From The Editors Science

Threat From Asteroid Strikes is Not Only about Movies; It’s for Real, Says NASA Chief

In his keynote address at the 2019 IAA Planetary Defense Conference in College Park, Maryland, USA, on Monday (April 29), NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine warned that the threat to Earth from asteroid strikes was as real as it gets.

He urged the international space community to create awareness among people that devastation from asteroid strikes was not only about what Hollywood shows us but about defending Earth – the only habitat we know of.

“We have to make sure that people understand that this is not about Hollywood, it’s not about movies,” Bridenstine was quoted by as having said at the conference.

“This is about ultimately protecting the only planet we know right now to host life, and that is the planet Earth,” said the NASA head.

As part of the  “National Near-Earth Object Preparedness Strategy and Action Plan” announced in June last year, this gathering of NASA, FEMA, ESA (European Space Agency) and the International Asteroid Warning Network representatives, among others, will conclude on May 3.

The five-day event will see the participants conduct an “asteroid impact exercise,” playing out mock impact scenarios to enhance preparedness for the real thing if, or should we say when, it does happen.

Asteroid expert Andrew Rivkin – a planetary astronomer at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, told NBC News MACH in an email that “exercises like this have been run at several conferences over the years, and government agencies have also ​had them.”

“It’s definitely worth doing, if only so people are aware of the issues and how complex some of them are,” he wrote.

Comparing the exercise to a fire drill, Rivkin said that the aftermath of a major asteroid hit would be catastrophic if what happened to the dinosaurs is anything to go by.

He was, obviously, referring to the six-mile-wide asteroid that hit our planet some 65 million years ago, wiping out the dinosaurs from the face of the Earth – or, so it is believed.

But. we need not end up like the dinosaurs, or the other species that went with them, because we have the necessary resources at our disposal; we just have to make the most of them.

“We know for a fact that the dinosaurs did not have a space program. But we do, and we need to use it,” Bridenstine said.

But, why go so far back in time to emphasize the threat we’re exposed to, when the recent Chelyabinsk Event is scary enough to justify all the good things, including the ongoing conference, being done to minimize the probabilities of a repeat.

The 66-foot-wide supersonic meteor smashed into the atmosphere above the city of Chelyabinsk in the Ural Mountains, sending shockwaves so powerful that at least 1,500 people were injured and more than 7,000 buildings in six cities were damaged.

“I wish I could tell you that these events are exceptionally unique, but they are not,” Bridenstine said about the Chelyabinsk Event.

“These events are not rare — they happen. It’s up to us to make sure that we are characterizing, detecting, tracking all of the near-Earth objects that could be a threat to the world,” he added.

The aforementioned Federal ‘preparedness strategy and action plan’ notwithstanding, there’s a lot that still needs to be done in terms of increased monitoring systems across the globe, for which international cooperation is the need of the hour, says Bridenstine.

“We’re only about a third of the way there,” he said, adding: “We want more international partners that can join us in this effort.

“We want more systems on the face of the Earth that can detect and track these objects, and we want to be able to feed all of that data into one single operating system so that ultimately, we have the best, most accurate data that we can possibly get.”

NASA knows that merely chasing these potential threats is not going to save Earth from another mass extinction and, probably, thousands of years of ice-age, should one of them slam into us.

The good news is that the agency has been working on a planetary-defense mission called DART, an acronym for Double Asteroid Redirection Test, to save us from exactly such an eventuality.

DART is essentially an impactor spacecraft that NASA plans to crash into an asteroid satellite at 13,500 miles per hour in an effort to change its course.

The idea is to find out how much the car-sized impactor can change the trajectory of the target space rock and whether it’s enough to redirect an Earth-bound asteroid safely away from us.

The space rock that NASA has in its crosshairs for the planned Oct 2022 hit is, in fact, a satellite moonlet nicknamed Didymoon, about seven million miles away from Earth.

Measuring 150 meters across, the moonlet orbits an 800-meter-wide asteroid called Didymos, from where it derives its nickname.

While Didymoon is not on a collision course with Earth and poses no threat to us whatsoever, a detailed study of the space object, and then slamming into it to bump it off its bearings, should provide the DART team with useful data that can come in handy in averting a real asteroid threat, if ever it came to that.

Not only will ground telescopes track the new course of the twin objects post-impact, but an Italian Space Agency CubeSat called ‘Light Italian CubeSat for Imaging of Asteroids’ will accompany the mission to keep an eye on proceedings.

Additionally, as part of an international Asteroid Impact Deflection Assessment (AIDA) mission, the European Space Agency (ESA) will launch two CubeSats, APEX (Asteroid Prospection Explorer) and Juventas, onboard the agency’s Hera spacecraft, in time to reach the binary asteroid system sometime in 2026 to record the effects of the DART collision, according to NASA.

To test potential techniques in “deflecting” an asteroid – one of the preferred methods for mitigating a threat – DART will travel to the Didymos binary asteroid system via its a xenon-based electric propulsion system, steering with an onboard camera and sophisticated autonomous navigation software,” says NASA.

DART is expected to send back a close-up shot of the Didymoon surface – its last transmission to Earth – just before it is pulverized into space dust.

For any Solar System body to qualify as a near-Earth object, its closest approach to the Sun has to be less than 1.3 astronomical units (AU), the equivalent of nearly 121 million miles.

Among the 20,000 near-Earth asteroids and comets orbiting the Sun is a 500-meter-wide asteroid called Bennu, which has a 1-in-2,700 chance of smashing into Earth sometime between 2175 and 2196, say scientists.

The potentially hazardous object (PHO), “listed on the Sentry Risk Table with the second-highest cumulative rating on the Palermo Technical Impact Hazard Scale,” is currently 54 million miles from Earth.

For all we know, Bennu might just turn out be the asteroid that NASA has to knock off-course to save the planet in the future; that’s when the knowledge gained from the DART mission will come in handy – unless the 500-meter rock, or some other NEO, hits us sooner.

Honestly, that’s unlikely, but time will tell.

From The Editors Health

Researchers Develop ‘Brain Decoder’ That Can Translate Unspoken Thoughts into Speech

A team of researchers led by Dr. Edward Chang at the University of California in San Francisco has developed a ‘brain decoder’ – a kind of mind-reading device that effectively translates your neural activity into recognizable speech, 75% of the time.

The study entitled ‘Speech synthesis from neural decoding of spoken sentences,’ published Wednesday (April 24) in the journal Nature, involved five epileptic volunteers, including four women and one man awaiting neurosurgery for their condition.

The patients had temporary electrodes implanted on their brain surface as a pre-surgery procedure to help identify and map the areas of the brain responsible for their affliction.

For the study, additional sensors were attached to the lips, tongue, and teeth to monitor their movements as the volunteers were made to read out hundreds of sentences, mostly passages from children’s classics like Sleeping Beauty, Alice in Wonderland, and The Frog Prince.

Electrical activity in the brains related to their vocal tract movement during the reading exercise was decoded and fed to a specially programmed computer system to produce intelligible sentences.

In humans, the vocal tract comprises the oral cavity, which includes the lips, inner cheeks, tongue, upper and lower gums, floor and roof of the mouth, and the small area behind the wisdom teeth, in addition to the nasal cavity, larynx, and the pharynx – all of which work in near-perfect harmony to produce intelligible sentences when we talk.

Dr. Chang’s team was able to equate the neural signals responsible for the movement of each of the vocal tract components with the participants’ speech.

The decoded neural activity was then converted into synthesized language with the help of a neural network linked to a voice synthesizer.

“Recurrent neural networks first decoded directly recorded cortical activity into representations of articulatory movement, and then transformed these representations into speech acoustics,” wrote the authors of the study.

To put it as simply as possible, it was, basically, a two-step process that involved translating neural activity into vocal movements and then transforming those movements into speech.

Although the reproduced speech sounds pretty much, well, synthetic, it is remarkably intelligible.

Also, considering that this is just the beginning, we can expect to see enhanced speech quality as the technology is further researched and fine-tuned in times to come.

This brief video clip will let you know exactly what we’re talking about here.

What’s amazing is that not only did the breakthrough decoder transform sentences that were read aloud, but it was also able to translate silently mimed sentences into audible speech.

In order to determine the recognizability of the decoded speech, hundreds of volunteers were asked to listen to 101 synthesized sentences and transcribe what they heard.

The results – as varied as they turned out to be – were nevertheless encouraging enough to warrant further research of the technology, as it has the potential to improve the quality of life of hundreds of thousands of people suffering from speech impairment due to conditions such as paralysis, ALS (amyotrophic lateral sclerosis ), throat cancer and Parkinson’s disease.

“Of the 101 synthesized trials, at least one listener was able to provide a perfect transcription for 82 sentences with a 25-word pool and 60 sentences with a 50-word pool,” wrote the authors, adding that the findings “may be an important next step in realizing speech restoration for patients with paralysis.”

Conventional speech-synthesizing technology in use today involves interpreting how speech sounds are represented in the brains – a tedious, time-consuming process that, at best, translates about eight words per minute; far slower than the 100-150 words per minute that natural speech is capable of.

The new technology has the potential to overcome these limitations and make near-normal conversation a reality, hopefully, in the not too distant future.

Dr. Chang’s team followed a different route, targeting those areas of the brain that send signals to the various vocal tract components, discussed earlier, in order for them to move in perfect unison, thereby enabling speech.

“For the first time … we can generate entire spoken sentences based on an individual’s brain activity,” said Chang.

“This is an exhilarating proof of principle that, with technology that is already within reach, we should be able to build a device that is clinically viable in patients with speech loss,” added the lead author of the paper.

Kate Watkins, a cognitive neuroscience professor at the University of Oxford, was quoted by The Guardian as saying that the research was a “huge advance” that could prove to be “really important for providing people who have no means of producing language with a device that could deliver that for them.”

“The brain is the most efficient machine that has evolved over millennia, and speech is one of the hallmarks of behavior of humans that sets us apart from even all the non-human primates,” Gopala Anumanchipalli, one of the co-authors of the study. was quoted by National Geographic as saying.

“And we take it for granted—we don’t even realize how complex this motor behavior is,” Anumanchipalli said.

In an accompanying News and Views article in the journal Nature, Yahia H. Ali and Chethan Pandarinath from Emory University, Atlanta, US, have expressed hope that continued research will go a long way in helping people with speech issues “regain the ability to freely speak their minds and reconnect with the world around them.”

While there’s still a lot of work left to be done before the technology can be perfected, it’s good to know that we’re headed in the right direction.

From The Editors Science

Space X Postpones Launch of Rideshare Mission – Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express

It looked like all systems go at SpaceX’s West Coast launch pad at the Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, after the spaceflight company announced Saturday morning that its Falcon 9 had rolled out to the launch site for its intended flight on Sunday.

However, late night the same day, the company tweeted that it was temporarily calling off the scheduled launch to run additional inspections of the rocket’s second stage, saying that it was “working toward a backup launch opportunity” on Monday (Dec 3).

This was the third postponement of the launch in a matter of days.
Initially scheduled for Nov 19, the launch attempt was called off “to conduct additional pre-flight inspections.”

The launch was then rescheduled for Nov 28 but once gain Space X announced a “no-go due to extreme high-altitude winds that violate Range requirements.”

If all goes well with the backup launch on Sunday, the Falcon 9 rocket should blast off at 10:32 am, carrying a payload of not one, not two, but 64 satellites on what the company is calling a “rideshare mission” organized by Spaceflight, a Seattle-based launch broker for SmallSats.

Ranging from Rubik’s Cube-sized satellites to some that are as big as a refrigerator, the assorted spacecraft will be launched into a “Sun-Synchronous Low Earth Orbit” (LEO) on behalf of 34 U.S. and international organizations.

According to Spaceflight Industries, the mixed bag of satellites includes:

“15 microsats and 49 cubesats from both commercial and government entities, of which more than 25 are from international organizations from 17 countries, including United States, Australia, Italy, Netherlands, Finland, South Korea, Spain, Switzerland, UK, Germany, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Thailand, Poland, Canada, Brazil, and India.”

The rideshare mission, named SSO-A: SmallSat Express, not only represents the Spaceflight’s “first purchase of an entire Falcon 9 to accommodate the growing number of customers seeking affordable rideshare options to launch their spacecraft into orbit, it’s also a historic launch,” says the Spaceflight SSO-A website.

Some notable names among the 64 include:

  • University of North Carolina Wilmington
  • NovaWurks
  • Helios Wire / Sirion Global
  • King Mongkut’s University of Technology North Bangkok (KMUTNB)
  • Astrocast
  • Honeywell Aerospace
  • HawkEye 360
  • Nevada Museum of Art
  • Fleet Space Technologies
  • Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology
  • Audacy
  • Capella Space Corporation
  • University of Colorado Boulder Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space

Although Space X has flown used boosters in the past, it has never launched a previously-flown booster more than once.

The Spaceflight SSO-A: SmallSat Express mission will be the Hawthorne-based company’s first attempt to fly a used-booster twice, which means it will be the booster’s third flight if you include its debut flight when it was brand new.

Speaking at the International Astronautical Congress in Bremen, Germany, in October, Hans Koenigsmann, SpaceX’s vice president of build and flight reliability, said that the company was working on flying a booster multiple times in the future.

“So far, we’ve only flown a booster twice,” Koenigsmann said.

“Beginning soon, we will start flying a booster three times, and then take it to four times, five times, and so on and so forth,” he said.

“We have obviously to be very careful in evaluating boosters that come back after multiple flights. We want to make sure that we don’t see wear-and-tear in the wrong spots,” Koenigsmann added.

The Falcon 9 first-stage booster being used for the SSO-A mission debuted in May when it lifted off from launch pad 39A at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, carrying into orbit Bangladesh’s communication satellite, Bangabandhu 1.

The booster returned back to land on Space X’s drone ship in the Atlantic Ocean from where it was brought to Florida for inspection and repairs.

It was re-flown in August, blasting off from launch pad 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, also in Florida, this time carrying an Indonesian communications spacecraft called Merah Putih.

It returned without incident for another landing on the company’s drone ship in the Atlantic.

It was brought back to terra firma for a cross-country haul to California where it was again inspected and refurbished and is now on the verge of its third mission, which should happen on Sunday, provided there are no further postponements.

Space X is planning to use the booster a fourth time if it manages to successfully land it a third time on the drone ship; however, this time around the drone-ship is stationed in the Pacific Ocean, off the Vandenberg cost.

Retrieving and re-flying boosters are still in a nascent stage and Space X is learning with each recovery and re-launch, as was pointed out by Koenigsmann in October.

“One of the problems is fatigue. You’ve got to watch the life cycle on components,” Koenigsmann said.

“They vibrate, basically, and you’ve got to have an eye on fracture control and make sure that you don’t have any fractures on those components,” he said.

“That is actually not new. Helicopters do this right now. They are basically vibration machines, and they track, actually, the number of cycles, and they know exactly when they have to go into maintenance or preventive maintenance,” Koenigsmann continued.

“Something similar is what we can do here on the rocket,” he said.

“We can basically record the flight load, and then log this to the history of the part, and we can figure out when the part has to be exchanged, if it actually has to be exchanged.

Ideally, you do not want to change parts,” Koenigsmann concluded.

So far, Space X has successfully achieved booster recoveries a record 21 times, achieving the last retrieval in May 2017 when a first-stage Falcon 9 returned to touch down on Landing Zone-1 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

It was the ninth recovery on Landing Zone-1, while 12 retrievals were made on ‘autonomous spaceport drone ships’ in the ocean.

From The Editors Science

NASA’s Mars Probe InSight Lands After 7 Minutes of Nerve-Shattering Terror Through the Martian Atmosphere

After traveling for nearly seven months and more than 300 million miles through deep space, NASA’s Mars Probe, InSight, finally entered the Martian atmosphere on Nov 26 at 2:47 pm ET, beginning the entry, descent and landing (EDL) phase of the mission.

The EDL began with the lander plunging into the thin Martian atmosphere at 12,300 miles per hour with just about seven minutes at its disposal to decelerate to a touchdown speed of 5mph.

Two minutes into the decent, InSight’s protective heat shield had reached peak heating of 2,700 degrees Fahrenheit (1,482 Celsius), causing a brief weakening of the lander’s radio signal.

Then began InSight’s decelerating maneuvers, with the parachute deploying first, followed by the heat shield jettisoning – all of this happening within three minutes of entry.

The descent slowed, but not enough, as the probe was still doing around 180 miles per hour.

This is when the lander deployed its tripod legs, got rid of the back shell and fired the retro rockets, coming to rest on the equatorial plane of Elysium Planitia at 2:54 p.m. ET, successfully completing the EDL sequence.

“We hit the Martian atmosphere at 19,800 kilometers per hour, and the whole sequence to touching down on the surface took only six-and-a-half minutes,” said Tom Hoffman – InSight project manager at JPL.

“During that short span of time, InSight had to autonomously perform dozens of operations and do them flawlessly — and by all indications that is exactly what our spacecraft did,” said Hoffman.

No sooner had the landing confirmation “beep” reached NASA, the agency’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory erupted into applause and cheers, and high-fives, and hugs – a deeply satisfying conclusion to the seven-minute-agony of anticipation they had to endure during the EDL.

“Today, we successfully landed on Mars for the eighth time in human history,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said at the post-landing presser.

“InSight will study the interior of Mars and will teach us valuable science as we prepare to send astronauts to the Moon and later to Mars,” Bridenstine said.

“This accomplishment represents the ingenuity of America and our international partners, and it serves as a testament to the dedication and perseverance of our team,” said the NASA administrator, adding that “the best of NASA is yet to come, and it is coming soon.”

The first picture captured by InSight shows nothing more than a lot of black dirt spots on the camera’s lens-covering, which will be taken off this week.


The probe’s main mission is still two to three months away from actually starting because that’s how long it will take the robotic arm to deploy all the mission equipment on the surface – the process having already begun with the unfurling of the spacecraft’s 7-feet solar arrays.

Meanwhile, NASA scientists will have to make do with photographs that the lander can capture from its current position before meaningful science data starts coming in sometime in March.

That said, the fact that InSight is sitting pretty on the planet’s surface after its stressful descent is more than half the battle won, as a thousand things could have gone wrong during the six and a half-minute EDL.

For example, the parachute could have failed to deploy; malfunctioning of the landing legs was a possibility; the heat shield could have failed to jettison or it could have grazed the lander as it dropped; a surface obstruction could have botched the landing; and so on.

But no such thing happened and the relief was evident in Hoffman’s statement.

“The InSight team can rest a little easier tonight now that we know the spacecraft solar arrays are deployed and recharging the batteries,” he said.

“It’s been a long day for the team. But tomorrow begins an exciting new chapter for InSight: surface operations and the beginning of the instrument deployment phase,” Hoffman added.

Among the myriad scientific instruments is the InSight’s seismometer called SEIS (Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure) – a round, dome-like instrument that will monitor seismic vibrations on the Red Planet.

Also included is the Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package, featuring a “self-hammering nail” capable of penetrating 5 meters into the planet’s crust to read the heat flow pattern inside Mars.

“Landing was thrilling, but I’m looking forward to the drilling,” InSight’s principal investigator Bruce said.

“When the first images come down, our engineering and science teams will hit the ground running, beginning to plan where to deploy our science instruments,” said an excited Banerdt.

“Within two or three months, the arm will deploy the mission’s main science instruments, the Seismic Experiment for Interior Structure (SEIS) and Heat Flow and Physical Properties Package (HP3) instruments,” he said.

Interior Exploration using Seismic Investigations, Geodesy and Heat Transport, better known as InSight, was launched aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on May 5, 2018.

Also on board were two experimental CubeSats, MarCO-A and MarCO-B, which actually beamed back data about InSight as it entered the Martian atmosphere on Monday.

Although launched with the lander, they flew separately to Mars and have proved that CubeSats can hold their own in deep space.

They were not designed to land but do a flyby of the Red Planet, instead, and wait for their short operational lives to end, which is exactly what they are presently doing, now that their mission is over.

“Every Mars landing is daunting, but now with InSight safely on the surface, we get to do a unique kind of science on Mars,” said Michael Watkins, director at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif.

“The experimental MarCO CubeSats have also opened a new door to smaller planetary spacecraft,” Watkins said.

“The success of these two unique missions is a tribute to the hundreds of talented engineers and scientists who put their genius and labor into making this a great day,” he added.

From The Editors Science

International Space Station (ISS) Has Come of Age – Celebrates 20th Anniversary

The International Space Station – the pride and joy of five partnering space agencies, including NASA (USA), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada) – is celebrating its twentieth anniversary today.
Here’s how it all began.

On this twentieth day of November in 1998, a Russian Proton rocket blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, carrying in its payload fairing a control module named ‘Zarya’ – the first component of the International Space Station (ISS).

Thus began the piece by piece assembly of the ISS, culminating with the installation of the final planned module in 2011.

Unity, a passive NASA module, became the second cog in the ISS wheel, joining Zarya on Dec 4, 1998, having been launched aboard Space Shuttle flight STS-88.

Ever since the first resident crew arrived on the ISS in Nov 2000, the space station has never been left unmanned, with rotating teams of astronauts from different countries occupying the space station at any given time.

The three-member team of Expedition 1, including American astronaut and former Navy SEAL Bill Shepherd and Russian cosmonauts Sergei Krikalev and Yuri Gidzenko, reached the ISS aboard the Soyuz TM-31 spacecraft.

They would go on to spend the next 136 days of their lives on the space station before returning back to Earth on a Space Shuttle in March 2001.

Twenty years on, what started off as a Russian-built piece of equipment has grown into a six-bedroom orbital lab in the sky, with two bathrooms, a gym, and a 360-degree observatory module called Cupola to go with it, not to mention the array of equipment and state-of-the art gadgetry.

With its crew of up to six astronauts, this lab in the sky travels at a speed of 17,227 miles per hour (27,724 kilometers per hour), completing one Earth orbit in 93 minutes, which adds up to nearly 16 orbits per day.

Cupola: The International Space Station’s 360-degree observatory module (Credit: NASA)
Cupola: The International Space Station’s 360-degree observatory module (Credit: NASA)

ESA astronaut and test pilot Tim Peake, who spent more than six months on the space station between Dec 2015 and June 2016, took to Twitter to wish the ISS a “Happy Birthday,” calling it “an incredible feat of engineering, a marvel of international cooperation and nearly 3000 scientific investigations completed.”

“The space station to me and the way we have put that program together with our international partners is absolutely the best example of how we can peacefully, successfully do complicated things,” retired NASA astronaut Nicole Stott told CNET’s Eric Mack earlier this year.

Scott has held a number of key positions in NASA and has been part of several important missions, including STS-128, Expedition 20, Expedition 21, STS-129, and STS-133 – to highlight a few of her achievements – among many – in a long and distinguished career spanning nearly three decades.

How ISS has benefited Humanity

In addition to serving science as an orbital space laboratory, Earth observatory, and as a platform for decades of scientific studies and research, all of which will potentially serve mankind in the long run, the International Space Station has also made some immediate contributions.

The healthcare sector has benefited tremendously from robotics originally designed and developed for the ISS, especially in the treatment of breast cancer.

For example, telerobotic technology – originally developed for robotics on the ISS – is being put to good use by Dr. Mehran Anvari, chief executive officer at the Centre for Surgical Invention and Innovation (CSii).

Dr. Anvari has developed a robotic procedure to provide MRI guided breast biopsies to women in remote areas.

According to Dr. Anvari only about 40 percent of women requiring MRI screening actually undergo the procedure.

“Part of the reason why women were not undertaking MRI screening was because of lack of access to the best radiologists locally,” says Dr. Anvari.

“Some women have to drive very long distance, like seven or eight hours, in snowstorm during the winter, sometimes risking their lives just to get their MRI breast biopsies,” says Dr. Nathalie Duchesne of Université Laval (Laval University) in Quebec, Canada.

To address issues like these, Dr. Anvari got in touch with MDA – a Canadian company that develops all robotic systems currently in use on the International Space Station.

MDA developed a system called IGAR (Image Guided Automated Robot), which is a teleoperated robot capable of performing biopsies under MRI guidance.

Basically, it allows radiologists to supervise MRI breast biopsies remotely, thereby eliminating the need for patients to travel to another city or a distant hospital to get access to specialists.

Another ISS technology that has found its way into our lives is a water-testing system, which on Earth comes in the form of a mobile app called mWater for testing water purity.

NASA says: “This handy tool, based in part on International Space Station technology, provides a global resource available for free download as an app or usable via the Web browser version of the app on most smartphones.

“Governments, health workers and the public all can make use of mWater to record and share water test results.

“During the first year of the beta release of mWater, more than 1,000 users downloaded it and mapped several thousand water sources.”

Imagery captured by the space station’s HDEV ( High Definition Earth Viewing) cameras help in natural disaster management.

Some Twitter reactions on the International Space Station’s 20th year in space.

From The Editors Science

U.K. Satellites NovaSAR-1 and S1-4 Launched into Orbit on Indian Rocket

The Indian Space Research Organization, or ISRO, on Sunday (September 16) successfully launched two British satellites, the NovaSAR-1 and the SSTL S1-4, atop its Polar Satellite Launch Vehicle (PSLV) from its launch center in Sriharikota – a barrier island off the coast of the Bay of Bengal in the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh.

Developed and manufactured by Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd, or SSTL, in Guilford, Surrey, UK, the NovaSAR-1 is a 445-kilogram Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) satellite capable of taking images day and night, even through dense cloud cover.

The NovaSAR-1 has a number of useful applications, such as monitoring suspicious maritime activities like illegal fishing, smuggling, piracy, as well as detecting oil spills and locating ships in distress, and more.

“We are very interested in this maritime mode, which is a 400km-plus swath mode,” BBC quoted SSTL’s chief technology officer Luis Gomes as saying.

“It is important to be able to monitor large areas of the ocean – something we don’t do at the moment,” Gomes told BBC News.

“We all saw with the Malaysian airline crash in the Indian Ocean the difficulty there was in monitoring that vast area. We can do that kind of thing with radar and NovaSAR is good for that,” he added.

The SSTL S1-4, on the other hand, is a high-resolution Earth Observation satellite weighing 444 kilograms and capable of discerning objects as small as 87 cm across.

The satellite has a range of practical applications and could prove its worth in disaster management, flood monitoring, land classification, natural resource management, urban planning, and agricultural monitoring, says the SSTL website.

“The very high-resolution imager on board the spacecraft has been designed and manufactured by SSTL and will acquire sub one metre resolution images in panchromatic mode and sub four metre resolution images in multispectral mode, with a swath width of about 24km.,” says SSTL.

As far as ISRO is concerned, it was a “fully commercial launch,” as described by Dr S Somnath, Director of the Vikram Sarabhai Space Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, India, earning the Indian space agency in excess of 2 billion Indian Rupees ($27.5 million) in the process.

“India will earn money by this launch,” he said.

While the Sunday launch was the 44th mission for the PSLV, it was its fifth fully commercial mission in which the whole launch vehicle was hired by the UK company for the sole purpose of launching the two satellites.

“This is the fifth fully commercial launch of PSLV where the whole rocket has been hired by a foreign company,” said Dr Somnath, adding that foreign companies preferred the PSLV because it is “highly reliable” and also because there isn’t too much of a waiting period when it comes to ISRO launches.

“PSLV has a very special slot hence foreign companies prefer it because it is highly reliable and India’s offers timely launches without much of a waiting period,” he said.

Lauding ISRO for the feat, India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that it was a demonstration of “India’s prowess in the competitive space business.”

The launch was the result of a commercial arrangement between SSTL and Antrix Corp Ltd, the commercial arm of ISRO that promotes the Indian space agency’s products, services, and technologies.

Eighteen minutes after the 230-ton PSLV blasted off into the night sky, both satellites were released into sun-synchronous orbits (SSO).

Also known as a heliosynchronous orbit, SSO is a “geocentric orbit that combines altitude and inclination in such a way that the satellite passes over any given point of the planet’s surface at the same local solar time,” as explained by Wikipedia.

“The PSLV rocket preciously placed two of our customer satellites in 583 km orbit. The success will give added energy for industry to make PSLV,” ISRO Chairman K. Sivan said after the launch.

While the NovaSAR is a pretty capable satellite, its 3m by 1m dimensions make it seem somewhat outdated, which it is, in that it was initiated by SSTL back in 2008 but the program got delayed for various reasons.

Meanwhile, other companies worked on developing more compact versions of the satellite, with Finnish start-up ICEYE even managing to successfully launch a platform as small as a suitcase, earlier this year.

Called ICEYE-X1, the 100-kilogram Finnish microsatellite was also launched into orbit atop ISRO’s PSLV rocket.

If San Francisco-based American company Capella Space’s claim is anything to go by, we should soon see the launch of a shoebox-sized radar satellite.

However, Martin Cohen – a radar expert at Airbus Defence and Space, is not too worried about it.

“NovaSAR is still a step change, certainly for Airbus in terms of what you can do for a particular amount of money,” he said.

“But while we’ve been waiting for a launch, we haven’t stood still. We’ve done lots of work on the next generation,” he said.

He added: “NovaSAR is just the first in a family of instruments that will offer different capabilities, such as finer resolutions and other parameters; and we will be putting those capabilities on smaller spacecraft than NovaSAR.”

From The Editors Science

Liquid Water Lake Detected Beneath the South Polar Ice Cap of Mars

Researchers at the Italian Space Agency have discovered evidence of liquid water under the desolate, inhospitable surface of Mars.

Published Wednesday (July 25) in the journal Science, the findings of the new study point toward the possible existence of a lake of liquid water beneath the red planet’s south polar ice cap.

The evidence, however, cannot be called conclusive by any stretch of the imagination until further research gives absolute credence to the discovery.

The data was collected with the help of an instrument called the Mars Advanced Radar for Subsurface and Ionosphere Sounding, better known by its acronym MARSIS, onboard the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft.

Probing the Planum Australe – the southern polar plain of Mars – between May 2012 and December 2015, MARSIS was able to compile radar profiles that were found to contain evidence of a body of liquid water trapped less than a mile (1.5 kilometers) below the ice-capped surface, stretching laterally for about 12 miles, or 20 kilometers.

While the MARSIS data didn’t help in determining the vertical depth of the subsurface water layer, the researchers do estimate it to be at least one meter thick.

The MARSIS modus operandi was to send out low-frequency radar signals to the surface and immediate subsurface of the Planum Australe region of the planet, enabling the research team to study the signals that were bounced back to Mars Express.

In the illustration below, you will notice a steady white line at the top, which indicates the starting point of the South Polar Layered Deposit (SPLD), which is nothing but a build up of ice and Martian dust.

Just short of a mile below the SPLD is where the researchers detected the evidence of the meter-deep, 20km-wide layer of liquid water.

“In light blue you can see where the reflections from the bottom are stronger than surface reflection. This is something that is to us the tell tale sign of the presence of water,” says Prof Roberto Orosei from the Italian National Institute for Astrophysics, who is also the head of the research team and lead author of the study paper.

Artists’ impression of ESA’s Mars Express probing the planet’s surface, with the radar findings on top (source: ESA/INAF)
Artists’ impression of ESA’s Mars Express probing the planet’s surface, with the radar findings on top (source: ESA/INAF)

“It’s probably not a very large lake,” Orosei said.

“This really qualifies this as a body of water. A lake, not some kind of meltwater filling some space between rock and ice, as happens in certain glaciers on Earth,” added the professor.

If the study authors’ interpretation of the findings is indeed what they say it is, then we‘re likely looking at the first known stable body of liquid water on the mysterious planet.

“Anomalously bright subsurface reflections are evident within a well-defined, 20-kilometer-wide zone centered at 193°E, 81°S, which is surrounded by much less reflective areas,” says the ‘Abstract’ of the study paper.

“Quantitative analysis of the radar signals shows that this bright feature has high relative dielectic permittivity (>15), matching that of water-bearing materials. We interpret this feature as a stable body of liquid water on Mars,” it said.

The authors strongly believe in the possibility of more such water bodies lying hidden beneath the Martian surface, based on the simple logic that they haven’t found any evidence that suggests otherwise.

“There is no reason to conclude that the presence of subsurface water on Mars is limited to a single location,” they wrote.

Orsei is also upbeat about the possible presence of more such subsurface water reservoirs on the planet.

“This is just one small study area,” Orosei said in a statement. “It is an exciting prospect to think there could be more of these underground pockets of water elsewhere, yet to be discovered.”

“We have long since known that the surface of Mars is inhospitable to life as we know it, so the search for life on Mars is now in the subsurface,” said Dr. Manish Patel, as quoted by BBC Science reporter Mary Halton in her July 25 piece on the study.

“This is where we get sufficient protection from harmful radiation, and the pressure and temperature rise to more favorable levels. Most importantly, this allows liquid water, essential for life,” Dr. Patel is believed to have said.

“We are not closer to actually detecting life but what this finding does is give us the location of where to look on Mars,” Dr. Patel told BBC News, comparing it to a treasure map, “except in this case, there will be lots of ‘X’s marking the spots.”

For water to remain in liquid form in temperatures that the researchers estimate is somewhere between -10 and -30 Celsius, the water is likely to be highly saline, which basically means it was, probably, never conducive to any kind of life form.

“It’s plausible that the water may be an extremely cold, concentrated brine, which would be pretty challenging for life,” said Dr. Claire Cousins, an astrobiologist from the University of St Andrews, UK – again, quoted by BBC.

Talking about life on Mars, early last month, NASA announced that its nuclear-powered Curiosity rover had discovered organic matter embedded in the sedimentary rocks of the three-billion-year-old Gale Crater on the planet.

The organic molecules found in the ancient bedrock suggested that conditions back then may have been ideal to support some form of life, with a good chance that microorganisms once thrived on the red planet.

Regardless of the origin of the organics, their presence itself meant that they were a good source of food for any microbes that may have existed back then.

“We know that on Earth microorganisms eat all sorts of organics. It’s a valuable food source for them,” Jennifer Eigenbrode – a NASA biogeochemist and geologist with expertise in organic and isotope biogeochemistry and interests in astrobiology had said at the time.

“While we don’t know the source of the material, the amazing consistency of the results makes me think we have a slam-dunk signal for organics on Mars,” she said.

“It is not telling us that life was there, but it is saying that everything organisms really needed to live in that kind of environment, all of that was there,” added Eigenbrode.

Curiosity’s findings revealed that, way back in the past, a liquid water lake inside the Gale Crater had all the necessary building blocks to sustain life in one form or another.

“The Martian surface is exposed to radiation from space. Both radiation and harsh chemicals break down organic matter,” Eigenbrode said.

“Finding ancient organic molecules in the top five centimeters of rock that was deposited when Mars may have been habitable, bodes well for us to learn the story of organic molecules on Mars with future missions that will drill deeper,” added the NASA biogeochemist.

So, while NASA’s Curiosity data hinted at the possibility of life having existed on Mars at some point in the dim and distant past, MARSIS’s findings suggest that conditions were not that friendly – at least, in so far as the Planum Australe region of the planet is concerned.

From The Editors Science

Jeff Bezos Wants to Start his Space Colonization Plans with a Moon Outpost

The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, has always had a fascination with space and the limitless possibilities it holds, with an early interest in the idea of “space hotels, amusement parks, colonies and small cities for 2-3 million people orbiting Earth.”

It was this obsession with space travel and exploration that led Bezos to found Blue Origin, back in 2000.

So, the Amazon billionaire didn’t really surprise anybody when, speaking at the International Space Development Conference on Friday night, he said that his company Blue Origin was open to working with NASA, SpaceX or the European Space Agency (ESA) to realize his vision of colonizing space.

And, what better place to start than the moon, not only because of its relative proximity to Earth but also because of the presence of large deposits of water ice near its poles; and, for the fact that the lunar surface gets plenty of sunlight.

Addressing a group of students at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, Bezos stressed upon the importance of moving equipment and supplies and assembling them on the surface of the moon with the help of advanced robotics and machine learning, before humans can, actually, populate the place.

“I think we should build a permanent human settlement on one of the poles of the moon, and it’s time to go back to the moon but this time to stay, he said.

“ And, there you’d want to preposition a whole bunch of equipment and supplies before the humans show up; and some of those things need to be assembled on the surface of the moon and that’s the kind of thing that could also be done by advanced robotics with machine learning systems on board,” Bezos added.

While a partnership with NASA can really speed things up, at least as far as building Blue Origin’s lunar lander is concerned, Bezos is not really banking on it and will do what it takes to bring his plans to fruition, should he fail to rope in the space agency.

“By the way, we’ll do that, even if NASA doesn’t do it,” Bezos said. “We’ll do it eventually. We could do it a lot faster if there were a partnership.”

There are other private and government players who would likely be interested in partnering with Blue Origin, including SpaceX, although Elon Musk’s company is more fixated on the red planet than the moon.

European Space Agency’s Moon Village vision is particularly appealing to Bezos, who says that the idea of building individual lunar outposts by different companies in close proximity to each other would lead to inter-lunar cooperation among different outposts, helping each other out in times of need.

“The Moon Village concept has a nice property in that everybody basically just says, look, everybody builds their own lunar outpost, but let’s do it close to each other,” Bezos said.

“That way, if you need a cup of sugar, you can go over to the European Union lunar outpost and say, ‘I got my powdered eggs, what have you got?’ … Obviously, I’m being silly with the eggs, but there will be real things, like, ‘Do you have some oxygen?’ ”

Bezos is also convinced that there’s no better place than the moon for Earth’s heavy industry because in times to come, Earth will not remain the best place for it.

“The Earth is not a very good place to do heavy industry. It’s convenient for us right now, but in the not-too-distant future — I’m talking decades, maybe 100 years — it’ll start to be easier to do a lot of the things that we currently do on Earth in space because we’ll have so much energy,” he said.

The ever-increasing population and the resultant demand on the dwindling resources on Earth, plus the fact that there will be no dearth of solar-powered energy in space outposts, do give credence to Bezos lunar logic.

“We will have to leave this planet,” Bezos said. “We’re going to leave it, and it’s going to make this planet better. We’ll come and go, and the people who want to stay will stay.”

While the moon is where Bezos plans to start his space colonization from, for reasons already mentioned, his long-term vision encompasses solar-powered colonies in the solar-system with millions of people living and working in them. He even sees hollow asteroids as potential space outposts.

Bezos said that although he is committed to building the rockets and landers, he would be happy if other companies took over the responsibility of building rovers, habitable accommodation and all the other stuff necessary to colonize the moon on such a large scale.

“One of two things will happen,” he said. “Either other people will take over the vision, or I’ll run out of money.”

From The Editors Science

Blue Origin Successfully Launches Used Crew Capsule Atop Recycled New Shepard Rocket

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezo’s spaceflight company Blue Origin on Sunday launched the upgraded version of its passenger Crew Capsule 2.0 perched atop its next-generation New Shepard rocket.

Powered by a single hydrogen-fuel BE-3 engine, capable of generating 110,000 pounds of thrust, the New Shepard blasted off from the company’s West Texas launch facility in Van Horn at 1:06 p.m. EDT, after thunderstorms put paid to the scheduled 9:45 am (EDT) launch.

“Another spectacular test mission,” said Blue Origin’s Ariane Cornell during the launch webcast. “Everything looks nominal from here.”

Both rocket and payload had been used in a previous test launch, as recently as December, last year, when they lifted off from the same facility with the same “instrumented dummy” passenger which goes by the nickname “Mannequin Skywalker.”

The Sunday launch saw the rocket reach a record altitude – at least as far as Blue Origin launches are concerned – of almost 66 miles (106 km), before making it back to Earth.

“Today, we’re going to push the system a little bit harder,” Cornell said.

It was all over in a matter of a few seconds over 10 minutes, which saw the New Shepard separate from the second stage at a height of about 47 miles, then continue on its way till it reached the record 66.5 miles before returning back to terra firma for a smooth, tail first vertical landing.

The capsule made its descent back to Earth a few minutes later, helped by parachutes and retrorockets to cushion its landing.

While the previous version had painted-on windows, the New Shepard capsule, according to Blue Origin, is equipped with “the largest windows in space,” measuring 110 and 73 centimeters in height and width, respectively.

The windows bit does make a lot of sense when you consider Blue Origin’s future plans of suborbital commercial passenger flights to space, which could likely happen as early as this year.

The capsule’s 530 cubic feet interior is ample enough to seat 6 paying passengers, as well as allowing them the room to float freely and turn weightless somersaults, with the large windows in place for a space perspective of our very own blue planet.

In addition to “Mannequin Skywalker,” the New Shepard capsule carried a whole lot of experimental gadgetry on behalf of NASA, including components that the agency plans to deploy onboard the Orion deep space capsule, as well as instrumentation for recording pressure, acceleration, acoustics, and other relevant data.

Other research-specific payloads included water fleas to test the effects of microgravity on the invertebrates, including equipment to demonstrate the viability of Wi-Fi in the space environment.

As was the purpose on its first flight, “Mannequin Skywalker” was there, with all the necessary instrumentation strapped to it, to test the rigors of spaceflight and their likely impact on a human passenger.

Watch the launch here

While the first New Shepard mission in April 2015 ended up in disaster for the booster stage, the subsequent seven launches, including Sunday’s flight with Crew Capsule 2.0, which was the second with the latest versions of the booster and capsule, have all met the company’s mission expectations. Here’s a quick recap of all eight of them.

New Shepard Test Flight 1 (April 19, 2015)

The first New Shepard rocket (NS1) test flight conducted on April 19, 2015, which saw the unmanned space vehicle reach its planned test altitude of 93.5 km at a top speed of Mach 3 (3675 km/h), was a partial success.

While the company was able to retrieve the capsule, after it landed using a parachute, it was not able to recover the booster, which crashed on landing due to hydraulic failure in the vehicle control system.

New Shepard Test Flight 2 (November 23, 2015)

After losing NS1, Blue Horizon built the second New Shephard (NS2), launching it on November 23, 2015, when it went beyond the 100-kilometer mark and, both, booster and capsule landed back successfully. This was Blue Horizon’s first ever successful retrieval of the reusable booster.

New Shepard Test Flight 3 (January 22, 2016)

NS2 was used again on January 22, 2016, test flight – a demonstration and proof of the re-usability of the booster. This time around, New Shepard reached the apogee of 101.7 km, (the highest point in the development stage) and again the booster and capsule returned to Earth for retrieval and reuse.

New Shepard Test Flight 4 (April 2, 2016)

On April 2, 2016, NS2 was deployed for the third time, going beyond the 330,000 feet mark, with the booster stage and capsule returning for the usual powered landing and parachute touchdown, respectively.

New Shepard Test Flight 5 (June 19, 2016)

The fifth New Shepard launch, overall, – fourth for NS2 – took place on June 19, 2016, with the same success in terms of altitude reached and booster retrieval.

New Shepard Test Flight 6 (October 5, 2016)

NS2 was retired after its fifth and final test flight on October 5, 2016 – again a success in terms of achieving its test mission and returning safely back to the planet.

New Shepard Test Flight 7 (December 12, 2017)

The seventh New Shepard mission – the first for the brand new NS3 and upgraded Crew Capsule 2.0 – was successfully accomplished on Tuesday, December 12, 2017, with the new booster returning for its vertical powered-landing while the capsule, along with its dummy passenger, Mannequin Skywalker, landed with parachutes.

New Shepard Test Flight 8 (April 29, 2018)

That’s the Sunday launch discussed earlier – the eighth overall, and the second for the latest New Shepard and the upgraded Crew Capsule 2.0 and its passenger, Mannequin Skywalker.

About Blue Origin

As part of his fascination with space travel and exploration, Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos founded the start-up company, Blue Origin in 2000.

He is also known to have had an early interest in the idea of “space hotels, amusement parks, colonies and small cities for 2-3 million people orbiting Earth.”

After keeping it hidden from the public eye for over half a decade, Blue Origin became common knowledge in 2006 when a large tract of land was purchased in West Texas to build the infrastructure for launch and test purposes.

Blue Origin is basically a privately funded aerospace manufacturing and spaceflight services company headquartered in Kent, Washington.

The company has been exploring and building technologies to enable humans to get access to space travel by lowering costs and increasing reliability factors.

The company is approaching its futuristic dreams by adopting an incremental approach, taking it ahead step by step – hence, the company’s motto, “Gradatim Ferociter” – Latin for step-by-step.

Keeping the company’s step-by-step approach in mind, the company’s initial focus has been on sub-orbital spaceflight tests.

From The Editors Science

‘Super Blue Blood Moon’ – A Three-In-One Lunar Event Due to Occur on January 31

Early on the morning of January 31, North Americans will be treated to, not one, not two but three coinciding lunar events, which the National Aeronautics Space Agency (NASA) is referring to as a ‘lunar trifecta’, or the ‘super blue blood moon’.

The phrase ‘super blue blood moon’ is basically the combination of the terms supermoon, blue moon, and blood moon – three different cosmic phenomena, involving earth’s only natural satellite, happening at the same.

For a better understanding, let’s look at each of these space events separately.

What’s a Supermoon?

Also known as the Beaver moon, a supermoon is nothing but an infrequent occurrence when the moon’s proximity to the earth is at its maximum, making it appear relatively larger and brighter in the night sky.

According to scientists, a supermoon occurs because of the elliptical shape of the moon’s orbit around our planet. As the moon goes around the earth along the oval-shaped orbit, it has to pass through points that are closest and farthest from earth, known as the perigee and apogee, respectively.

So, a supermoon occurs when the moon is in the perigee of its orbit.

Calling it a supermoon, however, is kind of exaggerated because the difference in the size of a perigee full moon and a normal full moon, as it appears to us, is marginal. If you didn’t know a supermoon was happening, you’d probably be as much impressed with it as you would be with any other full moon.

“The differences between an ordinary full moon and a ‘supermoon’ are so trivial that the phrase ‘supermoon’ is essentially meaningless for the general public,” Dr. Jay Pasachoff, an astronomer at Williams College in Williamstown, Massachusetts, told NBC News MACH in an email. “I note that the Earth was closest to the sun on its annual orbit on January 4, as it is every year — so we could have called that day a ‘supersun.’ Did you notice that the sun was brighter than usual? Of course not.”

American astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator Neil deGrasse Tyson’s pizza analogy is the best way to explain the unnecessary hype behind a supermoon.

“If you have a 16-inch pizza, would you call it a super pizza compared with a 15-inch pizza?” deGrasse once asked on the StarTalk radio program.

It’s a well-known fact that the moon affects the tides on earth. A full moon brings higher than normal tides during the12 hour high tide cycle. Similarly, during the low tide period, the tides are lower than usual.

However, during a perigee moon, high tides are at their highest and low tides at their lowest.


What’s a Blue Moon?

A Blue Moon can be described as a relatively rare lunar phenomenon when we get to see an additional full moon over a given time period.

However, there are two explanations of the Blue Moon – the seasonal blue moon and the monthly blue moon.

The third full moon in a season of four full moons is a seasonal blue moon, which according to scientists happens once in 2.7 years, on an average.

The newer and more popular definition of the blue moon is the occurrence of two full moons in one calendar month.

By the way, the name is in no way associated with the color of the moon.

What’s a Blood Moon?

A lunar eclipse occurs when the earth’s shadow falls on the surface of the moon, and this can happen only when the sun, earth and moon are aligned together, with the earth between the other two.
When the three heavenly bodies are in perfect alignment, the earth’s shadow covers the entire moon in what we call a total lunar eclipse. During this phase, refracted light through the earth’s shadow gives the moon a reddish tint, giving rise to the nickname, ‘blood moon’.

In short, blood moon is another name for total lunar eclipse.

A partial eclipse takes place if only part of the earth’s shadow falls on the moon.

Why is the Jan. 31st event being called a ‘super blue blood moon?

On January 31st, the moon will be at the perigee of its orbit and hence, as explained above, closest to earth than any other point in its orbit, making it a ‘supermoon’.

And, because it’s going to be the second full moon this month, it will also be a ‘blue moon’ according to the newer definition of the phenomenon.

Lastly, the sun, earth and moon will be at the exact alignment needed for a total eclipse, causing the moon to appear somewhat reddish, giving us our ‘blood moon’.

And that gives us our ‘super blue blood moon’ – the ‘lunar trifecta’.

“The Jan. 31 full moon is special for three reasons: it’s the third in a series of ‘supermoons,’ when the Moon is closer to Earth in its orbit — known as perigee — and about 14 percent brighter than usual,” explains NASA. “It’s also the second full moon of the month, commonly known as a ‘blue moon’.”

“The super blue moon will pass through Earth’s shadow to give viewers in the right location a total lunar eclipse. While the Moon is in the Earth’s shadow it will take on a reddish tint, known as a ‘blood moon’.”

What time will the eclipse take place?

Wednesday’s lunar eclipse will begin at 3:48 am Pacific Time, reaching totality at 4:51 am PT, which will last until 6:05 PT.

Where can the ‘super blue blood moon’ be best viewed from?

While the ‘super blue blood moon’ will be visible in North America, Alaska and Hawaii before sunrise at the given times on Jan 31, viewers in the Middle East, Asia, Russia, Australia and New Zealand will be able to see the phenomenon after sunset the same day.

Those living on the West Coast and in the Midwest will be able to see the eclipse in its totality provided the skies are clear of clouds. East Coast residents, however, will be able to see only a partial eclipse before the moon sets that day.

“For the [continental] U.S., the viewing will be best in the West,” said Gordon Johnston, Program executive at the NASA headquarters in Washington. “Set your alarm early and go out and take a look.”

“Unfortunately, eclipse viewing will be more challenging in the Eastern Time zone,” Johnston added. “The eclipse begins at 5:51 a.m. ET, as the moon is about to set in the western sky, and the sky is getting lighter in the east.”