February's red Moon: lunar eclipse on 21 February
People across the western hemisphere may be surprised to see a rust-coloured Moon in the sky on 21 February. Early that morning (the evening of the 20 February for observers in North and South America) will be this year’s first and only total eclipse of the Moon.
In a total lunar eclipse, the Earth, Sun and Moon are almost exactly in line and the Moon is on the opposite side of the Earth from the Sun. The Moon is full, moves into the shadow of the Earth and dims dramatically but usually remains visible, lit by sunlight that passes through the Earth’s atmosphere.
Stronger atmospheric scattering of blue light means that the light that reaches the lunar surface is predominantly red in colour so observers on Earth see a Moon that may be brick-coloured, rusty, blood red or sometimes dark grey, depending on terrestrial conditions.
The Moon travels to a similar position every month, but the tilt of the lunar orbit means that it normally passes above or below the terrestrial shadow. A Full Moon is seen but no eclipse takes place.
Lunar eclipses are visible wherever the Moon is above the horizon. The whole of this eclipse will be visible from northwest Africa, Western Europe including the British Isles, the eastern half of North America and the whole of South America. Depending on their location, sky watchers just outside these regions should be able to see at least part of the eclipse too.
In the UK night owls and early risers will both have a chance to watch the eclipse. It begins at 0035 GMT when the Moon enters the lightest part of the Earth’s shadow, the penumbra. Soon after the Moon will have a slight yellowish hue. At 0142 GMT the Moon starts to enter the dark core of the Earth’s shadow, the umbra. At 0301 GMT the Moon will be completely within the umbra – the ‘total’ part of the eclipse has begun. This is the time when it should have an obvious red colour. Mid-eclipse is at 0326 GMT and the total phase ends at 0352 GMT. At 0509 GMT the Moon leaves the umbra and the eclipse ends when the Moon leaves the penumbra at 0617 GMT.
During the eclipse the Moon lies in front of the stars of the constellation of Leo. On the right of the Moon will be the bright star Regulus and on the left will be the planet Saturn.
The lunar eclipse promises to be a spectacular sight and unlike the solar equivalent, the whole event is quite safe to watch and needs no special equipment.
Robert Massey | alfa
The most recent press releases about innovation >>>
Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:
Plants and algae use the enzyme Rubisco to fix carbon dioxide, removing it from the atmosphere and converting it into biomass. Algae have figured out a way to increase the efficiency of carbon fixation. They gather most of their Rubisco into a ball-shaped microcompartment called the pyrenoid, which they flood with a high local concentration of carbon dioxide. A team of scientists at Princeton University, the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University and the Max Plank Institute of Biochemistry have unravelled the mysteries of how the pyrenoid is assembled. These insights can help to engineer crops that remove more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere while producing more food.
A warming planet
Our brains house extremely complex neuronal circuits, whose detailed structures are still largely unknown. This is especially true for the so-called cerebral cortex of mammals, where among other things vision, thoughts or spatial orientation are being computed. Here the rules by which nerve cells are connected to each other are only partly understood. A team of scientists around Moritz Helmstaedter at the Frankfiurt Max Planck Institute for Brain Research and Helene Schmidt (Humboldt University in Berlin) have now discovered a surprisingly precise nerve cell connectivity pattern in the part of the cerebral cortex that is responsible for orienting the individual animal or human in space.
The researchers report online in Nature (Schmidt et al., 2017. Axonal synapse sorting in medial entorhinal cortex, DOI: 10.1038/nature24005) that synapses in...
New technique promises tunable laser devices
Whispering gallery mode (WGM) resonators are used to make tiny micro-lasers, sensors, switches, routers and other devices. These tiny structures rely on a...
Using ultrafast flashes of laser and x-ray radiation, scientists at the Max Planck Institute of Quantum Optics (Garching, Germany) took snapshots of the briefest electron motion inside a solid material to date. The electron motion lasted only 750 billionths of the billionth of a second before it fainted, setting a new record of human capability to capture ultrafast processes inside solids!
When x-rays shine onto solid materials or large molecules, an electron is pushed away from its original place near the nucleus of the atom, leaving a hole...
For the first time, physicists have successfully imaged spiral magnetic ordering in a multiferroic material. These materials are considered highly promising candidates for future data storage media. The researchers were able to prove their findings using unique quantum sensors that were developed at Basel University and that can analyze electromagnetic fields on the nanometer scale. The results – obtained by scientists from the University of Basel’s Department of Physics, the Swiss Nanoscience Institute, the University of Montpellier and several laboratories from University Paris-Saclay – were recently published in the journal Nature.
Multiferroics are materials that simultaneously react to electric and magnetic fields. These two properties are rarely found together, and their combined...