Google Lunar Eclipse Doodle

Just last week, Google managed to waste millions of user hours by adding one of their most famous ever. The Les Paul Google Doodle allowed users to play their own music through keystrokes. The Les Paul Doodle also got a permanent home like the Google Pacman Doodle.

Google Lunar Eclipse Doodle

Today is this century’s 2nd largest Lunar Eclipse and we have a complete Guide on the Lunar Eclipse out here. However, if you have never seen a Lunar Eclipse in your life, you can do it now playfully with the latest Google Doodle.

The new Google Doodle has a progress meter which shows you how the moon is covered during the Lunar Eclipse. It plays automatically when you load Google.com, but you can also drag the progress bar either way to see it minutely.

This is definitely a fun way for people to learn about this natural phenomenon. Go ahead and check out the new Google Lunar Eclipse Doodle at google.com. You can also watch the Lunar Eclipse live at http://youtube.com/google.

Moon, The Eclipse And Photos: The Complete Guide To The Second Longest Lunar Eclipse Of The Century

An extremely long lunar eclipse the second longest in history is upon us! On 15th June (and 16th June for some), most of the world will witness the second longest total lunar eclipse this century, short of the absolute record maximum by only three minutes. It’s going to get late into the night; if you have an early train or flight to catch, cancel tickets now!   Here we present you with the all-you-need-to-know guide to the eclipse, along with a few great photos.

Select your location: Views from different places

Choose your location or a nearby one from the ones shortlisted below. See how good your luck is.

  • For North east Russia: You’ll be disappointed if you live here. The beginning of the eclipse will coincide with moonset. In other words, you’ll be able to see the moon dimming down as it goes over the horizon (when the penumbral shadow comes in). When the umbral part hits, the moon will be below the horizon. (For an explanation of the penumbral and umbral regions, scroll down to the end of this section)
    • Verdict: Tough luck! Nothing.
  • For Japan, North-East China, Korea, Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Tibet, Eastern Australia and New Zealand: If you stay here, you’ll be lucky enough to witness the eclipse for a good length of time. You can watch the penumbral shadow creeping over and then the umbral shadow dimming the moon an hour afterwards. The moon will be near the horizon and thus, you’ll not be able to see this spectacle for too long! You might see a half-visible moon setting on the horizon, which is a spectacle in itself. (Do click photos!)
    • Verdict: Lucky, but only just.
  • For India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, rest of China, Islands in the Indian Ocean, Australia: You are at the right spot, almost the best in the world. The penumbra will hit at about 11:00 PM to 11:30 PM Indian Standard Time (about 0600 GMT; NASA reports 0623 GMT). The moon will start getting dimmer, while still rising in the sky. The totality (i.e. when the moon is totally eclipsed) will occur at about 2:00 AM, when the moon is right up above your heads in the middle of the sky! You’ll be able to see excellent features of the night sky, which you might have otherwise missed (wait for the next section of this article). Take a trip out of a metro city, if you live in one, and visit the suburbs for the night. Make sure you sling along your Digital SLR you’re going to regret not brining one.
    • Verdict: Great luck! Enjoy.
  • For Eastern Europe, Middle East, UAE, most of Eastern Russia, Egypt and any Island near the eastern coast of Africa, like Madagascar: Folks, you’ve got the best seats in the house. If the skies are clear, you’ll be witness to the spectacle in all its eclectic glory for the longest possible! The eclipse will set in right after moonrise. Totality will be seen when the moon is right overhead, or just about there at about 1:00 AM at night. The eclipse will end a couple of hours before moonset. The European cities of Vienna, Oslo, Paris and Madrid etc. will witness a grand show, but it might be slightly marred by the intense light pollution! Get to a suitably dark place it’ll be worth the effort. All-in-all it should be a great show. Popcorn and digital camera are recommended as accompaniments (along with a blanket, maybe?).
    • Verdict: Cannot get any better than this on Earth or, for that matter, anywhere in the Universe.
  • For most parts of South America (especially the western part) and entire North America: Hate to say this, but you guys are tremendously unlucky on this one. The lunar eclipse will happen with your backs turned to it, literally! The moon will be below the horizon when it happens and you will not be able to see anything! Tough luck.
    • Verdict: Alas! Seats are outside the theatre hall!

Note about Umbra and Penumbra: The shadow cast by the Earth (or by anything provided that the source of light is a large, extended object) consists of two parts the inner darker one, called the Umbra, and the peripheral lighter one, called the Penumbra. The Penumbral portion has diffused light sneaking in, while the Umbral portion is extremely dark.

A graphical guide provided by NASA (Courtesy: NASA)

Here’s a nice map prepared by NASA to help you get going!

What to watch out for and photos:

As the moon fades, stars, which would be otherwise invisible, start becoming visible. The night sky gets transformed! At totality, you should be able to see a great band of light just behind the moon, which is the Milky Way. As the eclipse proceeds, watch how the different stars, especially the Milky Way, fade out of visible existence, dominated by the moon once more.

Tomorrow the moon will cross the constellation of Ophiuchus, lying roughly midway between Scorpio and Sagittarius.

At the darkest, the moon will be slightly visible, a reddish disc glowing with about 10,000 less brightness than normal. Set your camera for a relatively low shutter speed, small f-stops (or, a large aperture), get the best zoom you can afford, set it up on a tripod if you wish and you’re ready to go! Enjoy the photos below clicked on previous occasions.

One of the most spectacular images of the 2010 lunar eclipse (Color has been slightly enhanced.) (Photo courtesy: JPL/NASA)

Another click

This image won the public prize for the best lunar eclipse image awarded by JPL. (Photo credits: Keith Burns, JPL/NASA)

Records:

For the records, this will be the second longest lunar eclipse this century, lasting for 100 minutes, overshadowed (pun intended!) in duration only by the one on 16th July 2000 by a mere 3 minutes. It will be the third longest ever, the second longest lasting for 101 minutes, just a minute more than the upcoming one!

The next long lunar eclipse will take place on July 27th, 2018. The next lunar eclipse is much closer and is due on December 10th, 2011.

Enjoy the moon getting gulped up! If someone attaches any superstitious non-sense to this event, ignore them. Wish you a happy eclipse watching!

Space Mission:Endeavour Lands On Earth For The Last Time

Endeavour has landed. The last space flight, STS-134, of the youngest shuttle in the NASA fleet, beloved by one and all, came to an end after 16 days in space on the second last mission NASA has planned to the International Space Station. Endeavour can now boast of 25 years of space flight career in which it spent 299 days in space, made 4672 orbits of Earth and covered a staggering 122.8 million miles. The shuttle will now be given pride of place at the California Science Center in Los Angelos.

Endeavour Lands at the Kennedy Space Center at 2:35 AM (Courtesy: NASA)

Endeavour’s Journey

Endeavour has been built to replace Challenger after the tragic fate it suffered in 1986. It made its first voyage into space in 1992, on a mission to grab an errant satellite. The darling child of the NASA fleet also had carried astronauts to the Hubble Space Telescope in 1993 in an attempt to correct the alignment of the mirror on the Telescope, after it was found that the much vaunted Space Telescope had blurred vision. The mission was a huge success and Hubble has never had to look back since. Incidentally, Endeavour was also the preferred vessel for the first manned flight undertaken to assemble the International Space Station in 1998.

Endeavour landed at 2:35 AM in the midst of complete darkness and cheered on by ground staff and a handful of people who had gathered at the Kennedy Space Center, Florida. It was an emotional touchdown for all, but especially for Commander Mark Kelly. Kelly’s wife Rep. Gabrielle Giffords is in a rehab center in Houston having suffered a bullet to the head during a mass shooting in Tuscan, Arizona this January. She has since made a miraculous recovery and had in fact attended the Endeavour launch. Kelly has reportedly not called his wife up, since he didn’t want to wake her up so late at night.

What Now?

The emotional scene was slightly buoyed up by the sight of Atlantis being lined up for launch at the launch pad for its last ever flight. Atlantis is due to be launched on the 8th of July tentatively. Discovery, the leader of the fleet, had already been retired in March. It is now housed at the Smithsonian Institution hangar in Washington.

With three out of four shuttles out of operation, NASA is looking for new ones to continue its mission in space. It is also looking at unmanned deep space missions.

Endeavour looks almost too young to retire, but it has done its due. Here’s wishing Endeavour a happy retired life.

Cosmic Fireworks: Stunning Images Captured of Supernova and Black Holes (with pictures and a video)

They are firecrackers in the sky and they are massive. The ultra-modern Chandra X-ray Telescope has observed numerous supernovae and copious amount of X-rays in the Carina Nebula. NASA recently released pictures it snapped up using a radio telescope that shows a black hole gobbling up matter in the Centaurus A galaxy. In cosmic terms, both Carina and Centaurus A are close by, but not too close. We are lucky enough to have a great view of the violent and stunning explosions and be awed by them, while coming to no harm. We examine both in this article, and with stunning pictures.

Violent Scene 1:

Location: Carina, a stellar nursery and a violent neighborhood, about 7500 light years from Earth

Protagonist: The Chandra X-ray telescope, the best eye we have to see the X-ray band with

Observation: Streams of X-rays detected, which are signatures of massive supernovae explosions

Verdict: Awe-inspiring

Let’s get straight to the image.

The Carina Galaxy in X-Ray (Image Courtesy: NASA, Chandra (CXC))

Get a bigger image here. (And you know you want to… you just have to get a bigger image!)

This is a false color image, because we are actually seeing in X-rays. The red is for low energy X-rays and blue is for the high energy ones. Shades of green and yellow represent intermediate energies.

Here’s what magical about the image: It has been made up of 22 separate images through an exposure time of 1.2 million seconds! It’s ultra-high resolution, and amazingly detailed. We get to see through a lot of dust, that optical radiation just cannot penetrate.

Remember that all the light in the image represents X-rays, which are very energetic. Look at the halo, the diffused purple glow around the central arc. That represents the X-rays being thrown out by ejected materials and charged stellar winds ramming into interstellar matter, and being shocked into X-rays emission. (Here’s the simple rule of thumb from physics: If you have charged particles moving fast and you suddenly stop them, the energy is emitted suddenly as electromagnetic waves, which, in this case, is X-rays. The energy of the EM waves is dependent on how fast the particles were moving and how suddenly they were stopped.)

What’s the big deal? Well, it seems that Carina has been producing very massive stars over the last few millions of years. These stars are so massive that they do not survive too long (Our Sun is a medium sized star and thus it is billed to last for 10 billion years; not so for many giant stars, which can die after living brightly for a short period of 10 million years). These stars die in extravagant explosions, called supernovae, which can outshine an entire galaxy for a few seconds. Further, Chandra has actually managed to count the number of heavy stars (those emitting X-rays) in the neighborhood and it turns out to be greater than previously thought.

We just wanted to show you, as a bonus, what the Carina actually looks like in optical light. It reveals a whole lot more stars, since there are many which don’t emit X-rays.

The majesty of the Carina Nebula seen in optical range (Courtesy: NASA, CXC)

(Enlarge here! You’ve got to!)

Violent Scene 2:

Location: Centaurus A, a local galaxy in the Centaurus constellation; about 12 million light years away from Earth

Protagonist: The TANAMI project, various radio telescopes

Observation: Radio images reveal giant plumes of radio waves in jets driven by the galactic supermassive black hole

Verdict: Scary and beautiful

The Centaurus A galaxy is an elliptic galaxy (our Milky Way is a spiral galaxy), having a central supermassive black hole. NASA’s radio telescopes, under the TANAMI project, have now glimpsed the very heart of the galaxy and what they see is awe-inspiring. The central black hole throws out matter in jets, as matter from surrounding stars are yanked in by the black hole.

The Central Black Hole in Centaurus. Notice the jets on either sides. (Courtesy: NASA)

The black hole is estimated to be 55  milliontimes more massive than the Sun. Advanced interferometry techniques enhance the quality of the images. Interestingly, NASA’s Fermi Gamma Ray Space Telescope has detected very high energy in the central parts of Centaurus A. Where these come from is a mystery.

Centaurus as seen in the optical range of the EM spectrum
Centaurus seen in a mixed wavelength scheme, containing X-rays and infrareds (orange). (Courtesy: NASA, CXC)

Enjoy the images. Also, there is more information in a nice little video NASA has prepared. Hereit is!

Remember the golden words. The Universe is not queerer than we suppose; it is queerer than we can suppose.

Einstein Passes Strictest Test: NASA’s Gravity Probe-B Proves General Theory of Relativity Correct

It is the culmination of a five-decade old project. Gravity Probe-B (GP-B) has detected a minuscule, but theoretically expected, tilt in its magnetic needles, essentially proving Einstein correct, yet again.

einstein
"Told ya"

The Physics

Einstein’s general theory of relativity (GTR), the most accurate description of gravity known to science, predicts two critical phenomenon, which differentiates it from Newton’s theory of gravity: geodetic effect and frame dragging. The geodetic effect is just a technical term to describe the well known phenomenon of warping of space-time by massive objects. Light, which appears to follow a straight line path, will bend, following the curvature of space-time. Frame dragging refers to the phenomenon in which space-time seems to be ‘dragged’ along with any rotating gravitational body. It’s as if there is friction between the body and surrounding space-time.

Physicist Francis Everitt, of Stanford University, lead researcher in the GP-B experiment, explains it better:

Picture the Earth immersed in honey, and you can imagine the honey would be dragged around with it. That’s what happens to space-time. Earth actually drags space and time around with it.

francis everitt
Francis Everitt

If Einstein’s theory is really true, then these effects should lead to a tiny, but observable, in the orientation of a suspended gyroscopic magnet.

The Project

The project was proposed by theoretical physicist Leonard Schiff in 1959, when he was the head of the Stanford Physics Department. In 1962, Schiff and team recruited Everitt. In 1963, NASA got interested in the project, a full 7 years before the lunar launch.

The experimental confirmation of such tiny effects was a huge challenge. Einstein, himself was of the opinion that

their magnitude is so small that confirmation of them by lab experiments is not to be thought of.

Thankfully, Einstein was wrong. In 2004 (after 41 years), the Gravity Probe-B was launched by NASA.

The spacecraft had four ping-pong sized gyroscopes. These were made of fused quartz spheres (the most spherical spheres ever made) and uniformly covered by a layer of Niobium and cooled by Liquid Helium. At liquid Helium temperatures, Niobium becomes a superconductor, allowing electrical currents to flow without any resistance. Once an electrical current is setup, it doesn’t decay.

One of the four Gyroscopes on Gravity Probe B
gravity probe b
Gravity Probe B

Rotating currents setup a magnetic field pointing in a particular direction. The magnetic pointer was set to point at IM Pegasi, a single star. The prediction is that, if Einstein is right, minute changes in the direction of the magnetic pointer would occur.

The Result

The pointer shifted by 6000 milli arcseconds in one year that’s the breadth of a human hair seen from 10 km away. However, the extent was just as expected, confirming GTR yet again. The geodetic effect was confirmed to within 0.23% accuracy and the frame-dragging to about 20%.

Beyond just Einstein

Even though the primary objective of this project was to verify GTR in the most accurate way possible, GP-B has also, unwittingly, contributed a lot to the development of various technologies, most notably the technology to build better gyroscopes. It has made key contributions to various developments on the COsmic Background Explorer (or COBE), which was instrumental in demonstrating that the Universe is expanding just as the Big Bang Theory claims.

Consequences

The positive GP-B results will help scientists understand gravity better, especially in extreme cases, like black holes. Many people ask, why test Einstein further? Well, even though he has been thoroughly tested and has passed all tests with flying colors, that’s how science proceeds. The more stringent the test, the more credibility the theory gains when it passes it.

Watch Total Lunar Eclipse December 2010 Online Tonight

A natural phenomenon, Total Lunar Eclipse will be occurring today and will be visible in North America. This is the last Lunar Eclipse of 2010 and you can watch the Lunar Eclipse happening online.

Total Lunar Eclipse

This is the first Lunar Eclipse to occur since 1638 on the winter solstice and will be visible from North America. The total Lunar Eclipse will occur at 1:32 AM EST/10:32 PM PST and will be viewable across North America. The Lunar Eclipse is set to last for three hours and 28 minutes and is will be viewable between 1:33AM EST through 5:01 AM EST.

If you are keen to watch this natural phenomenon where the Earth’s shadow completely hides the moon, you will be able to do it at the official NASA website at http://www.nasa.gov.

NASA will also be hosting a live web chat with NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Center with astronomer Mitzi Adams. You can follow that chat here. To keep up with all the news from NASA on this historic Lunar Eclipse, visit this page. You can also view pictures of the Lunar Eclipse at NASA’s official group here.

Have fun and don’t miss this Lunar Eclipse Smile.

Update: Here is a video of the Lunar Eclipses that happened last night. Click here if you can’t see it.

(Image Credit: NASA and MrEclipse.com)

NASA Leaving The Eucalyptus Cloud For Real Open-Source

NASA is leaving its Eucalyptus based cloud in favor of “real” open-source alternative for its Nebula infrastructure. According to NASA, not only are Eucalyptus clouds unable to achieve the scale they require, they are also not entirely open-source. NASA engineers were unable to contribute codes in Eucalyptus to improve its scalability because of conflict with Eucalyptus System Inc., who maintains a partially closed version of the platform.

So, they are leaving Eucalyptus based clouds and building their own platform which has been licensed with the Apache 2.0 license. NASA is building this new cloud platform, called Nova, with Rackspace as part of Rackspace’s recently announced OpenStack project.

It has been reported that the scale NASA is aiming Nebula to span one million physical machines and 60 million servers. According to NASA chief technology officer Chris Kemp, Eucalyptus cannot even get close to such scale. So they have to develop their won platform, Nova, to power Nebula.

This is what Kemp said:

Nebula is designed to be both massively scalable and incredibly cheap. You cannot certify commercial software in Nebula. We’re not even going to think about that.

[source]

Moonbase Alpha Goes Online on Steam

NASA has teamed up with the US Army game development studio (the makers of America’s Army) to deliver an almost-realistic lunar base simulation. Moonbase Alpha is a pretty neat looking game that has you (and up to five more players) restoring NASA’s lunar base – Moonbase Alphaafter it was damaged in a critical meteorite impact. Using cutting-edge lunar technology and varied tools and robots, you and your friends must save the colony before the oxygen runs out in the base.

moonbase1

The lesser the time you take, the better your score is and in the near future I would expect a lot of competition to pipe up on this game. The game is well integrated with Steam with stats and leaderboards supported. Also, Valve’s Anti-Cheat (VAC) system is also integrated into this game.

Moonbase2

The best part about this game is that it’s free. Yes, it’s rated E for Everyone and is great for family gaming and is also entirely free!

Download it from Steam today!

Astronaut Tweets Amazing Pictures of Earth From Space

A few weeks ago we had told you about how a NASA Astronaut created history by tweeting from Space. However, it looks like we need to write another chapter in the history books. Why? Well because an Astronaut has tweeted some images of planet Earth from Space and shared it with us mere mortals who can only keep gazing into the sky.

Here are the pictures which were tweeted by the Astronaut from Space, thanks to IO9 and Mashable.

Maldives Island from Space

Maldives Island from Space

Mt. Kilmanjaro from Space

Mt. Kilmanjaro from Space

Earth and Moon from Space

Earth and Moon from Space

Golden Gate Bridge From Space

Golden Gate Bridge From Space

International Space Station

International Space Station

Some of these pictures are truly amazing, and to imagine that they were taken 100s of miles away from Earth make them even prettier. Technology has definitely advanced and being able to communicate and send images from space back to Earth is definitely exciting. Not that it was not being done before, but using a social medium to allow other’s to view them is definitely a big step ahead.

Aren’t these pictures truly amazing? What do you think about them? Let me know through your comments.

Update: To view more beautiful images of Earth from the ISS, visit the Twitpic account of Astronaut Soichi.