Image description: A cloud forms as an F/A-18 Hornet aircraft accelerates up to supersonic speed. Aircraft flying this fast push air up to the very limits of its speed, forming what’s called a bow shock in front of them. Similar bow shocks are also found in a variety of forms in space, and new research suggests they may contribute to heating of the material around them. Learn more about plasma waves from NASA.
Photo by Ensign John Gay, U.S. Navy.
Video description: A music video featuring images of Saturn, its rings, and its moons that were captured by the robotic Cassini spacecraft. The images are shown together in the order of their capture, resulting in numerous breath-taking time-lapse sequences.
Filmmaker Chris Abbas assembled the images to make the film, and he added the music track “2 Ghosts” by Nine Inch Nails (used under a Creative Commons Non-Commercial Attribution Share Alike license).
The thin vertical lines at the beginning are Saturn’s rings, seen nearly edge-on. The moons Titan, Phoebe, Mimas, Epimetheus, and Iapetus are also featured. Learn more about Cassini and its discoveries.
The images within the film are courtesy of NASA, which shares images and other data with the public through the Planetary Data System.
When people say something occurs just once in a blue moon, they mean it’s very rare. These days, the speaker is often referring to the modern folklore that, whenever there are two full moons in a calendar month, the second one should be called “a Blue Moon.” Going by this definition, the United States will experience a Blue Moon on the evening of August 31. The first full moon of the month already happened on August 1.
Most months have only one full moon. The 29.5-day cadence of the lunar cycle matches up almost perfectly with the 28 to 31-day length of calendar months. Indeed, the word “month” comes from “moon.”
Occasionally, however, the one-to-one correspondence breaks down when two full moons squeeze into a single month. This happens on average about once every 2.5 years, which…. is actually not all that rare, really.
Will the moon truly appear blue in color tomorrow? Smoke from volcanoes and forest fires can cause a change to blue from the usual pale gray, but it’s unlikely, despite all of the wildfires burning in the hot, dry United States this month. The amount of smoke to create the effect has to be unusually massive. Some kinds of blue moons are rarer than others, it turns out.
Learn more and watch a video about the facts and myths of blue moons from NASA.
Astronaut Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, has died. He was 82-years old.
Remarks from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden:
On behalf of the entire NASA family, I would like to express my deepest condolences to Carol and the rest of Armstrong family on the passing of Neil Armstrong. As long as there are history books, Neil Armstrong will be included in them, remembered for taking humankind’s first small step on a world beyond our own.
Besides being one of America’s greatest explorers, Neil carried himself with a grace and humility that was an example to us all. When President Kennedy challenged the nation to send a human to the moon, Neil Armstrong accepted without reservation.
As we enter this next era of space exploration, we do so standing on the shoulders of Neil Armstrong. We mourn the passing of a friend, fellow astronaut and true American hero.
Learn more about Neil Armstrong’s remarkable life from NASA.
Image description: NASA spacecrafts Voyager 1 and 2 both carry this 12-inch gold-plated phonograph record containing sounds and images of life on Earth — just in case they encounter intelligent life.
The figures on the record explain the origin of the spacecraft and indicate how the record is to be played. The contents of the record, chosen by a committee chaired by the late astronomer Carl Sagan, include music, greetings, biological information, animal sounds, and more. The record even includes brain waves of a young woman in love, committee member Ann Druyan. Druyan and Sagan had fallen in love while working together on the project.
The Voyager probes, launched in 1977 and by far the furthest reaching human-made objects, are now at the edge of the solar system. Voyager 1 is over 18 billion kilometers from the Sun, even further away than Pluto. In fact, the craft is reaching the end of the Sun’s influence and is predicted to enter interstellar space around 2015. Both crafts have the batteries to transmit discoveries until about 2020.
Find out what the inscriptions on the Golden Record mean, the messages it contains, and more about the Voyager mission.