Red Sun, Red Moon

red Moon
Amateur astronomer and astrophotographer Bill Funcheon captured this photo of the red Moon over New Jersey on July 20, 2021. Image via space.com

Americans all across the country have been noticing (and posting photos) the strange colors in both the daytime and nighttime skies.

The Sun and the Moon have been a stronger orange or even blood red. Skies have been a hazy gray. I associate the latter with hot, humid weather and air pollution. grayed with haze.

The sky, Sun, and Moon can appear to have different colors for several reasons – mostly atmospheric. The current redness is caused by the ongoing wildfires on the West Coast. The Bootleg wildfire in Oregon is the biggest contributor this week

Here in Paradelle, thousands of miles from that fire, smoke from this extreme wildfire has arrived. The fire began on July 6. It has already burned 364,000 acres. The jetstream carries it eastward and the Northeast has seen it. Sometimes, I imagine I can smell it, though it might be something more local as the smoke is high in the atmosphere by now.

Firey sunset. The sun sets in the smoky sky
Image via Flickr

The red Sun is caused by smoke particles filling the atmosphere. The longer wavelengths of light appear red and scatter more due to the particles in the air. Seen through clean air molecules, shorter wavelengths of light, which appear to us as blue light, are more effectively scattered.

The Moon and Sleep

moon meadow bed
Image by Myriams-Fotos from Pixabay

A new study found people get less rest in the days leading up to a full moon. have you noticed that yourself?

Researchers looked at the sleep patterns of hundreds of people over a lunar cycle and what they found was that people had later bedtimes and got the least amount of sleep during the three to five days before a full moon.

I’m monitoring my sleep every night anyway, so I’m going to look at my sleep from last night through the Full Moon on Saturday.

If my sleep or sleep matches those in the sleep study, it will take about 30 minutes longer to fall asleep. You may also find that you slept for about 50 minutes less than usual.

As of now, we don’t know the reason behind the trend. Does it sound like some old Moon lore? Modern studies have shown that menstrual cycles seem to temporarily synchronize with moon cycles.

Throughout history, we have made connections from the changing faces of the moon to our lives though some lore about the moon’s phases, such as a Full Moon inciting werewolves, is easy to dismiss.

More about the newest study at “It’s not just the pandemic. The moon may be messing with your sleep, too” What’s different about this study is that it wasn’t done in sleep labs but in real life. To track sleep, participants were outfitted with wrist monitors not so different from the one I wear on my wrist day and night.

Let’s see what I find this week before the Full Moon.

Earth Had a New Moon

I’m not writing here about the monthly New Moon phase that will appear this Sunday. I’m talking about a news item that didn’t get a lot of attention.

It seems that Earth acquired a second “mini-moon.” It’s not very big – about the size of a small car. Astronomers spotted it circling our planet back in February.

Researchers Kacper Wierzchos and Teddy Pruyne at the NASA-funded Catalina Sky Survey in Arizona. They say that Earth has “temporarily captured” this object which is a “possible mini-moon called 2020 CD3,” and likely to be a C-type asteroid.

Any Near-Earth Object (NEO) that follows an Earth-like orbit may eventually be captured by Earth’s gravity during low-velocity encounters. This is just the second asteroid known to orbit Earth (2006 RH120 was first). Its route suggests it entered Earth’s orbit three years ago.

new moon
Okay, it doesn’t look so impressive in this International Gemini Observatory image. This is 2020 CD3.

The Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory’s Minor Planet Center collects data on minor planets and asteroids says it is likely an asteroid captured by Earth’s gravity.

Our “new moon” is not in a stable orbit around us and so it didn’t stay long enough to get really established in our imagination. I don’t imagine there will be many poems written about it. (What rhymes smoothly with 2020 CD3?) It orbited Earth like a tiny natural satellite. It seems like Asteroid 2020 CD3 has now gone back into orbit around the sun, so it is tailing us on our annual journey around the Sun after about a year of travel around Earth.

Farewell, 2020 CD3. Have a good journey.

International Observe the Moon Night

Tonight – October 5 – is the 10th annual International Observe the Moon Night. One day each year, everyone on Earth is invited to observe and learn about the Moon together, and to celebrate the cultural and personal connections we all have with our nearest celestial neighbor.

This year is particularly special as it marks the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. NASA is also looking forward to their Artemis program, which will send the first woman and the next man to the Moon.

An important part of observing the Moon is to see how it changes over time. Readers of this blog know I pay a lot of attention to the Moon and its phases.  NASA even offers a Moon journal that you can watch the shape of the Moon changing over the course of a month, and keep track of where and what time it rises and sets.

If you choose to celebrate International Observe the Moon Night, you can register your participation and share your experiences on social media with #ObserveTheMoon or on NASA’s Facebook page.

That’s No Star

Tonight, July 20, that bright “star” near the moon is no star. It is Jupiter.

Jupiter is shining more brightly than any star now (though Mars is even brighter). The moon and Jupiter are particularly close tonight and during this weekend.

Venus and Mars are the other starlike objects that outshine Jupiter in the evening sky, but you can tell the difference. Venus is in the western sky as darkness falls. Mars is in the southeast horizon at nightfall.  Jupiter will be near the moon for this weekend.

The Moon, Jupiter and Spica

This past Memorial Day Weekend, we had some clear skies and some rainy ones. On one clear evening in Paradelle I was able to see a very bright “star” near the moon. It looks like a star, but it is Jupiter.

Venus sets in the west not too long after the sun sets, and the Moon and Jupiter were the two brightest objects in the sky.

I knew to look for a fainter true star. It is fainter but still one of the brightest stars, even in the moon’s glare. This is Spica. It is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo the Maiden. I’m not very knowledgeable about the zodiac, but I know it is a key star in that study.

Spica is a first-magnitude star, but it appears much fainter than Jupiter. That is because Jupiter is relatively close (or at least nearer)to Earth. This is what draws me to gazing at the night sky is my semi-knowledgeable way: the idea that Spica is about 262 light-years away, and I am looking at its light.

The universe makes me think about the original meanings of words like WONDERful and AWEsome.

Spica is the easiest star to spot in Virgo. There is a saying to find Spica you can “follow the arc of the Big Dipper to Arcturus and speed on to Spica.” But that probably doesn’t make it any easier for the average Earthling to find because most people know very little about the night sky.

Besides Spica, other bright stars in Virgo include many I had never heard of: β Virginis (Zavijava), γ Virginis (Porrima), δ Virginis (Auva) and ε Virginis (Vindemiatrix). Other fainter stars that were also given names are ζ Virginis (Heze), η Virginis (Zaniah), ι Virginis (Syrma) and μ Virginis (Rijl al Awwa).

Again, the wonder and awe of all this is discovering that one of the stars, 70 Virginis, has one of the first known extrasolar planetary systems and it contains a confirmed planet 7.5 times the mass of Jupiter. I can’t even really grasp the size of my own Earth. And the star Chi Virginis has one of the most massive planets ever detected, at a mass of 11.1 times that of Jupiter. And there are 35 verified exoplanets orbiting 29 stars in Virgo.

All this makes me feel like such a small part of the universe. But i also makes me feel part of the universe.

 

This first appeared on One-Page Schoolhouse