar eclipses, known as a “tetrad,” between April 2014 and September 2015.

Astronomer Bob Berman, who hosted a live lunar eclipse webcast for the Slooh community telescope using views from Arizona’s Prescott Observatory, said event was also one for the record books because of another bright object in the predawn sky.

“It was the most special one, I would say, of our lives,” Berman said during the Slooh webcast. “What made it particularly extraordinary was that it happened on the same night as the closest approach of Mars to Earth in years.”

Mars made its closest approach to Earth since 2008 on Monday night (April 14), coming within 57.4 million miles (92.4 million km) of our planet.

So the Red Planet and the “Blood Moon” shined together in the predawn sky in a rare event, Berman said, adding that the bright blue star Spica completed the show.

Photographer Fernando Rodriguez of the South Florida Amateur Astronomers Association captured this amazing view of the total lunar eclipse of April 15, 2014 during the totality phase at about 3:24 a.m. ET.

 

 

Celestial Event Calendar for 2014

  • January 1 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 11:14 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • January 2, 3 – Quadrantids Meteor Shower. The Quadrantids is an above average shower, with up to 40 meteors per hour at its peak. It is thought to be produced by dust grains left behind by an extinct comet known as 2003 EH1, which was discovered in 2003. The shower runs annually from January 1-5. It peaks this year on the night of the 2nd and morning of the 3rd. The thin crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what could be an excellent show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Bootes, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • January 5 – Jupiter at Opposition. The giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Jupiter and its moons. A medium-sized telescope should be able to show you some of the details in Jupiter’s cloud bands. A good pair of binoculars should allow you to see Jupiter’s four largest moons, appearing as bright dots on either side of the planet.
  • January 16 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 04:52 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Wolf Moon because this was the time of year when hungry wolf packs howled outside their camps. This moon has also been known as the Old Moon and the Moon After Yule.
  • January 30 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 21:38 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • February 14 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 23:53 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Snow Moon because the heaviest snows usually fell during this time of the year. Since hunting is difficult, this moon has also been known by some tribes as the Full Hunger Moon.
  • March 1 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 08:00 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • March 16 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 17:08 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Worm Moon because this was the time of year when the ground would begin to soften and the earthworms would reappear. This moon has also been known as the Full Crow Moon, the Full Crust Moon, and the Full Sap Moon.
  • March 20 – March Equinox. The March equinox occurs at 16:57 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • March 30 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 18:45 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • April 8 – Mars at Opposition. The red planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Mars. A medium-sized telescope will allow you to see some of the dark details on the planet’s orange surface. You may even be able to see one or both of the bright white polar ice caps.
  • April 15 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 07:42 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Pink Moon because it marked the appearance of the moss pink, or wild ground phlox, which is one of the first spring flowers. This moon has also been known as the Sprouting Grass Moon and the Growing Moon.
  • April 15 – Total Lunar Eclipse. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of North America, South America, and Australia. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
  • April 22, 23 – Lyrids Meteor Shower. The Lyrids is an average shower, usually producing about 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet C/1861 G1 Thatcher, which was discovered in 1861. The shower runs annually from April 16-25. It peaks this year on the night of the night of the 22nd and morning of the 23rd. These meteors can sometimes produce bright dust trails that last for several seconds. The second quarter moon will be a slight problem this year, blocking the less bright meteors from view. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Lyra, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • April 29 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 06:14 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • April 29 – Annular Solar Eclipse. An annular solar eclipse occurs when the Moon is too far away from the Earth to completely cover the Sun. This results in a ring of light around the darkened Moon. The Sun’s corona is not visible during an annular eclipse. The path of the eclipse will begin off the coast of South Africa and move across Antarctica and into the east coast of Australia. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
  • May 5, 6 – Eta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Eta Aquarids is an above average shower, capable of producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. Most of the activity is seen in the Southern Hemisphere. In the Northern Hemisphere, the rate can reach about 30 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust particles left behind by comet Halley, which has known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from April 19 to May 28. It peaks this year on the night of May 5 and the morning of the May 6. The first quarter moon will set just after midnight leaving fairly dark skies for what should be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • May 10 – Saturn at Opposition. The ringed planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Saturn and its moons. A medium-sized or larger telescope will allow you to see Saturn’s rings and a few of its brightest moons.
  • May 10 – Astronomy Day Part 1. Astronomy Day is an annual event intended to provide a means of interaction between the general public and various astronomy enthusiasts, groups and professionals. The theme of Astronomy Day is “Bringing Astronomy to the People,” and on this day astronomy and stargazing clubs and other organizations around the world will plan special events. You can find out about special local events by contacting your local astronomy club or planetarium. You can also find more about Astronomy Day by checking the Web site for the Astronomical League.
  • May 14 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 19:16 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Flower Moon because this was the time of year when spring flowers appeared in abundance. This moon has also been known as the Full Corn Planting Moon and the Milk Moon.
  • May 28 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 18:40 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • June 7 – Conjunction of the Moon and Mars. The Moon will pass within two degrees of the the planet Mars in the evening sky. The gibbous moon will be at magnitude -12.2 and Mars will be at magnitude -0.8. Look for both objects in the western sky just after sunset. The pair will be visible in the evening sky for about 6 hours after sunset.
  • June 13 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 04:11 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Strawberry Moon because it signaled the time of year to gather ripening fruit. It also coincides with the peak of the strawberry harvesting season. This moon has also been known as the Full Rose Moon and the Full Honey Moon.
  • June 21 – June Solstice. The June solstice occurs at 10:51 UTC. The North Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its northernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Cancer at 23.44 degrees north latitude. This is the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • June 27 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 08:08 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • July 12 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 11:25 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Buck Moon because the male buck deer would begin to grow their new antlers at this time of year. This moon has also been known as the Full Thunder Moon and the Full Hay Moon.
  • July 26 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 22:42 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • July 28, 29 – Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower. The Delta Aquarids is an average shower that can produce up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by comets Marsden and Kracht. The shower runs annually from July 12 to August 23. It peaks this year on the night of July 28 and morning of July 29. This should be a great year for this shower because the thin crescent moon will set early in the evening leaving dark skies for what should a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Aquarius, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

Lunar Eclipse from California by steveberardi on Flickr

Lunar Eclipse from California by steveberardi on Flickr

  • August 10 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 18:09 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Sturgeon Moon because the large sturgeon fish of the Great Lakes and other major lakes were more easily caught at this time of year. This moon has also been known as the Green Corn Moon and the Grain Moon. This is also the closest and largest full Moon of the year, an annual event that has come to be known as a “supermoon” by the media. The truth is that it is only slightly larger and brighter than normal and most people are not really able to tell the difference.
  • August 12, 13 – Perseids Meteor Shower. The Perseids is one of the best meteor showers to observe, producing up to 60 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by comet Swift-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1862. The Perseids are famous for producing a large number of bright meteors. The shower runs annually from July 17 to August 24. It peaks this year on the night of August 12 and the morning of August 13. The waning gibbous moon will block out some of the meteors this year, but the Perseids are so bright and numerous that it should still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Perseus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • August 18 – Conjunction of Venus and Jupiter. Conjunctions are rare events where two or more objects will appear extremely close together in the night sky. The two bright planets will come unusually close to each other, only a quarter of a degree, in the early morning sky. Also, the beehive cluster in the constellation Cancer will be only 1 degree away. Look to the east just before sunrise.
  • August 25 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 14:13 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • August 29 – Neptune at Opposition. The blue giant planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view and photograph Neptune. Due to its extreme distance from Earth, it will only appear as a tiny blue dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
  • September 9 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 01:38 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Corn Moon because the corn is harvested around this time of year. This moon is also known as the Harvest Moon. The Harvest Moon is the full moon that occurs closest to the September equinox each year.
  • September 23 – September Equinox. The September equinox occurs at 02:29 UTC. The Sun will shine directly on the equator and there will be nearly equal amounts of day and night throughout the world. This is also the first day of fall (autumnal equinox) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of spring (vernal equinox) in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • September 24 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 06:14 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • October 4 – Astronomy Day Part 2. Astronomy Day is an annual event intended to provide a means of interaction between the general public and various astronomy enthusiasts, groups and professionals. The theme of Astronomy Day is “Bringing Astronomy to the People,” and on this day astronomy and stargazing clubs and other organizations around the world will plan special events. You can find out about special local events by contacting your local astronomy club or planetarium. You can also find more about Astronomy Day by checking the Web site for the Astronomical League.
  • October 7 – Uranus at Opposition. The blue-green planet will be at its closest approach to Earth and its face will be fully illuminated by the Sun. This is the best time to view Uranus. Due to its distance, it will only appear as a tiny blue-green dot in all but the most powerful telescopes.
  • October 8 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 10:51 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Hunters Moon because at this time of year the leaves are falling and the game is fat and ready to hunt. This moon has also been known as the Travel Moon and the Blood Moon.
  • October 8 – Total Lunar Eclipse. A total lunar eclipse occurs when the Moon passes completely through the Earth’s dark shadow, or umbra. During this type of eclipse, the Moon will gradually get darker and then take on a rusty or blood red color. The eclipse will be visible throughout most of North America, South America, eastern Asia, and Australia. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
  • October 8, 9 – Draconids Meteor Shower. The Draconids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet 21P Giacobini-Zinner, which was first discovered in 1900. The shower runs annually from October 6-10 and peaks this year on the the night of the 8th and morning of the 9th. Unfortunately the glare from the full moon this year will block out all but the brightest meteors. If you are extremely patient, you may be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Draco, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • October 22, 23 – Orionids Meteor Shower. The Orionids is an average shower producing up to 20 meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Halley, which has been known and observed since ancient times. The shower runs annually from October 2 to November 7. It peaks this year on the night of October 21 and the morning of October 22. This will be an excellent year for the Orionids because there will be no moon to interfere with the show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Orion, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • October 23 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 21:57 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • October 23 – Partial Solar Eclipse. A partial solar eclipse occurs when the Moon covers only a part of the Moon, sometimes resembling a bite taken out of a cookie. A partial solar eclipse can only be safely observed with a special solar filter or by looking at the Sun’s reflection. The partial eclipse will be visible throughout most of North and Central America. (NASA Map and Eclipse Information)
  • November 5, 6 – Taurids Meteor Shower. The Taurids is a long-running minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is unusual in that it consists of two separate streams. The first is produced by dust grains from Asteroid 2004 TG10. The second stream is produced by debris left behind by Comet 2P Encke. The shower runs annually from September 7 to December 10. It peaks this year on the the night of November 5. Unfortunately the full moon this year will block out all but the brightest meteors. Those with patience may still be able to catch a few good ones. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Taurus, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • November 6 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 22:23 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Beaver Moon because this was the time of year to set the beaver traps before the swamps and rivers froze. It has also been known as the Frosty Moon and the Hunter’s Moon.
  • November 17, 18 – Leonids Meteor Shower. The Leonids is an average shower, producing an average of up to 15 meteors per hour at its peak. This shower is unique in that it has a cyclonic peak about every 33 years where hundreds of meteors per hour can be seen. That last of these occurred in 2001. The Leonids is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tempel-Tuttle, which was discovered in 1865. The shower runs annually from November 6-30. It peaks this year on the night of the 17th and morning of the 18th. The waning crescent moon will not be much of a problem this year. Skies should be dark enough for a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Leo, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • November 22 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 12:32 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • December 6 – Full Moon. The Moon will be directly opposite the Earth from the Sun and will be fully illuminated as seen from Earth. This phase occurs at 12:27 UTC. This full moon was known by early Native American tribes as the Full Cold Moon because this is the time of year when the cold winter air settles in and the nights become long and dark. This moon has also been known as the Moon Before Yule and the Full Long Nights Moon.
  • December 13, 14 – Geminids Meteor Shower. The Geminids is the king of the meteor showers. It is considered by many to be the best shower in the heavens, producing up to 120 multicolored meteors per hour at its peak. It is produced by debris left behind by an asteroid known as 3200 Phaethon, which was discovered in 1982. The shower runs annually from December 7-17. It peaks this year on the night of the 13th and morning of the 14th. The waning gibbous moon will block out some of the meteors this year, but the Geminids are so bright and numerous that it should still be a good show. Best viewing will be from a dark location after midnight. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Gemini, but can appear anywhere in the sky.
  • December 21 – December Solstice. The December solstice occurs at 23:03 UTC. The South Pole of the earth will be tilted toward the Sun, which will have reached its southernmost position in the sky and will be directly over the Tropic of Capricorn at 23.44 degrees south latitude. This is the first day of winter (winter solstice) in the Northern Hemisphere and the first day of summer (summer solstice) in the Southern Hemisphere.
  • December 22 – New Moon. The Moon will be directly between the Earth and the Sun and will not be visible from Earth. This phase occurs at 01:36 UTC. This is the best time of the month to observe faint objects such as galaxies and star clusters because there is no moonlight to interfere.
  • December 22, 23 – Ursids Meteor Shower. The Ursids is a minor meteor shower producing only about 5-10 meteors per hour. It is produced by dust grains left behind by comet Tuttle, which was first discovered in 1790. The shower runs annually from December 17-25. It peaks this year on the the night of the 22nd. This will be one of the best years to observe the Ursids because there will be no moonlight to interfere with the show. Best viewing will be just after midnight from a dark location far away from city lights. Meteors will radiate from the constellation Ursa Minor, but can appear anywhere in the sky.

The above information from Sea and Sky website.. follow some of their useful links below for more..

Total eclipse of October 27, 2004 via Fred Espenak of NASA

Total eclipse of October 27, 2004 via Fred Espenak of NASA

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Moon Phases and Eclipses in 2014

moon phases

 Year      New Moon       First Quarter       Full Moon       Last Quarter

 2014   Jan  1  11:14     Jan  8  03:39     Jan 16  04:52     Jan 24  05:19    
        Jan 30  21:39     Feb  6  19:22     Feb 14  23:53     Feb 22  17:15    
        Mar  1  08:00     Mar  8  13:27     Mar 16  17:09     Mar 24  01:46    
        Mar 30  18:45     Apr  7  08:31     Apr 15  07:42 t   Apr 22  07:52    
        Apr 29  06:14 A   May  7  03:15     May 14  19:16     May 21  12:59    
        May 28  18:40     Jun  5  20:39     Jun 13  04:11     Jun 19  18:39    
        Jun 27  08:09     Jul  5  11:59     Jul 12  11:25     Jul 19  02:08    
        Jul 26  22:42     Aug  4  00:50     Aug 10  18:09     Aug 17  12:26    
        Aug 25  14:13     Sep  2  11:11     Sep  9  01:38     Sep 16  02:05    
        Sep 24  06:14     Oct  1  19:33     Oct  8  10:51 t   Oct 15  19:12    
        Oct 23  21:57 P   Oct 31  02:48     Nov  6  22:23     Nov 14  15:16    
        Nov 22  12:32     Nov 29  10:06     Dec  6  12:27     Dec 14  12:51    
        Dec 22  01:36     Dec 28  18:31     
 

 

In 2014, there are two solar eclipses and two total lunar eclipses as follows.

Partial solar eclipse

Partial solar eclipse (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

2014 Apr 15: Total Lunar Eclipse
2014 Apr 29: Annular Solar Eclipse
2014 Oct 08: Total Lunar Eclipse
2014 Oct 23: Partial Solar Eclipse

Predictions for the eclipses are summarized in Figures 123, and 4. World maps show the regions of visibility for each eclipse. The lunar eclipse diagrams also include the path of the Moon through Earth’s shadows. Contact times for each principal phase are tabulated along with the magnitudes and geocentric coordinates of the Sun and Moon at greatest eclipse.

All times and dates used in this publication are in Universal Time or UT. This astronomically derived time system is colloquially referred to as Greenwich Mean Time or GMT. To learn more about UT and how to convert UT to your own local time, see Time Zones and Universal Time.



Total Lunar Eclipse of April 15

The first eclipse of the year is well placed for observers throughout the Western Hemisphere. The eclipse occurs at the lunar orbit’s ascending node in Virgo. The apparent diameter of the Moon is close to its average since the eclipse occurs nearly midway between apogee (April 08 at 14:53 UT) and perigee (April 23 at 00:28 UT). This is the first of four consecutive total lunar eclipses in 2014 and 2015 (see Lunar Eclipse Tetrads).

The Moon’s orbital trajectory takes it through the southern half of Earth’s umbral shadow. Although the eclipse is not central, the total phase still lasts 78 minutes. The Moon’s path through Earth’s shadows as well as a map illustrating worldwide visibility of the event are shown in Figure 1. The times of the major eclipse phases are listed below.

Penumbral Eclipse Begins:  04:53:37 UT
          Partial Eclipse Begins:    05:58:19 UT
          Total Eclipse Begins:      07:06:47 UT
          Greatest Eclipse:          07:45:40 UT
          Total Eclipse Ends:        08:24:35 UT
          Partial Eclipse Ends:      09:33:04 UT
          Penumbral Eclipse Ends:    10:37:37 UT

At the instant of greatest eclipse[1] (07:45:40 UT) the Moon lies at the zenith for a point in the South Pacific about 3000 km southwest of the Galapagos Islands. The umbral eclipse magnitude[2] peaks at 1.2907 as the Moon’s northern limb passes 1.7 arc-minutes south of the shadow’s central axis. In contrast, the Moon’s southern limb lies 9.0 arc-minutes from the southern edge of the umbra and 40.0 arc-minutes from the shadow centre. Thus, the northern half of the Moon will appear much darker than the southern half because it lies deeper in the umbra. Since the Moon samples a large range of umbral depths during totality, its appearance will change significantly with time. It is not possible to predict the exact brightness distribution in the umbra, so observers are encouraged to estimate the Danjon value at different times during totality (see Danjon Scale of Lunar Eclipse Brightness). Note that it may also be necessary to assign different Danjon values to different portions of the Moon (i.e., north verses south).

During totality, the spring constellations are well placed for viewing so a number of bright stars can be used for magnitude comparisons. Spica (m = +1.05) is the most conspicuous star lying just 2° west of the eclipsed Moon. This juxtaposition reminds the author of the total lunar eclipse of 1968 Apr 13 when Spica appeared only 1.3° southwest of the Moon at mid-totality. The brilliant blue color of Spica made for a striking contrast with the crimson Moon. Just a week past opposition, Mars (m = -1.4) appears two magnitudes brighter than Spica and lies 9.5° northwest of the Moon. Arcturus (m = +0.15) is 32° to the north, Saturn (m = +0.2) is 26° to the east, and Antares (m = +1.07) is 44° to the southeast.

The entire event is visible from both North and South America. Observers in the western Pacific miss the first half of the eclipse because it occurs before moonrise. Likewise most of Europe and Africa experience moonset just as the eclipse begins. None of the eclipse is visible from north/east Europe, eastern Africa, the Middle East or Central Asia.

Table 1 lists predicted umbral immersion and emersion times for 25 well-defined lunar craters. The timing of craters is useful in determining the atmospheric enlargement of Earth’s shadow (see Crater Timings During Lunar Eclipses).

The April 15 eclipse is the 56th eclipse of Saros[3] 122. This series began on 1022 August 14 and is composed of 74 lunar eclipses in the following sequence: 22 penumbral, 8 partial, 28 total, 7 partial, and 9 penumbral eclipses (Espenak and Meeus, 2009). The last eclipse of the series is on 2338 October 29. Complete details for Saros 122 can be found at:

eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEsaros/LEsaros122.html



Annular Solar Eclipse of April 29

The first solar eclipse of 2014 occurs at the Moon’s descending node in southern Aries. This particular eclipse is rather unusual because the central axis of the Moon’s antumbral shadow misses Earth entirely while the shadow edge grazes the planet. Classified as a non-central annular eclipse, such events are rare. Out of the 3,956 annular eclipses occurring during the 5,000-year period -2000 to +3000, only 68 of them or 1.7% are non-central (Espenak and Meeus, 2006).

The northern edge of the antumbral shadow first touches down in Antarctica at 05:57:35 UT. The instant of greatest eclipse[4] occurs just six minutes later at 06:03:25 UT. For an observer at the geographic coordinates nearest the shadow axis (131° 15.6′ E, 79° 38.7′ S), the Sun would appear on the horizon during the 49-second annular phase. Six minutes later (06:09:36 UT), the antumbral shadow lifts off the surface of Earth as the annular eclipse ends. The entire zone of annularity appears as a small D-shaped region in eastern Antarctica (Figure 2).

A partial eclipse is seen within the much broader path of the Moon’s penumbral shadow, that includes the southern Indian Ocean, the southern edge of Indonesia and all of Australia (Figure 2). Local circumstances for a number of cities in Australia are found inTable 2. All times are given in Universal Time. The Sun’s altitude and azimuth, the eclipse magnitude[5] and obscuration[6] are all given at the instant of maximum eclipse.

This is the 21st eclipse of Saros 148 (Espenak and Meeus, 2006). The family began with a series of 20 partial eclipses starting on 1653 Sep 21. The 2014 Apr 29 eclipse is actually the first annular eclipse of the series. It will be followed by another annular on 2032 May 09. The series switches to hybrid on 2050 May 20 followed by the first 40 total eclipses on 2068 May 31. After a final 12 partial eclipses, Saros 148 terminates on 2987 Dec 12. Complete details for the 75 eclipses in the series (in the sequence of 20 partial, 2 annular, 1 hybrid, 40 total, and 12 partial) may be found at:

eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEsaros/SEsaros148.html



Total Lunar Eclipse of October 08

The second lunar eclipse of 2014 is also total and is best seen from the Pacific Ocean and bordering regions. The eclipse occurs at the Moon’s descending node in southern Pisces, two days after perigee (October 06 at 09:41 UT). This means that the Moon will appear 5.3% larger than it did during the April 15 eclipse (32.7 vs. 31.3 arc-minutes).

This time the orbital path of the Moon takes it through the northern half of Earth’s umbral shadow. The total phase lasts 59 minutes primarily because the diameter of the umbral shadow is larger (1.49° verses 1.39°). The lunar path through Earth’s shadows as well as a map illustrating worldwide visibility of the event are shown in Figure 3. The times of the major eclipse phases are listed below.

               Penumbral Eclipse Begins:   08:15:33 UT
               Partial Eclipse Begins:     09:14:48 UT
               Total Eclipse Begins:       10:25:10 UT
               Greatest Eclipse:           10:54:36 UT
               Total Eclipse Ends:         11:24:00 UT
               Partial Eclipse Ends:       12:34:21 UT
               Penumbral Eclipse Ends:     13:33:43 UT

At the instant of greatest eclipse (10:54:36 UT) the Moon lies near the zenith from a location in the Pacific Ocean about 2000 km southwest of Hawaii. At this time, the umbral magnitude peaks at 1.1659 as the Moon’s southern limb passes 6.6 arc-minutes north of the shadow’s central axis. In contrast, the Moon’s northern limb lies 5.4 arc-minutes from the northern edge of the umbra and 39.3 arc-minutes from the shadow centre. As a result, the southern half of the Moon will appear much darker than the northern half because it lies deeper in the umbra. The Moon samples a large range of umbral depths during totality so its appearance will change considerably with time. The exact brightness distribution in the umbra is difficult to predict, so observers are encouraged to estimate the Danjon value at different times during totality (see Danjon Scale of Lunar Eclipse Brightness). It may also be necessary to assign different Danjon values to different portions of the Moon (e.g., north vs. south).

During totality, the autumn constellations are well placed for viewing and the brighter stars can be used for magnitude comparisons. The center of the Great Square of Pegasus lies 15° to the northwest, its brightest star being Alpheratz (m = +2.02). Deneb Kaitos (m = +2.04) in Cetus is 30° south of the eclipsed Moon, while Hamal (m = +2.01) is 25° to the northeast, Aldebaran (m = +0.87) is 56° to the east, and Almach (m = +2.17) is 40° to the north.

Although relatively faint, the planet Uranus (m = +5.7) lies just 2/3° southeast of the Moon during totality. Is a transit of the Earth and Moon across the Sun’s disk visible from Uranus during the eclipse? An interesting idea but calculations show a miss. From Uranus, the Sun’s disk is only 1.7 arc-minutes in diameter and this is a very small target to hit. Nevertheless, transits of Earth from Uranus are possible – the next one takes place on 2024 November 17 (Meeus, 1989).

The entire October 08 eclipse is visible from the Pacific Ocean and regions immediately bordering it. The northwestern 1/3 of North America also witnesses all stages. Farther east, various phases occur after moonset. For instance, the Moon sets during totality from eastern Canada and the USA. Observers in South America also experience moonset during the early stages of the eclipse. All phases are visible from New Zealand and eastern 1/4 of Australia – the Moon rises during the early partial phases from Australia’s west coast. Most of Japan and easternmost Asia catch the entire eclipse as well. Farther west in Asia, various stages of the eclipse occur before moonrise. None of the eclipse is visible from Europe, Africa, and the Middle East.

Table 3 lists predicted umbral immersion and emersion times for 25 well-defined lunar craters. The timing of craters is useful in determining the atmospheric enlargement of Earth’s shadow (see Crater Timings During Lunar Eclipses).

The October 08 eclipse is the 42nd eclipse of Saros 127. This series is composed of 72 lunar eclipses in the following sequence: 11 penumbral, 18 partial, 16 total, 20 partial, and 7 penumbral eclipses (Espenak and Meeus, 2009). The family began with the penumbral eclipse of 1275 July 09, and ends with another penumbral eclipse on 2555 September 02. Complete details for Saros 127 can be found at:

eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/LEsaros/LEsaros127.html



Partial Solar Eclipse of October 23

The final event of 2014 occurs at the Moon’s ascending node in southern Virgo. Although it is only a partial solar eclipse, it is of particular interest because the event is widely visible from Canada and the USA (Figure 4).

The penumbral shadow first touches Earth’s surface near the Kamchatka Peninsula in eastern Siberia at 19:37:33 UT. As the shadow travels east, much of North America will be treated to a partial eclipse. The eclipse magnitude from cities like Vancouver (0.658), San Francisco (0.504), Denver (0.556), and Toronto (0.443) will surely attract the media’s attention.

Greatest eclipse occurs at 21:44:31 UT in Canada’s Nunavut Territory near Prince of Wales Island where the eclipse in the horizon will have a magnitude of 0.811. At that time, the axis of the Moon’s shadow will pass about 675 km above Earth’s surface. A sunset eclipse will be visible from the eastern half of the USA and Canada (except for the far northeast). The partial eclipse ends when the penumbra leaves Earth at 23:51:40 UT.

Local circumstances and eclipse times for a number of cities in Canada and Mexico are listed in Table 4, and for the USA in Table 5. All times are in Local Daylight Time. The Sun’s altitude and azimuth, the eclipse magnitude and eclipse obscuration are all given at the instant of maximum eclipse. When the eclipse is in progress at sunset, this information is indicated by ‘- s’.

The NASA JavaScript Solar Eclipse Explorer is an interactive web page that can quickly calculate the local circumstances of the eclipse from any geographic location not included in Tables 4 and 5:

Javascript Solar Eclipse Explorer: eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/JSEX/JSEX-index.html

This is the 9th eclipse of Saros 153 (Espenak and Meeus, 2006). The series began on 1870 Jul 28 with a string of 13 partial eclipses. The first of 49 annular eclipses begins on 2104 Dec 17. The series ends with a set of 8 partial eclipses the last of which occurs on 3114 Aug 22. In all, Saros 153 produces 70 solar eclipses in the sequence of 13 partial, 49 annular, and 8 partial eclipses. Complete details for the series can be found at:

eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEsaros/SEsaros153.html


Lunar Eclipse Tetrads

The lunar eclipses of 2014 are the first of four consecutive total lunar eclipses – a series known as a tetrad. During the 5000-year period from -1999 to +3000, there are 4378 penumbral eclipses (36.3%), 4207 partial lunar eclipses (34.9%) and 3479 total lunar eclipses (28.8%). Approximately 16.3% (568) of all total eclipses belong to one of the 142 tetrads occurring over this period (Espenak and Meeus, 2009). The mechanism causing tetrads involves the eccentricity of Earth’s orbit in conjunction with the timing of eclipse seasons (Meeus, 2004). During the present millennium, the first eclipse of every tetrad occurs sometime from February to July. In later millennia, the first eclipse date gradually falls later in the year because of precession.

Italian astronomer Giovanni Schiaparelli first pointed out that the frequency of tetrads is variable over time. He noticed that tetrads were relatively plentiful during one 300-year interval, while none occurred during the next 300 years. For example, there are no tetrads from 1582 to 1908, but 17 tetrads occur during the following 2 and 1/2 centuries from 1909 to 2156. The ~565-year period of the tetrad “seasons” is tied to the slowly decreasing eccentricity of Earth’s orbit. Consequently, the tetrad period is gradually decreasing (Meeus, 2004). In the distant future when Earth’s eccentricity is 0, tetrads will no longer be possible.

The umbral magnitudes of the total eclipses making up a tetrad are all relatively small. For the 300-year period 1901 to 2200, the largest umbral magnitude of a tetrad eclipse is 1.4251 on 1949 Apr 13. For comparison, some other total eclipses during this period are much deeper. Two examples are the total eclipses of 2000 Jul 16 and 2029 Jun 26 with umbral magnitudes of 1.7684 and 1.8436, respectively.

Table 6 gives the dates of each eclipse in the 8 tetrads occurring during the 21st century. The tetrad prior to 2014-15 was in 2003-04 while the next group is nearly 20 years later in 2032-33.


Explanatory Information

Solar Eclipse Figures

Lunar Eclipse Figures

Shadow Diameters and Lunar Eclipses

Danjon Scale of Lunar Eclipse Brightness

Crater Timings During Lunar Eclipses


Eclipse Altitudes and Azimuths

The altitude a and azimuth A of the Sun or Moon during an eclipse depend on the time and the observer’s geographic coordinates. They are calculated as follows:

h = 15 (GST + UT - α ) + λ
a = arcsin [sin δ sin φ + cos δ cos h cos φ]
A = arctan [-(cos δ sin h)/(sin δ cos φ - cos δ cos h sin φ)]

where

h = hour angle of Sun or Moon
a = altitude
A = azimuth
GST = Greenwich Sidereal Time at 0:00 UT
UT = Universal Time
α = right ascension of Sun or Moon
δ = declination of Sun or Moon
λ = observer's longitude (east +, west -)
φ = observer's latitude (north +, south -)

During the eclipses of 2014, the values for GST and the geocentric Right Ascension and Declination of the Sun or the Moon (at greatest eclipse) are as follows:

Eclipse              Date           GST         α          δ
Total Lunar       2014 Apr 15     13.560     13.556     -10.050
Annular Solar     2014 Apr 29     14.475      2.431      14.448
Total Lunar       2014 Oct 08      1.133      0.919       6.307
Partial Solar     2014 Oct 23      2.148     13.887     -11.613

moon

Two web based tools that can also be used to calculate the local circumstances for all solar and lunar eclipses visible from any location. They are the Javascript Solar Eclipse Explorer and the Javascript Lunar Eclipse Explorer. The URLs for these tools are:

Javascript Solar Eclipse Explorer: eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/JSEX/JSEX-index.html

Javascript Lunar Eclipse Explorer: eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/JLEX/JLEX-index.html

 NASA’s Six Millennium Catalog of Phases of the Moon.

All above information via NASA.

Van Allen Radiation Belts

Van Allen Probes Find Storage Ring in Earth’s Outer Radiation Belt

Since their discovery over 50 years ago, the Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts have been considered to consist of two distinct zones of trapped, highly energetic charged particles. Observations from NASA’s Van Allen Probes reveal an isolated third ring in the outer radiation belt.

A cutaway model of the radiation belts with the 2 RBSP satellites flying through them. The radiation belts are two donut-shaped regions encircling Earth, where high-energy particles, mostly electrons and ions, are trapped by Earth’s magnetic field. This radiation is a kind of “weather” in space, analogous to weather on Earth, and can affect the performance and reliability of our technologies, and pose a threat to astronauts and spacecraft. The inner belt extends from about 1,000 to 8,000 miles above Earth’s equator. The outer belt extends from about 12,000 to 25,000 miles. This graphic also shows other satellites near the region of trapped radiation.

A cutaway model of the radiation belts with the 2 RBSP satellites flying through them. The radiation belts are two donut-shaped regions encircling Earth, where high-energy particles, mostly electrons and ions, are trapped by Earth’s magnetic field. This radiation is a kind of “weather” in space, analogous to weather on Earth, and can affect the performance and reliability of our technologies, and pose a threat to astronauts and spacecraft.

The inner belt extends from about 1000 to 8000 miles above Earth’s equator. The outer belt extends from about 12,000 to 25,000 miles. This graphic also shows other satellites near the region of trapped radiation.

Picture Credit: NASA

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NASA’s Van Allen Probes Discover a Surprise Circling Earth

28.02.13

After most NASA science spacecraft launches, researchers wait patiently for months as instruments on board are turned on one at a time, slowly ramped up to full power, and tested to make sure they work at full capacity. It’s a rite of passage for any new satellite in space, and such a schedule was in place for the Van Allen Probes when they launched on Aug. 30, 2012, to study two giant belts of radiation that surround Earth.

Van Allen Belts
But a group of scientists on the mission made a case for changing the plan. They asked that the Relativistic Electron Proton Telescope (REPT) be turned on early – just three days after launch — in order that its observations would overlap with another mission called SAMPEX (Solar, Anomalous, and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer), that was soon going to de-orbit and re-enter Earth’s atmosphere.

It was a lucky decision. Shortly before REPT turned on, solar activity on the sun had sent energy toward Earth that caused the radiation belts to swell. The REPT instrument worked well from the moment it was turned on Sep. 1. It made observations of these new particles trapped in the belts, recording their high energies, and the belts’ increased size.

Van Allen Belts 2
Then something happened no one had ever seen before: the particles settled into a new configuration, showing an extra, third belt extending out into space. Within mere days of launch, the Van Allen Probes showed scientists something that would require rewriting textbooks.

“By the fifth day REPT was on, we could plot out our observations and watch the formation of a third radiation belt,” says Shri Kanekal, the deputy mission scientist for the Van Allen Probes at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. and a co-author of a paper on these results. “We started wondering if there was something wrong with our instruments. We checked everything, but there was nothing wrong with them. The third belt persisted beautifully, day after day, week after week, for four weeks.”

The scientists published their results in a paper in the journal Science on Feb. 28, 2013. Incorporating this new configuration into their models of the radiation belts offers scientists new clues to what causes the changing shapes of the belts – a region that can sometimes swell dramatically in response to incoming energy from the sun, impacting satellites and spacecraft or pose potential threats to manned space flight.

VanAllenBelts1

Since their discovery over 50 years ago, the Earth’s Van Allen radiation belts have been considered to consist of two distinct zones of trapped, highly energetic charged particles. Observations from NASA’s Van Allen Probes reveal an isolated third ring in the outer radiation belt.

The radiation belts, or Van Allen belts, were discovered with the very first launches of satellites in 1958 by James Van Allen. Subsequent missions have observed parts of the belts – including SAMPEX, which observed the belts from below – but what causes such dynamic variation in the belts has remained something of a mystery. Indeed, seemingly similar storms from the sun have at times caused completely different effects in the belts, or have sometimes led to no change at all.

The Van Allen Probes consist of two identical spacecraft with a mission to map out this region with exquisite detail, cataloging a wide range of energies and particles, and tracking the zoo of magnetic waves that pulse through the area, sometimes kicking particles up to such frenzied speeds that they escape the belts altogether.

Published on 28 Feb 2013

A new radiation belt and storage ring has been discovered above Earth; It is shown here using actual data as the middle arc of orange and red of the three arcs seen on each side of the Earth. The new belt was observed for the first time by Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescopes (REPT) flying on NASA’s twin Van Allen Probes, which launched on Aug. 30 2012. CREDIT: JHUAPL/LASP

“We’ve had a long run of data from missions like SAMPEX,” says Daniel Baker, who is the principal investigator for REPT at the University of Colorado in Boulder and first author on the Science paper. “But we’ve never been in the very throat of the accelerator operating a few hundred miles above our head, speeding these particles up to incredible velocities.”

In its first six months in orbit, the instruments on the Van Allen Probes have worked exceptionally well and scientists are excited about a flood of observations coming in with unprecedented clarity. This is the first time scientists have been able to gather such a complete set of data about the belts, with the added bonus of watching from two separate spacecraft that can better show how events sweep across the area.

Spotting something new in space such as the third radiation belt has more implications than the simple knowledge that a third belt is possible. In a region of space that remains so mysterious, any observations that link certain causes to certain effects adds another piece of information to the puzzle.

Baker likes to compare the radiation belts to the particle storage rings in a particle physics accelerator. In accelerators, magnetic fields are used to hold the particles orbiting in a circle, while energy waves are used to buffet the particles up to ever faster speeds. In such accelerators, everything must be carefully tuned to the size and shape of that ring, and the characteristics of those particles. The Van Allen Belts depend on similar fine-tuning. Given that scientists see the rings only in certain places and at certain times, they can narrow down just which particles and waves must be causing that geometry. Every new set of observations helps narrow the field even further.

“We can offer these new observations to the theorists who model what’s going on in the belts,” says Kanekal. “Nature presents us with this event – it’s there, it’s a fact, you can’t argue with it — and now we have to explain why it’s the case. Why did the third belt persist for four weeks? Why does it change? All of this information teaches us more about space.”

On Aug. 31, 2012, a giant prominence on the sun erupted, sending out particles and a shock wave that traveled near Earth.

› View larger
On Aug. 31, 2012, a giant prominence on the sun erupted, sending out particles and a shock wave that traveled near Earth. This event may have been one of the causes of a third radiation belt that appeared around Earth a few days later, a phenomenon that was observed for the very first time by the newly-launched Van Allen Probes. This image of the prominence before it erupted was captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO). Credit:NASA/SDO/AIA/Goddard Space Flight Center

Scientists already have theories about just what kind of waves sweep out particles in the “slot” region between the first two belts. Now they must devise models to find which waves have the right characteristics to sweep out particles in the new slot region as well. Another tantalizing observation to explore lies in tracking the causes of the slot region back even further: on Aug. 31, 2012, a long filament of solar material that had been hovering in the sun’s atmosphere erupted out into space. Baker says that this might have caused the shock wave that led to the formation of the third ring a few days later. In addition, the new belt was virtually annihilated four weeks after it appeared by another powerful interplanetary shock wave from the sun. Being able to watch such an event in action provides even more material for theories about the Van Allen belts.

Despite the 55 years since the radiation belts were first discovered, there is much left to investigate and explain, and within just a few days of launch the Van Allen Probes showed that the belts are still capable of surprises.

“I consider ourselves very fortunate,” says Baker. “By turning on our instruments when we did, taking great pride in our engineers and having confidence that the instruments would work immediately and having the cooperation of the sun to drive the system the way it did – it was an extraordinary opportunity. It validates the importance of this mission and how important it is to revisit the Van Allen Belts with new eyes.”

The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory (APL) built and operates the twin Van Allen Probes. The Van Allen Probes comprise the second mission in NASA’s Living With a Star (LWS) program to explore aspects of the connected sun-Earth system that directly affect life and society. The program is managed by NASA Goddard.

› View NASA Press Release
› View briefing materials from the February 28, 2013 news conference

A playlist of 4 Video’s on the Radiation Belt Storm Probe (RBSP) mission will explore Earth’s Van Allen Radiation Belts. The protons, ions, and electrons in these belts can be hazardous to both spacecraft and astronauts.

Published on 28 Sep 2012

the twin Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) have recorded the “music” of the Van Allen Radiation Belts -actually radio waves at acoustic frequencies. These frequencies may play a role in speeding up electrons in the belts. Video From you tube user  ‘Coconut  Science Lab’ his website: Jungle Joel
Credit: NASA

More on:

Van Allen Probes Find Storage Ring in Earth’s Outer Radiation Belt

NASA's Living With a Star (LWS) program is a space-weather focused and applications driven research program. Its goal is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to effectively address those aspects of the connected sun–Earth system that directly affect life and society.  The program is implemented by a series of inter-related science missions, space environment testbeds, and a targeted theory, modeling, and data analysis program.  The Van Allen Probes are the second mission in the LWS program.  Credit: NASA
 NASA’s Living With a Star (LWS) program is a space-weather focused and applications driven research program. Its goal is to develop the scientific understanding necessary to effectively address those aspects of the connected sun–Earth system that directly affect life and society. The program is implemented by a series of inter-related science missions, space environment testbeds, and a targeted theory, modeling, and data analysis program. The Van Allen Probes are the second mission in the LWS program.Credit: NASA

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80 x 40             PNG       36 KBThis two part movie shows an Aug. 31 coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun , the same event that caused depletion and refilling of the radiation belts just after the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) instruments on the Van Allen Probes were turned on. The first movie shows the CME as captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO); the second shows several views of the same CME from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). Credit: NASA

This two part movie shows an Aug. 31 coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun , the same event that caused depletion and refilling of the radiation belts just after the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) instruments on the Van Allen Probes were turned on. The first movie shows the CME as captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO); the second shows several views of the same CME from the Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO).

Credit: NASA
Duration: 19.1 seconds
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This graph shows energetic electron data gathered by the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) instruments, on the twin Van Allen Probes satellites in eccentric orbits around the Earth, from Sept. 1, 2012 to Oct. 4, 2012 (horizontal axis). It shows three discrete energy channels (measured in megaelectron volts, or MeV). The third belt region (in yellow) and second slot (in green) are highlighted, and exist up until a coronal mass ejection (CME) destroys them on Oct. 1. The vertical axis in each is L*, effectively the distance in Earth radii at which a magnetic field line crosses the magnetic equatorial plane. Credit: LASP

This graph shows energetic electron data gathered by the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) instruments, on the twin Van Allen Probes satellites in eccentric orbits around the Earth, from Sept. 1, 2012 to Oct. 4, 2012 (horizontal axis). It shows three discrete energy channels (measured in megaelectron volts, or MeV). The third belt region (in yellow) and second slot (in green) are highlighted, and exist up until a coronal mass ejection (CME) destroys them on Oct. 1. The vertical axis in each is L*, effectively the distance in Earth radii at which a magnetic field line crosses the magnetic equatorial plane.Credit: LASP

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Graphic with annotations.

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160 x 80           PNG       43 KBOne of the two Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) instruments for the Van Allen Probes is shown prior to and then during integration into the spacecraft in 2012. Each Van Allen Probe carries an identical suite of five instruments; REPT is part of the Energetic Particle, Composition, and Thermal Plasma Suite (ECT) aboard the Van Allen Probes. Credit: JHUAPL

One of the two Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescope (REPT) instruments for the Van Allen Probes is shown prior to and then during integration into the spacecraft in 2012. Each Van Allen Probe carries an identical suite of five instruments; REPT is part of the Energetic Particle, Composition, and Thermal Plasma Suite (ECT) aboard the Van Allen Probes.Credit: JHUAPL
Duration: 18.6 seconds
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How to play NASA’s moviesThis long-term plot (approximately 12 years) from NASA’s Solar Anomalous and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer (SAMPEX) spacecraft shows the established two-belt structure of the Van Allen radiation belts above the Earth. The L value is distance above the Earth. New, more advanced instrumentation on the Van Allen Probes has revealed a third belt. Credit: NASA

This long-term plot (approximately 12 years) from NASA’s Solar Anomalous and Magnetospheric Particle Explorer (SAMPEX) spacecraft shows the established two-belt structure of the Van Allen radiation belts above the Earth. The L value is distance above the Earth. New, more advanced instrumentation on the Van Allen Probes has revealed a third belt.

Credit: NASA

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This animation shows meridional (from north-south) plane projections of the REPT-A and REPT-B electron flux values. The animation first shows the expected two-belt Van Allen zone structure; from Sept. 3 through Sept. 6 only an intense belt of electrons remains and the inner zone and traditional slot region have not changed; next, the third ‘storage ring’ belt feature persists while a new slot region is seen and a completely new outer zone population has formed. Then, around Oct. 1, the storage ring feature remains while the outer zone decays away. Credit: LASP

This animation shows meridional (from north-south) plane projections of the REPT-A and REPT-B electron flux values. The animation first shows the expected two-belt Van Allen zone structure; from Sept. 3 through Sept. 6 only an intense belt of electrons remains and the inner zone and traditional slot region have not changed; next, the third ‘storage ring’ belt feature persists while a new slot region is seen and a completely new outer zone population has formed. Then, around Oct. 1, the storage ring feature remains while the outer zone decays away.Credit: LASP
Duration: 30.2 seconds
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This visualization, created using actual data from the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescopes (REPT) on NASA’s Van Allen Probes, clearly shows the emergence of new third belt and second slot regions. The new belt is seen as the middle orange and red arc of the three seen on each side of the Earth. The twin Van Allen Probes launched on Aug. 30 2012. Credit: JHU/APL, from REPT data/LASP

This visualization, created using actual data from the Relativistic Electron-Proton Telescopes (REPT) on NASA’s Van Allen Probes, clearly shows the emergence of new third belt and second slot regions. The new belt is seen as the middle orange and red arc of the three seen on each side of the Earth. The twin Van Allen Probes launched on Aug. 30 2012.Credit: JHU/APL, from REPT data/LASP
Duration: 1.1 minutes
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Radiation regions like the belts are found throughout our solar system and the universe. We are fortunate that we have this region of interest just a few thousand kilometers above the planet – it is like having our very own particle accelerator in the backyard. Here are four objects with radiation regions: The sun, Earth, Jupiter, and the Crab Nebula. Credit: NASA/JHUAPL

Radiation regions like the belts are found throughout our solar system and the universe. We are fortunate that we have this region of interest just a few thousand kilometers above the planet – it is like having our very own particle accelerator in the backyard. Here are four objects with radiation regions: The sun, Earth, Jupiter, and the Crab Nebula.Credit: NASA/JHUAPL

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320 x 180         PNG     172 KBThis Sept. 28 coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), is the event which caused the near total annihilation of the new radiation belt and slot region on Oct. 1. Credit: NASA

This Sept. 28 coronal mass ejection (CME) from the sun, captured by NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO), is the event which caused the near total annihilation of the new radiation belt and slot region on Oct. 1.Credit: NASA
Duration: 10.3 seconds
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This movie shows NASA’s Earth-orbiting heliophysics fleet as of 2013, from near Earth orbit out to the orbit of the moon. These missions study the thermosphere, ionosphere, and mesosphere; geospace and the magnetosphere; the heliosphere; and take solar observations and imagery. The Van Allen Probes (marked here as RBSP-A and RBSP-B) are in a highly elliptical orbit, shown in blue, around the Earth. Working as a team, these spacecraft provide the most comprehensive picture ever provided of how our sun interacts with our world. Credit: NASATo download the video, click here.

This movie shows NASA’s Earth-orbiting heliophysics fleet as of 2013, from near Earth orbit out to the orbit of the moon. These missions study the thermosphere, ionosphere, and mesosphere; geospace and the magnetosphere; the heliosphere; and take solar observations and imagery. The Van Allen Probes (marked here as RBSP-A and RBSP-B) are in a highly elliptical orbit, shown in blue, around the Earth. Working as a team, these spacecraft provide the most comprehensive picture ever provided of how our sun interacts with our world.Credit: NASA

To download the video, click here.

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320 x 180         PNG     293 KBThe Forecast Office of NOAA's Space Weather Prediction Center is the nation's official source of alerts, warnings, and watches. The office, staffed 24/7, is always vigilant for solar activity that can affect critical infrastructure. Credit: NOAA.

 The Forecast Office of NOAA’s Space Weather Prediction Center is the nation’s official source of alerts, warnings, and watches. The office, staffed 24/7, is always vigilant for solar activity that can affect critical infrastructure.

Credit: NOAA.

Duration: 44.0 seconds
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How to play our movies

The Space Weather Prediction Center has offered an email subscription service to customers both nationally and internationally since 2005. Now numbering over 32,000 subscribers, the satellite community accounts for about 9,500. Credit:NOAA.

The Space Weather Prediction Center has offered an email subscription service to customers both nationally and internationally since 2005. Now numbering over 32,000 subscribers, the satellite community accounts for about 9,500. Credit:NOAA.

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80 x 40             PNG       26 KBSatellite industry revenues globally have grown at about nine percent on average since 2006. In 2011, the last year for which data are available, the revenue was more than $177B (USD). Credit: Satellite Industry Association.

Satellite industry revenues globally have grown at about nine percent on average since 2006. In 2011, the last year for which data are available, the revenue was more than $177B (USD).Credit: Satellite Industry Association.
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80 x 40             PNG       27 KBSatellite anomalies of various types are the result of high levels of charged particles. The Van Allen Probes offer unique measurements of these populations for the benefit of satellite builders and operators. Credit: JHUAPL

Satellite anomalies of various types are the result of high levels of charged particles. The Van Allen Probes offer unique measurements of these populations for the benefit of satellite builders and operators.Credit: JHUAPL

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for the Following Picture/ Video:

A narrated short video featuring visualizations of the Van Allen Belt’s three ring structure. This video was not part of the news briefing, but is included in the associated feature story.

For complete transcript, click here.

Duration: 1.0 minutes
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How to play our movies

A narrated short video featuring visualizations of the Van Allen Belt's three ring structure.  This video was not part of the news briefing, but is included in the associated feature story. For complete transcript, click here.

Short URL to This Page: http://svs.gsfc.nasa.gov/goto?11212
Animation Number: 11212
Completed: 2013-02-27
Animator: Tom Bridgman (GST) (Lead)
Video Editor: Genna Duberstein (USRA)
Narrator: Karen Fox (ASI)
Producer: Genna Duberstein (USRA)
Scientists: Shrikanth G. Kanekal (NASA/GSFC)
Dan Baker (University of Colorado)
Nicola Fox (NASA/GSFC)
Writer: Karen Fox (ASI)
Goddard TV Tape: G2013-024 — Van Allen Probes Find Storage Ring in Earth’s Outer Radiation Belt
Keywords:
SVS >> CME
SVS >> Coronal Mass Ejection
SVS >> Magnetosphere
SVS >> Solar Flare
SVS >> Solar Ultraviolet
SVS >> Solar Wind
SVS >> Sun
SVS >> Radiation Belts
SVS >> Space Weather
SVS >> SDO
SVS >> Solar Dynamics Observatory
SVS >> Heliophysics
SVS >> Sun-Earth interactions
SVS >> Corona
SVS >> RBSP
SVS >> Van Allen Belts
SVS >> Van Allen Probes

Please give Credit for this item to:

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center. However, individual items should be credited as indicated above.