World Watches Last Blue Moon of the Decade

"The Moon will not appear blue. Got it? Good,” NASA wrote on Twitter.

For the last time in this decade, a "Blue Flower Moon" will appear Saturday night at approximately 10:21pm (BST), science experts said.

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On Twitter, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) wrote, “Since the 1940s, ‘Blue Moon’ has referred to the second full Moon in a month - but tonight’s Blue Moon is from the older definition, which is the third full Moon in a season that has an atypical four full Moons. And please note, the Moon will not appear blue. Got it? Good.”

Despite the colloquial phrase, “Once in a blue moon,” they are relatively common and appear once every two to three years. Still, this blue moon or "May Flower Moon" sighting is exceptional as it will be its last appearance for the decade until August 22, 2021.

Rome’s astrophysicist and the director of the Virtual Telescope Project, Gianluca Masi, told CNN, “[The moon] will put [on] its usual great show and we will show the moon rising above the legendary skyline of Rome … Every two to three years we have 13 full Moons within a year. This way, we can have four full Moons during a given season or two full Moons in a given month."

Since the 1940s, ‘Blue Moon’ has referred to the second full Moon in a month - but tonight’s Blue Moon is from the older definition, which is the third full Moon in a season that has an atypical four full Moons. And please note, the Moon will not appear blue. Got it? Good.

 

Major magnetic storm may displace satellites from orbit & hamper GPS navigation – scientists

The largest magnetic storm in two years, which hit Earth on Tuesday, is no joke, Russian scientists warned, saying that increased solar activity threatens electronics and people’s health.

The phenomenon may divert spacecraft from their orbit and create problems for satellite communications and GPS navigation, the Laboratory of X-Ray Astronomy at the Lebedev Institute of the Russian Academy of Science said.

Radio interference and Aurora Borealis in unusual places will be the other side effect of the magnetic storm. The Northern Lights may be seen in the sky, starting from the latitudes of 60 degrees – where Russia’s Saint Petersburg is located – and above.

“During such events, the voltage in electrical systems may require correction. False triggering of safety systems is also possible,” the scientists warned.

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But it’s not only hardware, but people as well, who will be affected. Those, who are aware that they are weather-sensitive, may feel discomfort and should take precautions.

The storm began early on Tuesday and will last during the day, with normalization only expected on Wednesday night, the researcher said.

The current event “is a large one compared to what was happening in recent years.” It was ranked at level three, with the strongest – level five – storm occurring once every 10 or 20 years.

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"Big Step For Chinese People" As Rover Drives On Far Side Of The Moon

Beijing: A Chinese lunar rover has driven on the far side of the moon, the national space agency announced on Friday, hailing the development as a "big step for the Chinese people".

The Yutu-2 (Jade Rabbit-2) rover drove onto the moon's surface from the lander at 10:22pm Thursday, about 12 hours after the groundbreaking touchdown of the Chang'e-4 probe, the agency said.

The China National Space Administration released a photo taken by the lander showing tracks left by the rover as it departed the spacecraft, though it did not specify how far the rover travelled.

Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022, and of eventually sending humans to the moon.

Chang'e-4 lunar probe mission -- named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology -- was the second Chinese probe to land on the moon following the Yutu rover mission in 2013.

The separation of the rover -- which is named after the moon goddess' pet white rabbit -- went smoothly, said Wu Weiren, chief designer of the lunar project.

"Although this was one small step for the rover, I think it is one big step for the Chinese people," he said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV, echoing the famous quote by US astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the Moon in 1969. 

No lander or rover has ever previously touched the surface of the far side of the moon, and it is no easy technological feat. Challenges include communicating with the robotic lander as there is no direct "line of sight" for signals.

The photo of the rover was sent via the Queqiao (Magpie Bridge) satellite, which was blasted into the moon's orbit in May to relay data and commands between the lander and Earth.

Chang'e-4 is carrying six experiments from China and four from abroad, including low-frequency radio astronomical studies -- aiming to take advantage of the lack of interference on the moons' far side.

The rover will also conduct mineral and radiation tests, the China National Space Administration has said.

Beijing is planning to send another lunar lander, Chang'e-5, later this year to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.

It is among a slew of ambitious Chinese targets, which include a reusable launcher by 2021, a super-powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those NASA and private rocket firm SpaceX can handle, a moon base, a permanently crewed space station, and a Mars rover.

China Lands Probe On "Dark Side" Of Moon In Global First: State Media

Beijing, China: A Chinese lunar rover landed on the far side of the moon on Thursday, in a global first that boosts Beijing's ambitions to become a space superpower.

The Chang'e-4 probe touched down and sent a photo of the so-called "dark side" of the moon to the Queqiao satellite, which will relay communications to controllers on Earth, state broadcaster CCTV said.

Beijing is pouring billions into its military-run space programme, with hopes of having a crewed space station by 2022, and of eventually sending humans to the moon.

The Chang'e-4 lunar probe mission -- named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology -- launched in December from the southwestern Xichang launch centre.

It is the second Chinese probe to land on the moon, following the Yutu (Jade Rabbit) rover mission in 2013.

Unlike the near side of the moon that offers many flat areas to touch down on, the far side is mountainous and rugged.

The moon is "tidally locked" to Earth in its rotation so the same side is always facing Earth.

Chang'e-4 is carrying six experiments from China and four from abroad, including low-frequency radio astronomical studies -- aiming to take advantage of the lack of interference on the far side.

The rover will also conduct mineral and radiation tests, the China National Space Administration has said, according to state news agency Xinhua.

Extreme challenges 

It was not until 1959 that the Soviet Union captured the first images of the moon's mysterious and heavily cratered "dark side".

No lander or rover has ever previously touched the surface there, and it is no easy technological feat -- China has been preparing for this moment for years.

A major challenge for such a mission was communicating with the robotic lander: as there is no direct "line of sight" for signals to the far side of the moon.

As a solution, China in May blasted the Queqiao ("Magpie Bridge") satellite into the moon's orbit, positioning it so that it can relay data and commands between the lander and Earth.

In another extreme hurdle, during the lunar night -- which lasts 14 Earth days -- temperatures drop to as low as minus 173 degrees Celsius (minus 279 Fahrenheit).

During the lunar day, also lasting 14 Earth days, temperatures soar as high as 127 C (261 F).

The rover's instruments have to withstand those fluctuations and it has to generate enough energy to sustain it during the long night.

Adding to the difficulties, Chang'e-4 was sent to the Aitken Basin in the lunar south pole region -- known for its craggy and complex terrain -- state media has said.

Yutu also conquered those challenges and, after initial setbacks, ultimately surveyed the moon's surface for 31 months. Its success provided a major boost to China's space programme.

Beijing is planning to send another lunar lander, Chang'e-5, next year to collect samples and bring them back to Earth.

It is among a slew of ambitious Chinese targets, which include a reusable launcher by 2021, a super-powerful rocket capable of delivering payloads heavier than those NASA and private rocket firm SpaceX can handle, a moon base, a permanently crewed space station, and a Mars rover.

Water on Mars PICTURED: ESA shares incredible IMAGES of Martian ice crater

The European Space Agency has shared an incredible composite image showing a 50-mile wide crater on Mars that is filled with water ice all year long.

Budding future colonists hoping for a white Christmas on Mars will be somewhat disappointed as the ESA has confirmed that sitting in the Korolev crater is, in fact, a thick block of water ice, not snow. The enormous, 82-kilometer-wide, 2-kilometer-deep “ice trap” could still be good for ice skating though.

A beautiful wonderland... on ! This ice-filled crater was imaged by our Mars Express spacecraft. Korolev crater is 82 kilometres across and found in the northern lowlands of Mars. More images:

Even better, the 2,200 cubic kilometers of water ice – same as the volume of Canada’s Great Bear Lake – could be important for the survival of future colonists, and may even enable them to return back home, as water could be split into hydrogen and oxygen for rocket fuel.

For those of you asking - yes it is water ice. Mars Express first detected water on in 2004, see our release at the time . More recently, the spacecraft detected liquid water under the planet’s south pole, see:

The crater is found in the northern lowlands of Mars near the planet's north pole which is known as Olympia Undae for its wavy, dune-filled terrain. The crater's ice is protected by the topography and by a lair of cold air that shields it from the elements.

 

© ESA/DLR/FU Berlin

 

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The icy crater is named after chief rocket engineer and spacecraft designer Sergey Korolev, known as the father of Soviet space technology and the head of iconic space exploration missions including the Sputnik, Vostok, and Voskhod programs. A lesser known fact is that Korolev dreamt about a flight to Mars for decades and was actually working on a rocket that would have brought a man to the Red Planet – and who knows where this unfinished project might have ended if it wasn’t for the Soviet visionary’s untimely death in 1966.

READ MORE: Sergey Korolev: Space exploration's No. 1 constructor & total enigma

 

Breaking Dawn: NASA’s asteroid belt mission runs out of fuel

After 11 years, 4.3 billion miles (6.9 billion kilometers) and two planetary orbits, NASA’s Dawn mission has been declared over after the craft failed to communicate with Earth for two days in a row.

The 11-year mission to investigate “time capsules from the solar system’s earliest chapter” in the asteroid belt concluded after Dawn finally ran out of hydrazine fuel, which meant it could no longer turn to face Earth, to communicate, or the sun, to recharge.

Dusk for Dawn: NASA Mission to the Asteroid Belt

The probe, currently in orbit around the dwarf planet Ceres, missed communications with NASA’s Deep Space Network on Wednesday and Thursday; and mission managers were forced to confirm the end of the mission.

Oxygen discovery ‘completely changes’ potential for life on Mars - study

Eyed as prime real estate, Mars currently occupies the mind of space innovation suitors. Billions is being spent in the race to get humans to the planet but can the barren landscape be tamed? A new oxygen study provides hope.

SpaceX, Blue Origin and Boeing all have aspirations to put humans on the ground of the Red Planet. The US space agency NASA has a longstanding interest while Russia and even the United Arab Emirates each outlined their capabilities to get to, what data suggests is, a sparse, unsustainable landscape.

However, a new study into the cold, desert world could provide new impetus for explorers given that it suggests deposits of briny water may contain enough oxygen to support microbial life.

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Published in the Nature journal, the study was led by researchers at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena. Using atmospheric models to test how oxygen might react in water underneath the Red Planet’s surface, the team found evidence to suggest that the life sustaining chemical element could be present to a degree higher than expected.

“Even at the limits of the uncertainties, our findings suggest that there can be near-surface environments on Mars with sufficient O2 available for aerobic microbes to breathe,” the study states.

The study found that “high concentrations” would likely be in polar regions due to lower temperatures observed in the alien environment. “Our findings may help to explain the formation of highly oxidized phases in Martian rocks observed with Mars rovers, and imply that opportunities for aerobic life may exist on modern Mars,” the study adds.

Large bodies of water have proved elusive on Mars but over the years geological evidence obtained by NASA rovers suggest the planet was once water soaked. In 2015, NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter beamed back data showing hydrated minerals giving rise to the belief that liquid water flows intermittently on the planet.

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Speaking about the development, the study's lead author Vlada Stamenković said the discovery could change everything.

“That's the thing of habitability; we never thought that environment could have that much oxygen. It completely changes our understanding of the potential for life on current-day Mars,” he told the National Geographic.

China Plans To Launch 'Artificial Moon' By 2020. Will Be 8 Times Brighter

Beijing: China is planning to launch its own 'artificial moon' by 2020 to replace streetlamps and lower electricity costs in urban areas, state media reported Friday.

Chengdu, a city in southwestern Sichuan province, is developing "illumination satellites" which will shine in tandem with the real moon, but are eight times brighter, according to China Daily.

The first man-made moon will launch from Xichang Satellite Launch Center in Sichuan, with three more to follow in 2022 if the first test goes well, said Wu Chunfeng, head of Tian Fu New Area Science Society, the organization responsible for the project.

Though the first launch will be experimental, the 2022 satellites "will be the real deal with great civic and commercial potential," he said in an interview with China Daily.

By reflecting light from the sun, the satellites could replace streetlamps in urban areas, saving an estimated 1.2 billion yuan ($170 million) a year in electricity costs for Chengdu, if the man-made moons illuminate an area of 50 square kilometers.

The extraterrestrial source of light could also help rescue efforts in disaster zones during blackouts, he added.

AFP was not able to contact Wu nor the Tian Fu New Area Science Society to confirm the reports.

As China's space programme races to catch up with that of the United States and Russia, a number of ambitious projects are in the pipeline, including the Chang'e-4 lunar probe -- named after the moon goddess in Chinese mythology -- which aims to launch later this year. If it succeeds, it will be the first rover to explore the "dark side" of the moon.

China is not the first country to try beaming sunlight back to Earth. In the 1990s, Russian scientists reportedly used giant mirrors to reflect light from space in an experimental project called Znamya or Banner.

Chengdu's artificial moon project was announced by Wu at an innovation and entrepreneurship conference in Chengdu on October 10.

In addition to Tian Fu New Area Science Society, other universities and institutes, including the Harbin Institute of Technology and China Aerospace Science and Industry Corp, are involved in developing Chengdu's illumination satellites.

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