A Friendly Total Lunar Eclipse FAQ


Early tomorrow morning (Wednesday, October 8th), about half of the earth's surface will be treated to a heck of a show courtesy of our moon and sun: a total lunar eclipse. To find out more about what this will entail and how you can watch it, we've listed some frequently asked lunar eclipse questions below.

What is a total lunar eclipse?
It's when a full moon is completely in the shadow of earth, meaning the sun, the earth, and the moon are in line, in that order.

'In that order'? How does that make sense in space, where there is no true frame of reference?
You know what I mean. What if I showed you a (fair use) diagram of what this looks like, would that help?


Wikimedia Commons

So there's going to be one tonight?
Well, technically early tomorrow morning, if you are in North America.

Will I be able to see it?
Depends. Are you in North America, Australia, or Western Asia? If so, then yes.

What's so special about this lunar eclipse?
It's the second of four straight total lunar eclipses (called a "lunar eclipse tetrad")—the last one happened in April. If you live in the eastern portion of the United States, the sun will be rising as the moon is setting, which will create what's known as a "selenelion" event. Because the sun and the moon are on exact opposite sides of the Earth during a total eclipse, you shouldn't be able to see the moon at the same time as the sun. But, due to our atmosphere, the light will refract and an image of the moon will briefly appear on the other side of the sky from the rising sun.


What time can I see the eclipse?
Depends. American skywatchers should consult this table, via For people on Eastern Standard Time, the moon enters penumbra (starts being eclipsed) at 4:15 a.m. (1:15am PST). The process continues from there, and it will climax for east coasters between 6:25 a.m. and 7:25 a.m.

What's it going to look like?
Something like this, although you should watch it for yourself in person:

What if I don't feel like craning my head up and would rather keep staring at my computer?
NASA will be live-streaming it here. They also have a good page with more general info on the eclipse.

Can I Instagram it?
Yes, you are allowed to Instagram it. Don't use a filter.

Will you like it?

Now You Can Train to Be an Astronaut on Your Smartphone

Just because you don't work for NASA doesn't mean you'll never make it as an astronaut. In the world of private space tourism, a little training could be all you need. And there's an app for that.

Space Nation, a Finnish space tourism startup, recently launched Space Nation Navigator, which the company touts as the first astronaut training app in the world. The app aims to train future space travelers using games, quizzes, and fitness challenges that fall into three categories: "body," "mind," and "social."

Each of the challenges is tailored to help you develop the skills you'd need to survive in space—even the mundane ones. One mission is called "Did you clean behind the fridge?" and is designed to highlight the unpleasant chores crew members on the ISS have to do to keep things tidy. There are "survival" quizzes that test your knowledge of how to properly build a fire, read a map, and dispose of your poop in the forest. The app also plugs into your smartphone fitness data so that you can participate in athletic challenges, like a 650-foot sprint designed to train you to escape a meteor impact zone.

Screenshots of the Space Nation Navigator app

"Space Nation Navigator offers a way for anyone, anywhere to have a 15-minute astronaut experience every day. These astronaut skills—team building, problem solving, positive life hacks—are not just vital to survive in space," Space Nation CEO Kalle Vähä-Jaakkola said in a press statement. "They are also crucial in your daily life."

New challenges are added to your queue every few hours, and you can compete against other users for high scores. If you get enough points, you can become eligible for real-life training experiences with Space Nation, including a trip to Iceland. In 2019, Space Nation plans to hold an international competition to find one astronaut that the program will send to space.

If you're going to start training, we suggest you take some of the tests Project Mercury applicants faced back in 1958 to see how you'd stack up against the first NASA astronauts.

Get it: iOS, Android

Big Questions
If Earth is Always Moving, Then How Do We See the Same Constellations Every Night?

Luis Medrano:

6700 mph is nothing in cosmological speeds and distances. Constellations are freakin’ far away.

Get in a car at night and drive on a straight road, then look at the moon. The angle of the moon in respect to your point of view doesn’t change; it seems like the moon is following you wherever you go. Meanwhile, things that are really close to you—like electric poles, roadside buildings, and trees—seem to fly by really fast.

The effect is known as parallax. Things that are close seem to move faster and “travel more distance” (not really) than things that are far away.

In the video above, there are several objects in perspective. The light in the center, which represents the sun, was placed so far away you can barely see it move.

The sun is only eight light-minutes away; that’s 146 million km on average. At human scale it seems like a lot, but in cosmic distances it is nothing. Orion, for example, has stars that are from 243 to 1360 light years away from us. Imagine traveling at the speed of light for 1360 years. That’s how far these stars are. And these are not even the farthest stars. Some stars are Giga-light years away from us.

Now, with the proper precision instruments you can indeed notice the parallax in distant stars, just not with the naked eye. Furthermore, our solar system has moved so much since the early days of astronomy and astrology, the constellations do not correspond to the early astrology maps. The constellations appear shifted.

As a free info nugget: In case your life is ruled by astrology, whatever sign you think you are, you are not.

This post originally appeared on Quora. Click here to view.


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