CLOSE
iStock
iStock

How Many Solar Eclipses Will You Be Able to See In Your Lifetime?

iStock
iStock

Total solar eclipses, when our view of the Sun is completely blocked out by the Moon, are highly anticipated events. The one appearing over much of the U.S. on August 21 may end up becoming the most-viewed celestial event in history. If you miss this summer's, though, will you ever see another? Denise Lu at The Washington Post can tell you just how many other chances you'll get.

Just put your birth year into the Post's eclipse calculator, and it will tell you how many total solar eclipses have yet to occur worldwide before you reach 100 (assuming that you live to be exactly 100). In the graphic below, the orange line is the path of this summer's total solar eclipse. The purple lines represent future eclipses. The darker the line, the sooner it will occur.

Lines representing solar eclipse paths criss-cross the globe.

Denise Lu / The Washington Post

Though solar eclipses are relatively common worldwide, that doesn't mean they're easy to view. A total solar eclipse hasn't been visible in the contiguous United States since 1979, and the next time a total solar eclipse will pass over the entire country will be in 2045. Personally, the eclipse calculator tells me I have 50 left in my lifetime, but I'll need to move to Asia to see most of them, and unless I get on a boat and chase eclipse trajectories across the ocean, I'm bound to miss a few.

Throughout history, eclipses have proved to be powerful phenomena, and not just because looking at them can damage your eyes. In 585 BCE, a solar eclipse that occurred in the middle of a Greek battle prompted the end of a six-year war. Soldiers saw the sudden darkness in the middle of the day as a sign that they should cease their fighting.

Find out how many eclipses you have left on The Washington Post.

nextArticle.image_alt|e
NASA/JPL, YouTube
arrow
Space
Watch NASA Test Its New Supersonic Parachute at 1300 Miles Per Hour
NASA/JPL, YouTube
NASA/JPL, YouTube

NASA’s latest Mars rover is headed for the Red Planet in 2020, and the space agency is working hard to make sure its $2.1 billion project will land safely. When the Mars 2020 rover enters the Martian atmosphere, it’ll be assisted by a brand-new, advanced parachute system that’s a joy to watch in action, as a new video of its first test flight shows.

Spotted by Gizmodo, the video was taken in early October at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Narrated by the technical lead from the test flight, the Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Ian Clark, the two-and-a-half-minute video shows the 30-mile-high launch of a rocket carrying the new, supersonic parachute.

The 100-pound, Kevlar-based parachute unfurls at almost 100 miles an hour, and when it is entirely deployed, it’s moving at almost 1300 miles an hour—1.8 times the speed of sound. To be able to slow the spacecraft down as it enters the Martian atmosphere, the parachute generates almost 35,000 pounds of drag force.

For those of us watching at home, the video is just eye candy. But NASA researchers use it to monitor how the fabric moves, how the parachute unfurls and inflates, and how uniform the motion is, checking to see that everything is in order. The test flight ends with the payload crashing into the ocean, but it won’t be the last time the parachute takes flight in the coming months. More test flights are scheduled to ensure that everything is ready for liftoff in 2020.

[h/t Gizmodo]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
NASA/JPL-Caltech
arrow
Space
Earth's First-Recorded Interstellar Visitor Gets Its Closeup—And a Name
 NASA/JPL-Caltech
NASA/JPL-Caltech

In October, scientists using the University of Hawaii's Pan-STARRS 1 telescope sighted something extraordinary: Earth's first confirmed interstellar visitor. Originally called A/2017 U1, the once-mysterious object has a new name—'Oumuamua, according to Scientific American—and researchers continue to learn more about its physical properties.

Fittingly, "'Oumuamua" is Hawaiian for "a messenger from afar arriving first." 'Oumuamua's astronomical designation is 1I/2017 U1. The "I" in 1I/2017 stands for "interstellar." Until now, objects similar to 'Oumuamua were always given "C" and "A" names, which stand for either comet or asteroid.

'Oumuamua moved too quickly through space to orbit the Sun, which led researchers to believe that it might be the remains of a former exoplanet. Long ago, it might have hurtled from an unknown star system into our solar system. Far-flung origins aside, new observations have led some researchers to conclude that 'Oumuamua is, well, pretty ordinary—at least in appearance.

'Oumuamua's size (591 feet by 98 feet) and oblong shape have drawn comparisons to a chunky cigar that's half a city block long. It's also reddish in color, and looks and acts like asteroids in our own solar system, the BBC reports. Its average looks aside, 'Oumuamua remains important because it may provide astronomers with new insights into how stars and planets form.

University of Wisconsin–Madison astronomer Ralf Kotulla and scientists from UCLA and the National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO) used the WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Arizona, to take some of the first pictures of 'Oumuamua. You can check them out below.

Images of an interloper from beyond the solar system — an asteroid or a comet — were captured on Oct. 27 by the 3.5-meter WIYN Telescope on Kitt Peak, Ariz.
Images of 'Oumuamua—an asteroid or a comet—were captured on October 27.
WIYN OBSERVATORY/RALF KOTULLA

U1 spotted whizzing through the Solar System in images taken with the WIYN telescope. The faint streaks are background stars. The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image. In these images U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faint
The green circles highlight the position of U1 in each image against faint streaks of background stars. In these images, U1 is about 10 million times fainter than the faintest visible stars.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

Color image of U1, compiled from observations taken through filters centered at 4750A, 6250A, and 7500A.
Color image of U1.
R. Kotulla (University of Wisconsin) & WIYN/NOAO/AURA/NSF

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios