SpaceX Rocket Returns to Shore After Historic Astronaut Launch

The December 2020 Great Conjunction

December 20, 2020

The year 2020 will end with a special astronomical event: the closest great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn in 397 years. On December 21, the two planets will almost touch in the sky.

Generally speaking, a conjunction is when two objects appear close to each other in the sky. A conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn—which only happens about once every 20 years—is called a great conjunction.

In the technical language of astronomers, there are a number of ways to define a conjunction. One way is to say it is the moment of minimum separation between two objects as viewed from the Earth. By this definition, the 2020 great conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn will occur at about 18:20 UTC on December 21.

Since September 2020, Jupiter has been moving closer and closer to Saturn in the early evening sky. Wherever you are in the world—even in light-polluted urban environments—the two planets are an impressive sight, and easy to find after sunset. If you're in the Northern Hemisphere, look toward the southwest. If you're in the Southern Hemisphere, look toward the west. Jupiter is the brighter of the pair.

As November begins, Jupiter and Saturn are five degrees apart, which is the width of your three middle fingers held at arm's length. (Another way to think about angular distances in the sky is to remember that the Moon's size is about half a degree.) At the start of December, the planets will be two degrees apart, and still moving closer together.

On December 21, the day of the conjunction, Jupiter and Saturn will be separated by a mere 0.1 degrees, and may appear as a single bright “star.” The two planets are completely merged together on our Night Sky Map for this date, although a careful observer should be able to separate them in the sky with the naked eye.

The pair of planets will become visible at twilight, close to the southwestern horizon in the Northern Hemisphere, or the western horizon in the Southern Hemisphere. They will set within a couple of hours or so, so it is important to have a clear view toward the horizon.

Jupiter and Saturn will continue to be an impressive sight in the early evenings following December 21. During January 2021, however, the two planets will become lost in the glare of the Sun.

As Jupiter and Saturn will rendezvous just a few days before Christmas, forming what will look like a single bright object in the sky, the 2020 great conjunction is sometimes also called the “Christmas star” or “Bethlehem star.”

In fact, some scholars have theorized that the original Christmas star, known as the Star of Bethlehem, might also have been a great conjunction. According to Christian lore, a bright light in the sky led the Three Wise Men to the location of Jesus's birth. Other theories aiming to explain this biblical phenomenon include a supernova explosion and a comet.

The December 21, 2020 conjunction will be the closest great conjunction since July 16, 1623. At the great conjunction of 1623, Jupiter and Saturn were slightly less than 0.1 degrees apart. However, this event would have been difficult—although not impossible—to observe since the two planets were near the Sun.

The last time that the two planets were easily observable when separated by less than 0.1 degrees was almost 800 years ago, during the great conjunction of 1226.



The only total solar eclipse of 2020 is coming up this Monday (Dec. 14) and here's how you can follow along with its phases.

The total solar eclipse, which is the last eclipse of 2020, will be visible to observers across a narrow swath of the South Pacific, Chile, Argentina and the southern Atlantic Ocean, while a partial eclipse will be visible from a wider region in the Pacific, southern South America and Antarctica.

Solar eclipses occur when the moon appears to pass in front the sun as viewed from Earth. When they line up exactly, the moon covers the entire sun and causes a total eclipse, while at other times it only covers part of the sun in a partial eclipse. There is not a solar eclipse every month because the moon's orbit is tilted with respect to the sun and does not always align with the star.

The partial phase eclipse will first begin at 8:33 a.m. EST (1333 GMT) and be visible to observers way out in the Pacific Ocean, thousands of miles off the southeast coast of the Hawaiian Islands. The total phase of the eclipse will first be visible almost an hour later at 9:32 a.m. EST (1432 GMT).

Maximum eclipse, or the moment of greatest eclipse where the eclipse has the longest totality (or time where the sun is covered by the moon), kicks off a couple of hours later at 11:13 a.m. EST (1613 GMT). The point of greatest eclipse will occur 18 miles (29 kilometers) northwest of the village and municipality Sierra Colorada in Argentina. The last observers with a chance.

Unfortunately, there are only a handful of locations where people will actually be able to catch the total solar eclipse. But there are still some places where skywatchers will be able to look up and (safely, without looking directly at it without eye protection), enjoy the eclipse. Warning: Never stare directly at the sun without proper safety glasses as severe eye damage can result (although observing during the brief totality phase can be done with care). Scientists use special filters on binoculars and telescopes to safely observe solar eclipses.

For example, in Cerro Bayo in Rio Negro, Argentina, the total solar eclipse will be visible — those in the region will have 1 minute and 53 seconds of totality and will be able to spot the total eclipse beginning at 1:10 p.m. local time and ending at 1:12 p.m., according to

Meanwhile, skywatchers in Villarrica,Chile will also be privy to the total solar eclipse with a whopping 2 minutes and 9 seconds of totality to look forward to. The total eclipse will begin at 1:02 p.m. local time and end at 1:04 p.m local time, according to

NASA reveals 'Artemis Team' astronauts, includes first woman, next man on moon

December 9, 2020

NASA has selected a group of astronauts to prepare for and possibly fly to the moon for the first time in more than 50 years.

NASA's newly-announced "Artemis Team" includes 18 men and women who will pave the way for the next human missions to orbit and land on the moon since the Apollo program ended in 1972. The cadre includes the first woman and next U.S. man to step foot on the moon, although specific mission assignments have yet to be made.

"It is really amazing to think that the next man and the first woman on the moon are among the names that we just read and they may be standing in the room right now," Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday (Dec. 9) at a meeting of the National Space Council at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. "I give you the heroes of the future who will carry us back to the moon and beyond."

As directed by the White House, NASA is working towards returning humans to the surface of the moon by 2024. The space agency's Artemis program, named for the twin sister of Apollo, is scheduled to begin sending robotic missions in 2021, followed by the launch of the Artemis II crew into lunar orbit in 2023.

NASA anticipates selecting the members of the Artemis II crew as early as 2021, and the crew for Artemis III, the first to land on the moon, later. Both missions would launch with four people, with two astronauts becoming the next astronauts to walk on the moon on Artemis III.

The 18 members of NASA's Artemis Team were chosen from the 47 astronauts currently active in the program. The group was selected for their diverse skillsets and backgrounds.

Half of the Artemis Team has previously flown into space — two of the members are currently aboard the International Space Station. The team includes members of five astronaut classes selected between 1996 and 2017.

The Arecibo Observatory radio telescope in Puerto Rico has collapsed

December 1, 2020

After two cable failures in the span of four months, Puerto Rico's most venerable astronomy facility, the Arecibo radio telescope, has collapsed in an uncontrolled structural failure.

The U.S. National Science Foundation (NSF), which owns the site, decided in November to proceed with decommissioning the telescope in response to the damage, which engineers deemed too severe to stabilize without risking lives. But the NSF needed time to come up with a plan for how to safely demolish the telescope in a controlled manner.

Instead, gravity did the job this morning (Dec. 1) at about 8 a.m. local time, according to reports from the area.

"NSF is saddened by this development," the agency wrote in a tweet. "As we move forward, we will be looking for ways to assist the scientific community and maintain our strong relationship with the people of Puerto Rico."

The NSF added that no injuries had been reported, that the top priority was to maintain safety and that more details would be provided when confirmed.

None of the three towers collapsed fully, which was one of NSF's key concerns about leaving the structure as it was. Martorell's image does appear to show some damage in the knot of buildings at the base of one of the support towers, which includes administrative buildings and a public visitor's center, although the buildings are still standing.

In an interview with local television station Noticentro, Jonathan Friedman, a physicist who works at Arecibo Observatory and lives nearby, said that he heard a loud rumble that he compared to a train or an avalanche — or to the earthquakes that plagued Puerto Rico in January. Friedman also confirmed that only the tips of the supporting towers broke off, as Martorell's image suggested.

Since the first cable failure in August, Arecibo Observatory has enforced a safety zone at the facility, although its size changed as damage was incurred and evaluated, Ralph Gaume, director of NSF's Division of Astronomical Sciences, said during a news conference held on Nov. 19, at which the NSF announced its decision to decommission the telescope.

In addition to the telescope, Arecibo Observatory also includes a LIDAR instrument that scientists use to study the area where Earth's atmosphere and space meet. When the NSF announced that it would decommission the telescope, officials emphasized that a key priority was ensuring Arecibo Observatory as a larger facility would continue

The Nov. 29-30 penumbral lunar eclipse will be a minor moon event

A Beaver Full Moon lunar eclipse occurs Monday. Here's what to expect.

November 29, 2020

Early on Monday morning (Nov. 30), careful skywatchers across all of North America can watch the full moon undergo a slight penumbral eclipse.

The moon will take 4 hours and 21 minutes to glide across the pale outer fringe (penumbra) of Earth's shadow, never reaching the shadow's dark umbra. However, penumbral lunar eclipses are rather subtle events which are usually difficult for most people to detect unless at least 70% of the moon's diameter is immersed within it.

In this particular case the November full moon, known as a Beaver moon, is going to pass rather deep into the penumbra. In fact, at the moment of the deepest phase/greatest eclipse (09:42 UT) the penumbra will cover 82.9% of the lunar disk. Put another way, the uppermost limb of the moon will be 566 miles (911 kilometers) away from the unseen edge of the much darker umbral shadow of the Earth.

About 20 minutes prior to the deepest phase of the eclipse, you might see some evidence of this faint penumbral shading on the moon's upper edge. This corresponds to around 4:22 a.m. EST (0922 GMT); 3:22 a.m. CST; 2:22 a.m. MT and 1:22 a.m. PST. About 70% of the moon's diameter will be immersed in the penumbra, so any unusual shading on the upper part of the moon should — in theory — be detectable. Some might even detect lesser traces of penumbral shading for some minutes beforehand.

After about 20 minutes, we will arrive at the deepest and most obvious part of the eclipse; the moon’s upper limb should appear sensibly shaded with a light charcoal gray or brownish colored hue.

After the deepest phase has passed, you might be able to perceive a slight darkening or "smudginess" on the moon’s right edge for around 20 additional minutes. So, while the moon will be inside the penumbral shadow for over 260 minutes, most will probably only be aware of it for only about 40 minutes.

It might be easier to understand why the penumbral shadow of Earth is so faint, by imagining actually being on the moon when Monday's event takes place.

An astronaut on the moon during this time will see an eclipse of the sun, but it would all depend on where on the moon our hypothetical moonwalker is located. As seen from the Tycho crater, the famous brilliant lunar impact crater whose rays make it appear like a sunflower on the southern part of the moon, the Earth's silhouette will appear to only take a tiny nick off of the top of the sun; hardly enough to cause any noticeable diminishing of light on the surrounding lunar landscape. That’s why the lower part of the full moon will appear to shine normally.

In contrast, near the moon's upper limb is the region known as Mare Frigoris — the "Sea of Cold." From here, the Earth will appear to cover more than eight-tenths of the sun's diameter; consequently, the brilliant solar illumination of the surrounding lunar landscape will turn considerably more somber.

And this diminished effect of the glare and illumination of sunlight on the moon's surface is precisely what those of us in North America will be trying to detect during the deepest phase of the eclipse, when concentrating their gaze toward the upper rim of the moon early on Monday morning.


China launches historic Chang'e 5 mission to collect the first moon samples since 1976

November 24, 2020

China's robotic Chang'e 5 mission launched today (Nov. 23) from Wenchang Space Launch Center in Hainan province, rising into the sky atop a Long March 5 rocket at about 3:30 p.m. EST (2130 GMT; 4:30 a.m. on Nov. 24 local time in Hainan).

If all goes according to plan, the bold and complex Chang'e 5 will haul pristine moon samples back to Earth in mid-December — something that hasn't been done since the Soviet Union's Luna 24 mission in 1976.

Chang'e 5's short mission will be action-packed. The 18,100-lb. (8,200 kilograms) spacecraft will likely arrive in lunar orbit around Nov. 28, then send two of its four modules — a lander and an ascent vehicle — to the lunar surface a day or so later. (Chinese officials have been characteristically vague about Chang'e 5's details, so timeline information has been pieced together from various sources by China space watchers like Space News' Andrew Jones, who also provides articles for

The mission will land in the Mons Rumker area of the huge volcanic plain Oceanus Procellarum ("Ocean of Storms"), portions of which have been explored by a number of other surface missions, including NASA's Apollo 12 in 1969.

The stationary lander will study its environs with cameras, ground-penetrating radar and a spectrometer. But its main job is to snag about 4.4 lbs. (2 kg) of lunar material, some of which will be dug from up to 6.5 feet (2 meters) underground. This work will be done over the course of two weeks, or one lunar day — a firm deadline, given that the Chang'e 5 lander is solar-powered and won't be able to operate once night falls at its location.

Mons Rumker harbors rocks that formed just 1.2 billion years ago, meaning that Chang'e 5 "will help scientists understand what was happening late in the moon's history, as well as how Earth and the solar system evolved," as the nonprofit Planetary Society noted its description of the mission. (The 842 lbs., or 382 kg, of moon rocks brought home by the Apollo astronauts between 1969 and 1972 are considerably older, providing a window in the deeper lunar past.)

The Chang'e 5 lander will transfer its samples to the ascent vehicle, which will launch them to lunar orbit for a meetup with the other two mission elements, a service module and an attached Earth-return capsule. The moon material will be loaded into the return capsule, which the service module will haul back toward Earth, releasing it shortly before a touchdown scheduled for Dec. 16 or Dec. 17.

"Whereas human-rated vehicles like NASA's Apollo capsule relied solely on strong heat shielding, Chang'e 5 will perform a 'skip reentry,' bouncing off the atmosphere once to slow down before plummeting to a landing in Inner Mongolia," the Planetary Society wrote. "The landing site is the same used for [China's] returning crewed Shenzhou spacecraft."

Chang'e 5, China's first-ever sample-return effort, is the sixth and most ambitious mission in the Chang'e program of robotic lunar exploration, which is named after a moon goddess in Chinese mythology. China launched the Chang'e 1 and Chang'e 2 orbiters in 2007 and 2010, respectively, and the Chang'e 3 lander-rover duo touched down on the moon's near side in December 2013.

The Chang'e 5T1 mission launched a prototype return capsule on an eight-day trip around the moon in October 2014, to help prepare for Chang'e 5. And in January 2019, Chang'e 4 became the first mission ever to ace a soft landing on the moon's mysterious far side. Chang'e 4's lander and rover are still going strong, as is the Chang'e 3 lander. (The Chang'e 3 rover died after 31 months of work on the lunar surface.)


Arecibo Observatory, PR

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will decommission Arecibo Observatory's massive radio dish after damage has made the facility too dangerous to repair

November 19, 2020

The National Science Foundation (NSF) will decommission Arecibo Observatory's massive radio dish after damage has made the facility too dangerous to repair, the agency announced today.

The announcement came as scientists awaited a verdict about the fate of the iconic observatory after damage to the complex cabling supporting a 900-ton science platform suspended over the dish. In August, a cable slipped out of its socket, but engineers evaluating the situation deemed it stable; earlier this month, a second cable unexpectedly snapped, leaving Arecibo's fate much more perilous. After considering three separate engineering reports, the NSF, which owns the property, has decided the facility is unstable enough that there is no way to repair the damage that does not put personnel at undue risk.

"Our goal has been to find a way to preserve the telescope without placing anyone's safety at risk," Sean Jones, assistant director for the Mathematical and Physical Sciences Directorate at the NSF, said in a news conference today. "However, after receiving and reviewing the engineering assessments, we have found no path forward that would allow us to do so safely. And we know that a delay in decision making leaves the entire facility at risk of an uncontrolled collapse, unnecessarily jeopardizing people and also the additional facilities."

"The telescope is currently at serious risk of an unexpected, uncontrolled collapse," Ralph Gaume, director of NSF's Division of Astronomical Sciences, said. "According to engineering assessments, even attempts of stabilization or testing the cables could result in accelerating the catastrophic failure. Engineers cannot tell us the safety margin of the structure, but they have advised NSF that the structure will collapse in the near future on its own."

Although NSF is the agency most closely tied to the facility, NASA currently provides about one-third of the observatory's operating costs to fund planetary radar observations, particularly of near-Earth asteroids. "While NASA was not directly involved in the investigation of what led to the observatory’s damage in August, the NSF communicated with stakeholders, including NASA, as their investigation proceeded," NASA representatives wrote in a statement. "NASA respects the National Science Foundation’s decision to put the safety of those who work, visit, and study at the historic observatory above all else."

"This decision has nothing to do with the scientific merits of Arecibo Observatory," Gaume said. "That is not a consideration. It's all about safety."

Guame added that the agency will work with scientists who had been planning to use the Arecibo telescope and its other facilities in order to relocate those planned research projects wherever possible. However, the facility was unique, particularly in its radar capability, which was heavily used to study near-Earth asteroids and other solar system objects.

"Some of the Arecibo science will transfer; some of it will not," Gaume said.

The officials also emphasized that if they can manage to decommission the telescope in a controlled manner, the other assets at Arecibo Observatory — primarily, the visitor center, an atmospheric science instrument on-site, and a second atmospheric tool on the neighboring island of Culebra — should survive.

Both of the failed cables on Arecibo were connected to the same support tower. An engineering analysis completed after the second cable failed in November found that if one more cable on that tower, dubbed Tower 4, failed, the platform would collapse into the dish and likely cause the towers to topple. And because the cable support system is already so fragile, the engineers didn't see any way to safely evaluate the situation in more detail, much less stabilize it.

"What we're challenged with is a structure for which we don't understand the safety margins, the engineering approaches to better understand the safety margins involve considerable risk, and the engineering approach to repair the structure appears to be highly unsafe."

That means the situation is volatile enough that the NSF can't guarantee the telescope will be decommissioned in a controlled manner. Gaume and Ashley Zauderer, the program director for Arecibo Observatory at the NSF, said that the agency has hired engineers to develop a plan for a controlled decommissioning. Creating that plan and gathering the necessary approvals for it will take multiple weeks, they added.

The officials also declined to provide an idea of what that strategy would look like, although they mentioned the potential for helicopters or explosives to be considered.

In conjunction with the news conference, the NSF provided an engineering report from the firm leading the analysis of Arecibo Telescope after the second failure, which offers little more detail about the facility's fate.

"We believe the structure will collapse in the near future if left untouched," John Abruzzo, managing principal of Thornton Tomasetti, wrote. "Controlled demolition, designed with a specific collapse sequence determined and implemented with the use of explosives, will reduce the uncertainty and danger associated with collapse."

The severity of the situation stems from both the fact that two cables have already failed, and the way three separate engineering consultants were caught off-guard by the second failure. "The three expert companies that we brought in didn't provide any input or any inkling that there was an issue," Gaume said of the main cables after the August failure.

The NSF officials said that right now, their priority is focused on safely decommissioning the radio dish and protecting as much of the other facilities on-site as possible. But they did emphasize that they are not decommissioning Arecibo Observatory as a whole, that they recognize the facility's importance in Puerto Rico, and that in the long term, they want to ensure the future of the site and the science that it has fostered for decades.

NASA celebrates arrival at space station of SpaceX's 1st 4-astronaut mission

November 17, 2020

Crew-1, SpaceX's first operational mission to the International Station Station (ISS) for NASA, arrived at the orbiting lab late Monday night (Nov. 16), 27 hours after launching from Kennedy Space Center in Florida atop a Falcon 9 rocket.

About two hours after the Crew Dragon capsule "Resilience" docked with the station, NASA astronauts Victor Glover, Mike Hopkins and Shannon Walker and Japan's Soichi Noguchi floated from the private craft into the ISS, beginning their six-month stay on the orbiting lab.

That moment meant a lot to NASA, whose Commercial Crew Program began nurturing the development of private astronaut taxis way back in 2010. The goal was to fill the crew-carrying shoes of the agency's space shuttle fleet, which was grounded in 2011, leaving Russian Soyuz spacecraft as the only ride to and from orbit available to astronauts.

In 2014, the Commercial Crew Program inked multibillion-dollar contracts with SpaceX and Boeing to finish work on their vehicles and fly at least six crewed missions to and from the station apiece. Crew-1 is the first of those contracted flights to lift off, and its crewmembers have now made it safely onto the orbiting lab.

"This mission was a dream," NASA human spaceflight chief Kathy Lueders said during a news conference early Tuesday morning (Nov. 17). "It was a dream of us to be able to one day … have crew transportation services to the International Space Station. And today that dream became a reality.

That era will include crewed missions by Boeing, but the aerospace giant's CST-100 Starliner capsule isn't ready to carry astronauts just yet. Starliner must first refly an uncrewed test flight to the station, after failing to meet up with the ISS during a December 2019 attempt. That second try is scheduled to launch early next year.

SpaceX now has two crewed flights to the ISS under its belt. The first, the Demo-2 test mission, carried NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the station for a two-month stay this past summer. Demo-2's success paved the way for Crew-1 and other operational flights.

"Huge shoutouts to the NASA and SpaceX teams — excellent job; many hard years of work," Ven Feng, deputy manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program, said during Tuesday morning's news conference. "And we're looking forward to making this a very successful first operational mission, and many more to follow."

The Crew-1 astronauts joined three other spaceflyers already aboard the ISS — NASA astronaut Kate Rubins and cosmonauts Sergey Kud-Sverchkov and Sergey Ryzhikov, the latter of whom commands the station's current Expedition 64 mission.

Watch: NASA celebrates arrival at space station of SpaceX's 1st 4-astronaut mission

November 15, 2020


Four astronauts are scheduled to launch to the International Space Station on Sunday (Nov. 15) for the first operational commercial crew flight of SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft, a mission called Crew-1.

Here are mini-biographies of each of the people climbing onto the SpaceX Crew Dragon spaceship.

Hopkins (who is also a colonel in the U.S. Air Force) was selected as an astronaut in 2009. His first mission in space was Expedition 37/38 from 2013-14. He has spent 166 days in space and accumulated 12 hours and 58 minutes of spacewalking experience, according to NASA.

Prior to NASA, Hopkins tested advanced space system technologies and several aircraft (C-17 and C-30 airplanes, for example). His duties and education took him to locations such as Cold Lake, Alberta and Parma, Italy. In the year before NASA picked him as an astronaut, Hopkins served as special assistant to the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Hopkins participated in the "Train Like an Astronaut" campaign prior to and during his first flight, where NASA and Hopkins together demonstrated astronaut fitness to the public. "Fitness has something I've been very passionate about my whole life," Hopkins told in 2013, prior to his flight.

"It's just been a part of my daily routine, if you will. I'm hoping i can encourage kids, even adults, people of all ages to get out and exercise and at the same time, if we can pique their interest in spaceflight as well, that's a double bonus there."

Glover, who is also a commander in the U.S. Navy, was selected as an astronaut in 2013. One of the most memorable parts of his selection process he spoke about was composing a limerick, which he used to joke about medical procedures that astronauts must undergo for spaceflight. (Sample lines: "This is all dizzying to me / Because I gave so much blood and pee.")



Weird Green Glow Spotted in Atmosphere of Mars

June 15, 2020

The atmosphere of Mars has a distinct green glow, just like Earth's.

The European Space Agency's Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO) spotted an emerald glow in Mars' wispy atmosphere, marking the first time the phenomenon has been spotted on a world beyond Earth, a new study reports.

"One of the brightest emissions seen on Earth stems from night glow. More specifically, from oxygen atoms emitting a particular wavelength of light that has never been seen around another planet," study lead author Jean-Claude Gérard, of the Université de Liège in Belgium, said in a statement.

"However, this emission has been predicted to exist at Mars for around 40 years — and, thanks to TGO, we’ve found it," Gérard said.

As Gérard noted, the green emission is characteristic of oxygen. Skywatchers at high latitudes here on Earth can see this signature in the ethereal, multicolored displays known as the auroras, which are generated by charged particles from the sun slamming into molecules high up in the atmosphere.

But night glow is different. It's caused by the interaction of sunlight with atoms and molecules in the air, which generates a subtle but continuous light. This emission is hard to see, even here on Earth; observers often need an edge-on perspective to make it out, which is why some of the best images of our planet's green night glow come courtesy of astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Day glow, the diurnal component of this constant emission, is even harder to spot. And it's driven by a slightly different mechanism.


How to Watch This Friday's Penumbral Lunar Eclipse

June 3, 2020

The eclipse occurs on June 5 from 17:45 Universal Time (UT) to 21:04 UT, and is visible from Europe and Africa eastward to Asia and Australia. Maximum eclipse occurs at 19:26 UT, with the Moon 59 percent immersed in the umbral shadow of the Earth.

The entire duration of the eclipse is 3 hours 18 minutes and 13 seconds.

Brazil, western Africa and most of Europe will see the eclipse underway at moonrise Friday night, while the remainder of Africa and most of Asia see the entirety of the eclipse. Northeast Asia and New Zealand see the eclipse end towards moonset and dawn.

Only North America misses out on the eclipse entirely.

Unlike the dramatic reddening of the Moon seen during totality when the Moon slides through the inner dark umbra of the Earth's shadow, penumbral eclipses are subtle affairs.


SpaceX Rocket Returns to Shore After Historic Astronaut Launch

June 3, 2020

The rocket that launched SpaceX's first-ever crewed mission has returned to terra firma.

That mission, called Demo-2, lifted off atop a two-stage Falcon 9 rocket on Saturday (May 30) from NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida, sending NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley toward the International Space Station (ISS) aboard a Crew Dragon capsule.

About 9 minutes after liftoff, the Falcon 9 first stage aced a pinpoint landing on the SpaceX drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You," which was stationed a few hundred miles off the Florida coast. The ship soon started heading back toward shore, and on Tuesday (June 2) its sea voyage came to an end: "Of Course I Still Love You," with the rocket secured to its deck, arrived at Florida's Port Canaveral, SpaceX announced via Twitter.

SpaceX commonly refurbishes and reflies Falcon 9 first stages, as well as the first stages of the company's Falcon Heavy megarocket. Such reuse is a key priority of SpaceX founder and CEO Elon Musk, who wants to cut the cost of spaceflight dramatically enough to enable a variety of ambitious exploration feats — especially the colonization of Mars. (The one-engine Falcon 9 second stage remains expendable at the moment, but it's not nearly as expensive as the nine-engine first stage.)

We perhaps cannot assume that this particular booster will fly again, however. SpaceX had not announced its fate as of the time of this writing, and it's possible the company might want to preserve it as a historic artifact. The first Falcon 9 first stage that ever landed successfully, for example, now stands outside SpaceX's headquarters in Hawthorne, California.