16 – Blood Moon

A total lunar eclipse happens every time the Earth comes in between the Sun and Moon and the Moon passes through the Earth’s shadow. Instead of the moon becoming completely dark and disappearing from the night sky, the light of the sun is bent and filtered by the Earth’s atmosphere shining a red glow on the moon. Think of it as every sunrise and sunset happening on the Earth at that moment coloring the moon! Because of its red hue during a total eclipse, it’s been called a Blood Moon.

Total lunar eclipses are more common than total solar eclipses and are visible to the entire side of the Earth it’s happening for, while total Solar Eclipses are only visible for a tiny area on Earth.

The next total lunar eclipse is happening next week for much of the Western Hemisphere and some of the easternmost parts of the Eastern Hemisphere. For more info on how you can see that click HERE.

15 – Perihelion

Happy Perihelion Day!

When an object in orbit of the sun reaches its closest point to the sun, that is its Perihelion. Even Earth has a perihelion since our orbit is elliptical rather than circular, and the sun is not right in the center of it.

A comet’s perihelion can be much more interesting because of how close they get to the sun at that point.

Today comet ISON reaches perihelion as it rounds the sun. ISON is special in that it’s a “sungrazing” comet and it’s getting so close to the sun that we’re not sure if it will survive the swing around it. It may completely fall apart today.

But if it doesn’t, it’ll come out the other side and head back into space, and will potentially be shining brightly and beautifully in our pre-dawn skies. At least for a few days.

Here’s more about ISONs Perihelion today. [click!]

And here’s more about perihelions in general. [click!]

14 – Comet Envy

We have a relatively bright comet (relative to most comets viewable to us) in our skies currently. Comet PANNStars has been giving most of the Earth a little bit of a show just after sunset. Later this year we may be treated to an incredible sight as comet ISON threatens to be as bright as, if not brighter than, our moon.

Comets are chunks of ice and rock that orbit our sun. Many come from the Oort Cloud located beyond Pluto. As they reach the inner solar system and approach the sun, the ice starts to melt and the gases react with the sun’s solar wind and creates 2 tails, one of gas and one of dust, which extend behind the comet away from the sun.

The comets out there take anywhere up to 30 million years to orbit the sun one time, which is why most comets we see are once in a lifetime for us. So whenever there’s a good one out there, you’re going to want to take the opportunity to get a good look at it!

More info about comets can be found HERE.

Welcome NYCC readers!

Hello new readers! A bunch of you picked up the “Cosmical” handout at my table this weekend and have hopefully stopped by to check it out! “Cosmical” doesn’t have a schedule, but I suggest that you add it to your RSS reader or go “like” the FB page so that you don’t miss any update! Thanks for stopping by!

13 – Blue Moon

Haven’t had a chance to get this up until now since I’ve got so much to do in preparation for NYCC, and I’m starting to freak out. But it was a sad week in Space exploration not just for Earth, but for the moon too.

12 – Meteor Shower

Meteor showers happen when the Earth passes through debris which, most of the time, has been left behind from a comet. As soon as the debris hits our atmosphere it begins to burn up as it falls, which is what we see as a “shooting star.” Most of the debris is small enough that it burns up quickly and completely before it can hit the ground. This is not the case, however, with our Moon. The moon has no atmosphere so any debris it passes through will hit the surface and add to its already many craters.

Tonight the Perseids meteor shower will reach its peak, and the skies will be rather dark since the moon is a its waning crescent phase and will rise late. If you find yourself with clear skies and far from light pollution, you could possibly see around 100 meteors an hour!

11 – Curiosity Rover

(Oh and there’s a previous comic I did about Mars that goes well with current events as well! And it’s right HERE.)

Later on today (or early tomorrow morning if you’re in Europe like me) the Mars Curiosity Rover will complete its eight month journey to Mars and land on its surface in preparation to learn more about our dry neighbor, mainly if life has ever existed on the red planet. Until now, three rovers have successfully landed on Mars, this will be the Fourth. (positive thinking here, people)

Only one of the three existing rovers continues to function and send data back to Earth. In addition to the now defunct robots, there several some crash landed remnants from failed missions. With all of this equipment just laying around, perhaps Mars is collecting it all and doing something with it. You never know 😉

10 – Apollo 11

This comic was meant to go up on Friday but life got in the way, so it’s a couple of days late.

Friday marked the 43rd anniversary of the moon landing which put the first humans ever on the moon. I was born in 1980 so I missed this incredible event. But what a feeling it must have been to have witnessed it, let alone how it actually felt for the astronauts who were up there!

We* went back to the moon 5 more times. The last time was in 1972. We stopped going due to the cost of it. Basically, we’d set out to do something, and we did it. There are no official plans to return right now.

Practically, I can understand why we haven’t returned of course. But when I let my fantasy roam, I can’t help but wonder what the moon would look like at night if we had little cities up there. Imagine when we see a half moon, one half lit up from the sun, the other glittering with orange patterns. Ah… let’s all enjoy that sci-fi image for a while… 🙂

*By “we” I generally mean humans, but “we” can be read as “Americans” since it has only been American missions that have landed on the moon to date. Other countries are planning their own moon landing missions, so while Americans may not be returning any time soon, there could still be humans heading up there in the near future.

9 – Fifth Moon

Today, July 11th 2012, scientists announced the discovery of a fifth moon orbiting Pluto. We all know that the great Neil deGrasse Tyson “killed” Pluto (or was, at least, an accomplice), and the amount of moons a celestial object is nor a deciding factor in when deciding if it’s a planet or not. As an example, Earth has one moon, Saturn has around 60 moons and Venus has none. The truth is that Pluto hasn’t cleared its orbit yet, meaning that it shares its orbit with other bodies and isn’t the dominant body in that orbit.

Poor Pluto is so desperate to regain his old title, however, that he’s hoping ANYTHING can bring him back to his old status. 🙂