It's August and it's hot! If you're going to be out flying stay hydrated!
Who da man? Spaceman Spiff!
Fake News Strikes Again!
The last few days there has been a flurry of fake astronomy news. Nowadays pranksters seem to come out of the woodwork every
time there is a heavenly event. They love to deceive and spoof the unsuspecting.
Just in case you missed it there was a meme making the rounds on Facebook of the photo above. The meme proudly proclaimed,
"For the first time in 35,000 years Mars will appear as large as the moon!"
Those who know a little about astronomy know this will never happen but if it did, enjoying the view of such a sight would
be cause for extreme alarm and most likely one of the last sights you might ever see since Mars would have been forced from
its normal orbit by some major outside force.
I took the photo above from my front porch a few years ago. The recent eclipse was not visible from central Alabama this time.
In reality, on Friday, July 27th if you were in the right place you had an opportunity to witness what some have termed, a
"blood moon" during a total lunar eclipse. The phenomenon occurs when the full moon passes through the Earth's shadow.
What was special about this particular eclipse is that it changed the color of the moon to a mostly reddish color. Of course,
the obvious question here, is why does a total lunar eclipse like this cause the moon to appear red?
Well, the answer is not as mystical as you might think. A total lunar eclipse happens when the entire moon passes through
the Earth's shadow. During that time some sunlight still reaches the moon but first it goes through Earth's atmosphere. Our
atmosphere filters out most of the sun's blue light and that is the reason the moon looks red.
While the moon and Mars are similar in size due
to Mars' distance from the Earth, it appears to be smaller.
The photo above was taken on the night of the July 2018 eclipse, also from my front porch, and it shows the moon and Mars
as they actually appear when viewed together. Mars is the small orange disk on the lower right.
Right now Mars is as close as it ever gets and appears as large as it ever will to the naked eye. Due to it's orbit there
are times when Mars is much further away and as a result it appears much smaller than seen here.
the same time the "blood moon" was happening, Mars was approximately 35.9 million miles from us and in the midst of a celestial
event of its own. Currently, and for the rest of this year, Mars will be experiencing a planet wide dust storm.
On the left you can see Mars as it normally appears,
and on the right you can see the effects of this huge dust storm.
Smaller regional dust storms happen on a regular basis but a planet wide storm only occurs
every 6-8 years. Depending on the intensity of the storm Mars' apparent brightness may vary and many familiar surface features
normally visible may become obscured entirely. But fear not, as the storm subsides Mars will regain its normal appearance.
Of course, if you have read the book, you know what's really happening on Mars.
"I'm not saying it was Rocket Babe...
"...But it was Rocket Babe..."
We love Giorgio Tsoukalos! Catch him and the aliens on History Channel!"
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Above you see a rare photo of Dave Miller, appropriately dressed in black as owner of the clandestine black ops organization
known as Sirius Rocketry! What does he do in his spare time? He reads Rocket Babe, what else?
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Verna Starr Cestris Fighter!
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Martian Dust Storm = Curiosity Hibernation
With a huge dust storm covering Mars it's no wonder the Curiosity rover has gone into hibernation mode as it awaits clearer
skies. All the dust has caused a power reduction and poor conditions for exploration, so it's time to sleep for a bit.
But as we wait for the rover to get back to work I thought it would be a good time to see a few of Curiosity's curiosities.
Over the last few years there have been many photos taken as Curiosity explores the red planet and as you might imagine there
are a few images that defy explanation, like the one above. The object is clearly out of place for the geology and many scientists
believe it is metallic.
Since we can only speculate, to me the edges appear smooth and rounded as though it had been exposed to extreme heat at
some point. Perhaps it's a piece of a failed Russian or American probe that crashed years ago.
In this image I see what looks like a piece of corrugated metal that may have blown off a Martian chicken coop. Over all,
the area we can see looks like it might be another old debris field of some crashed space craft but many of the objects are
covered with dust so it's hard to tell what else may be just below the surface.
Ok, I'm open for suggestions on this one but again, whatever this is does not appear to be part of the natural landscape.
What could it be? An ornate screen door on a cave? A fossilized crab left when the sea evaporated? Evidently Martian crabs
have at least 8 legs. Try getting that at your local casino buffet.
I've spent quite a while pouring over thousands of Curiosity's photos but never saw anything that indicated there might be
life on Mars but perhaps one day we'll get back an image that will settle the question once and for all.
She'll go with you anywhere! Kevin, owner and moderator at the Alien Soup  sci-fi
forum, enjoys Rocket Babe - Dust Storm between innings at a recent ballgame!
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