Here’s Where to Watch NASA's Livestream of the Super Blue Blood Moon

YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images
YE AUNG THU/AFP/Getty Images

Early on Wednesday, January 31, space lovers will be blessed with a trifecta of celestial treats: a supermoon, a blue moon, and a lunar eclipse. Combined, the three events will create what's known as a super blue blood moon (say that three times fast), an ultra-big and bright moon with a reddish tint. Those with clear skies in Alaska, Hawaii, and on the West Coast can watch the phenomenon starting at 4:52 a.m. PT, but NASA will also livestream the event so no one is left out.

As Popular Mechanics reports, the NASA TV and NASA.gov livestream will start at 2:30 a.m. PT (5:30 a.m. for East Coasters), right before the eclipse enters its earliest phase. It's slated to run until 7 a.m. PT (10 a.m. ET), with telescopes positioned at the Armstrong Flight Research Center in Edwards, California; LA's Griffith Observatory; and the University of Arizona's Mt. Lemmon SkyCenter Observatory.

Know what a lunar eclipse is, but don't know how a supermoon or blue moon makes the show any more special? Here's a breakdown of what will be going down during the early dawn hours tomorrow. A supermoon occurs when a full Moon's orbit moves it near to Earth, or at perigee, making it appear around 14 percent brighter than normal. This big, glowing Moon will pass through the Earth's shadow, giving it a reddish tint (hence the name ("blood moon"). As for "blue moon," it's simply a term used to describe the second full moon of a calendar month and has nothing to do with the Moon's actual color.

The last super blue blood moon was recorded on December 30, 1982 and the next one isn't expected until January 31, 2037. And for Americans, it's been several lifetimes since the celestial phenomenon has made an appearance: A super blue blood moon was last seen here in 1866.  

"Weather permitting, the West Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii will have a spectacular view of totality from start to finish," said Greg Johnston, a NASA program executive and lunar blogger, in a statement. "Unfortunately, eclipse viewing will be more challenging in the Eastern time zone. 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."

Stuck on another coast, or with bad weather? You can still take part in the experience by watching NASA's livestream, and by following @NASAMoon. Keep a close lookout for the Moon's glowing red stage, which begins at 4:52 a.m. PT and 7:52 ET and will last for around 1 hour, 16 minutes.

Since tomorrow's moon is the third in a series of recent supermoons (the others occurred on December 3, 2017, and January 1, 2018), NASA celebrated by creating the video tribute to the trio below.

[h/t Popular Mechanics]

The Orionid Meteor Shower Peaks This Weekend

iStock/Kazushi_Inagaki
iStock/Kazushi_Inagaki

October is always a great month for skywatching. If you missed the Draconids, the first meteor shower of the month, don't despair: the Orionids peak this weekend. If you've ever wanted to get into skywatching, this is your chance.

The Orionids is the second of two meteor showers caused by the debris field left by the comet Halley. (The other is the Eta Aquarids, which appear in May.) The showers are named for the constellation Orion, from which they seem to originate.

The shower is expected to peak overnight from Sunday, October 21, to Monday, October 22, when you can plan to see 15 to 20 super-fast meteors per hour. The best time for viewing is between 2 a.m. and 5 a.m., when Orion appears completely above the horizon. Make a late-night picnic of the occasion, because it takes about an hour for your eyes to adjust to the darkness. Bring a blanket and a bottle of wine, lay out and take in the open skies, and let nature do the rest.

There's a chance that the Moon might interfere with the meteors' visibility, according to Space.com. Leading up to its full state on October 24, the Moon will be in a waxing gibbous phase, becoming larger and brighter in the sky as the Orionids speed past Earth. Limiting light pollution where you can—such as by avoiding city lights—will help.

If clouds interfere with your Orionids experience, don't fret. There will be another meteor shower, the Leonids, in November, and the greatest of them all in December: the Geminids.

A version of this story appeared in 2017.

How the Hubble Space Telescope Helped the Fight Against Breast Cancer

NASA, Getty Images
NASA, Getty Images

The beauty of scientific research is that scientists never really know where a particular development might lead. Research on Gila monster venom has led to the invention of medication that helps manage type 2 diabetes, and enzymes discovered in the hot springs of Yellowstone National Park are now widely used for DNA replication, a technique used by forensic scientists to analyze crime scenes.

The same rule of thumb applies to NASA scientists, whose work has found dozens of applications outside of space exploration—especially in medicine.

Take the Hubble Space Telescope. Launched in 1990, the Hubble has graced us with stunning, intimate photographs of our solar system. But it wasn't always that way—when the telescope was launched, the first images beamed back to earth were awfully fuzzy. The image processing techniques NASA created to solve this problem not only sharpened Hubble's photos, but also had an unexpected benefit: Making mammograms more accurate.

As NASA reports, "When applied to mammograms, software techniques developed to increase the dynamic range and spatial resolution of Hubble's initially blurry images allowed doctors to spot smaller calcifications than they could before, leading to earlier detection and treatment."

That's because the Hubble Space Telescope contains a technology called Charge-Coupled Devices, or CCDs, which are basically electron-trapping gizmos capable of digitizing beams of light. Today, CCDs allow "doctors to analyze the tissue by stereotactic biopsy, which requires a needle rather than surgery," NASA says [PDF]. Back in 1994, NASA predicted that this advancement could reduce national health care costs by approximately $1 billion every year.

And that's just one of the tools NASA has developed that's now being used to fight breast cancer. When cancer researcher Dr. Susan Love was having trouble studying breast ducts—where breast cancer often originates—she turned to research coming out of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. As Rosalie Chan reports for the Daily Beast, the Jet Propulsion Lab has dedicated vast resources to avoiding the spread of earthly contaminants in space, and its research has included the development of a genomic sequencing technology that is "clean and able to analyze microscopic levels of biomass." As Dr. Love discovered, the same technology is a fantastic way to test for cancer-linked microorganisms in breast duct tissue.

A second technology developed at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory—the Quantum Well Infrared Photodetector, or QWIP—enables humans to see invisible infrared light in a spectrum of colors, helping scientists discover caves on Mars and study volcanic emissions here on Earth. But it's also useful at the doctor's office: A QWIP medical sensor can detect tiny changes in the breast's blood flow—a sign of cancer—extremely early.

And as any doctor will tell you, that's huge: The earlier cancer is detected, the greater a person's chance of survival.

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