Enjoying EarthSky? Subscribe.

115,505 subscribers and counting ...

Blogs

Longest lunar month of 2014 starts on August 25

Simulated view of the cycle of the moon's phases from new moon to new moon. This cycle is known as the lunar month. From the years 1760 to 2200, the longest lunar month was 29 days 19 hours and 58 minutes and the shortest 29 days 6 hours and 34 minutes.

Simulated view of the moon’s phases. The period of time from new moon to new moon is known as the lunar month, lunation or synodic month. From the years 1760 to 2200, the longest lunar month spans 29 days 19 hours and 58 minutes (Dec. 9, 1787 to Jan. 8, 1778) while the shortest lasts for 29 days 6 hours and 34 minutes (June 12 to July 12, 1885).

The longest lunar month of the year begins with the new moon of August 25, 2014, and ends with the new moon of September 24, 2014. This lunar month – the period of time between successive new moons – lasts for 29 days 16 hours and 1 minute. That’s 3 hours and 17 minutes longer than the mean lunar month of 29 days 12 hours and 44 minutes.

This date in science: First view of Earth from the moon

Photograph courtesy NASA/Lunar Orbiter 1 This photo reveals the first view of Earth from the moon, taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 on August 23, 1966. Shot from a distance of about 236,000 miles (380,000 kilometers), this image shows half of Earth, from Istanbul to Cape Town and areas east, shrouded in night.

First view of Earth from the moon, courtesy NASA/Lunar Orbiter 1.

August 23, 1966. This photo reveals the first view of Earth from the moon, taken by Lunar Orbiter 1 on August 23, 1966. It’s shot from a distance of about 236,000 miles (380,000 kilometers) and shows half of Earth, from Istanbul to Cape Town and areas east, shrouded in night. NASA restored this photo in 2008, using photographic techniques not available in the 1960s. See the restored photo inside.

A trip down Canada’s Iceberg Alley

Photo credit: Ben Orlove

Photo credit: Bonnie J. McCay

It’s been a banner year for iceberg sighting in Iceberg Alley, the area off northeastern Newfoundland where the Titanic struck an iceberg and went down in April, 1912.

This date in science: Definitive discovery of Neptune’s rings

Neptune's rings via Voyager 2.

Neptune has a faint, continuous ring system. This Voyager 2 image is shown at increased brightness, to bring out fainter features.

August 22, 1989. When NASA’s Voyager 2 spacecraft skimmed past the planet Neptune on this date, it discovered a faint but continuous ring system encircling the planet. Scientists had suspected there were rings around Neptune some years earlier. After all, Uranus had rings, discovered in 1977. And, watching from Earth in 1984, astronomers were able to see extra blinks before and after Neptune passed in front of a distant star. Still, Voyager 2 made the definitive discovery of Neptune’s rings a few days before it swept closest to the planet.

Unusual precipitation patterns in the U.S.

Portland, ME on Aug. 13, 2014, via Kevin Burns

Portland, Maine on August 13, 2014 via Kevin Burns

Depending on where you live, you could call 2014 the year of the drought, or the year of the deluge. In early August 2014, we have seen several significant rainfall events occur across the United States. During the week of August 10, for example, a slow moving area of low pressure across the Great Lakes and New England produced widespread showers and storms. Yesterday (August 19), parts of Phoenix (yes, the desert) recorded over four inches of rain in a short time period, thanks to an upper level low pushing into the western United States. Are extreme rainfall events related to climate change, and/or has urban sprawl contributed to flash flooding events due to more concrete and poor sewer systems? The answers to both questions are probably yes. Follow the links inside to learn more.

Lifeform of the week: Brain mushroom

Image Credit: Lebrac

Image Credit: Lebrac

The brain mushroom is that rare species with the distinction of being both edible and poisonous.

Curiosity rover is having wheel problems

View larger. | Curiosity rover's left front wheel at Sol 713 - that is, 713 Martian days since the rover touched down on Mars in 2012.

Curiosity rover’s left front wheel at sol 713 – that is, 713 Martian days since the rover touched down on Mars in 2012.

Emily Lakdawala at the Planetary Society posted an in-depth report today (August 19, 2014) about the ongoing wheel problems of NASA’s Mars Curiosity rover, which has been exploring the surface of the Red Planet since its dramatic touchdown just two years ago this month. Lakdawala writes of:

… punctures, fissures, and ghastly tears. The holes in Curiosity’s wheels have become a major concern to the mission, affecting every day of mission operations and the choice of path to Mount Sharp. Yet mission managers say that, so far, the condition of the wheels has no effect on the rover’s ability to traverse Martian terrain.

The risk of an exploding glacier is heating up in Iceland

The first fissure that opened on Fimmvörðuháls, as seen from Austurgígar in 2010. Image credit: David Karnå/Wikimedia Commons

The first fissure that opened on Fimmvörðuháls, as seen from Austurgígar in 2010. Image credit: David Karnå/Wikimedia Commons

Will lava soon hit glacier ice, unleashing an explosion that would spew ash and steam high in the atmosphere? The Icelandic Meteorology Office (IMO) is monitoring Bárðarbunga, a volcano more than 2,000 meters in elevation, located beneath Vatnajökull, the country’s largest glacier. Since midnight on the morning of August 18, the IMO has detected about 950 eart­hqua­kes at Bárðarbunga. Aviation alert code has been raised to orange.

2014 Gulf of Mexico dead zone has grown to 5,052 square miles

Size of the 2014 dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Image via LUMCON and Louisiana State University.

Size of the 2014 dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico. Image via LUMCON and Louisiana State University.

Scientists head out to the Gulf of Mexico every summer to measure the size of the dead zone—an area with oxygen levels that are too low to support most marine life.

Exploring the Trifid Nebula

Componets of the Trifid, by Martin MacPhee

Componets of the Trifid, by Martin MacPhee

The Trifid Nebula is a stellar nursery, a cluster of recently born stars, a bright red hydrogen emission nebula, a lovely blue reflection nebula, and an interesting dark nebula divided into 3 …