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Sun may delay plans for sending humans to Mars

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View larger. | This illustration depicts the heliosphere, or sphere of the sun’s magnetic influence. Outside this sphere, there’s a large increase in galactic cosmic rays. Illustration via AGU

The human dream of travel to Mars and beyond seems closer than it’s ever been. But a new study announced by the American Geophysical Union on October 21 suggests that these plans might need to be delayed, or at least significantly altered. The reason? Increasing levels of cosmic radiation spurred by decreasing activity on our sun.

Dates of lunar and solar eclipses in 2014 and 2015

Solar eclipse November 3, 2013 by Ken Christison

Solar eclipse November 3, 2013 by Ken Christison

The next eclipse is a partial eclipse of the sun on October 23. It’ll be visible in North America. Miss it, or want more? Follow the links inside to learn the dates for upcoming solar and lunar eclipses for the rest of 2014 and 2015. Enjoy.

October 23, 2014 partial solar eclipse

October 23, 2014 partial solar eclipse by Danny Crocker-Jensen

October 23, 2014 partial solar eclipse by Danny Crocker-Jensen in Wardsville, Missouri

UPDATE OCTOBER 23 AT 7 P.M. CDT (MIDNIGHT UTC): The eclipse has now ended. Thanks for a great one, everybody!

Is it possible to have three eclipses in one month?

solar-eclipse-annular

Is it possible to have three eclipses in one month? Yes, it’s possible. You can have two solar eclipses and one lunar eclipse in one month. Or you can have two lunar eclipses and one solar eclipse in one month. However, it’s quite rare to have three eclipses in one calendar month. Follow the links inside to learn more about past and future months in which there are three eclipses.

Solar eclipse marked beginning of Iroquois Confederacy

Iroquois, one of the historical figures of the Maisonneuve Monument, by Louis-Philippe Hébert, 1895, Place d’Armes, Montreal. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

My wife Alice regularly brings home the Indian Time news journal, a publication by the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation Territory in northern New York. It was with great interest that I came across an article titled “Dating the Iroquois Confederacy” by Bruce E. Johansen. What really attracted my attention was that a total, or near total, solar eclipse marked the beginning of the Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Confederacy, the oldest living democracy in North America and possibly on Earth.

View from space: Southwestern U.S. at night

Image credit: NASA

Image credit: NASA

Two cool nighttime photos by astronauts aboard the ISS. Check out the bright city lights.

Partial solar eclipse for North America on October 23

Many saw dancing illuminated crescents like these, created when the leaves of trees and bushes acted as pinhole cameras and projected the eclipsed sun's image onto cars and buildings.  This photo from Chris Walker in Dayton, Nevada.

If the eclipse is deep enough in your area, it’s possible you’ll see dancing illuminated crescents, created when the leaves of trees and bushes acted as pinhole cameras and projected the eclipsed sun’s image onto cars and buildings. This photo from Chris Walker in Dayton, Nevada, who captured a May 2012 partial solar eclipse.

North America has a ringside seat to the partial eclipse of the sun on October 23, and this eclipse is almost exclusively visible on land from North America. Eye safety is of the utmost importance in observing this solar eclipse, or else you risk eye injury or blindness. Click on the links in this post to find out more.

Orionid meteors 2014

Joe Randall created this composite shot of the Orionid meteor shower from images taken on October 21, 2014.  Thanks, Joe!

Joe Randall created this composite shot of the Orionid meteor shower from images taken on October 21, 2014. Thanks, Joe!

The peak of the annual Orionid meteor shower has now passed, but you might see some meteors still from this shower if you’re looking in a dark country sky. That’s because Earth is still moving through the orbit of Comet Halley, which last returned near Earth in 1986 and which is due to return again in 2061. This comet spawned this annual meteor shower by leaving bits of dusty debris behind in its orbit. Each year when we intersect the orbit of Comet Halley, we see the Orionid meteor shower!

Small Magellanic Cloud is a nearby dwarf galaxy

View larger. |  A Perseid meteor streaks between the two Magellanic Clouds during the peak of the 2013 Perseid meteor shower.  Photo by Colin Legg.

A Perseid meteor streaks between the two Magellanic Clouds. Photo by Colin Legg.

You’ll see the Small Magellanic Cloud from Earth’s Southern Hemisphere. It’s even farther to the south than its larger cousin, the the Large Magellanic Cloud . These two hazy patches in the southern sky are really separate galaxies from our Milky Way. They are satellite galaxies to the Milky Way, orbiting around it. Follow the links below to learn more about the Small Magellanic Cloud.

Lifeform of the week: Corpse flower

Image Credit: Graham Racher

Image Credit: Graham Racher

To kick off the Halloween season of candy consumption, costume concocting and ghost story telling, I present to you a most fiendish lifeform, one that lurks in the dark and spooky rainforests of southeast Asia leeching life from innocent tree roots: a strange entity known as the corpse flower.