09/21/2014

Autumn Officially Begins Tomorrow Night

Although it's been feeling a lot like fall for a while now, autumn officially arrives tomorrow night!

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The astronomical start to the fall season arrives at precisely 10:29 pm ET on Monday September 22nd with the Autumnal Equinox, also known as the Fall Equinox.

 

But what occurs at that exact moment to mark the new season?

The word equinox comes from the Latin words for "equal night." The fall and spring equinoxes are the only days of the year in which the Sun crosses the celestial equator.  

The equinox occurs on the moment  that the sun's most direct rays move from the Northern Hemisphere and into the Southern Hemisphere.  It is at that moment that the sun's rays are pointed directly over the equator.

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You see, the earth revolves with a constant 23 1/2° tilt with respect to the alignment of the poles with the orbiting plane around the sun.  

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As the earth travels around the sun, the sun's most direct rays shifts across the face of the earth.  

It is during the spring and summer months that these direct rays of the sun are pointed towards the Northern Hemisphere and away from the Southern Hemisphere (their cold season).  

By September these direct rays shift to the south, and on the Fall Equinox, tomorrow, align themselves along the equator as the entire planet experiences nearly equal parts day and night.

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The shift away from the sun will continue for the Northern Hemisphere until the start of winter during the Winter Solstice on December 21st, also the shortest day of the year.  

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By the time winter arrives we will experience only about 9 and a half hours of daylight and around 14 and a half hours of darkness!  

So why aren't there exactly 12 hours of daylight and darkness on the equinox?  

On the equinoxes, the very center of the Sun sets exactly 12 hours after it rises. But the day actually begins when the upper edge of the Sun reaches the horizon (sunrise), and it doesn't end until the entire Sun has set.

In addition, there's a little known fact that the Sun is actually visible (briefly) when it is below the horizon.  The Earth's atmosphere refracts the Sun's rays and bends them in an arc over the horizon. For more on that Click here to learn how our atmosphere bends light.

 

Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell

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Stunning Red Lunar Eclipse Will Be Visible Across USA...

On Wednesday morning, Oct. 8th, not long before sunrise, the bright full Moon over North America will turn a lovely shade of celestial red.  It's a lunar eclipse—visible from all parts of the USA.

"It promises to be a stunning sight, even from the most light polluted cities," says NASA's longtime eclipse expert Fred Espenak. "I encourage everyone, especially families with curious children, to go out and enjoy the event."

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From the east coast of North America, totality begins at 6:25 am EDT.  The Moon will be hanging low over the western horizon, probably swollen by the famous Moon illusion into a seemingly-giant red orb, briefly visible before daybreak. West-coast observers are even better positioned. The Moon will be high in the sky as totality slowly plays out between 3:25 am and 4:24 am PDT.

During a lunar eclipse, the Moon passes deep inside the shadow of our planet, a location that bathes the the face of the Moon in a coppery light.

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A quick trip to the Moon explains the color: Imagine yourself standing on a dusty lunar plain looking up at the sky. Overhead hangs Earth, nightside down, completely hiding the sun behind it. The eclipse is underway.

You might expect Earth seen in this way to be utterly dark, but it's not. The rim of the planet is on fire! As you scan your eye around Earth's circumference, you're seeing every sunrise and every sunset in the world, all of them, all at once. This incredible light beams into the heart of Earth's shadow, filling it with a coppery glow and transforming the Moon into a great red orb.

However, red is not the only color.  Many observers of lunar eclipses also report seeing a band of turquoise. 

The source of the turquoise is ozone. Atmospheric scientist Richard Keen of the University of Colorado explains: "During a lunar eclipse, most of the light illuminating the moon passes through the stratosphere where it is reddened by scattering. However, light passing through the upper stratosphere penetrates the ozone layer, which absorbs red light and actually makes the passing light ray bluer." This can be seen, he says, as a soft blue fringe around the red core of Earth's shadow.

To catch the turquoise on Oct. 8th, he advises, "look during the first and last minutes of totality. The turquoise rim is best seen in binoculars or a small telescope."

The depth and hue of lunar eclipse colors depends a lot on the dustiness of the stratosphere.  When volcanoes erupt and chock the stratosphere with aerosols, lunar eclipses can turn such a deep red that the Moon looks almost black.  That's not the case this time, however:

"Despite some recent eruptions that look spectacular from the ground, there have been no large injections of volcanic gases into the stratosphere," says Keen. "In the absence of volcanic effects, I expect a rather normal reddish-orange lunar eclipse similar in appearance to last April's eclipse."

In other words, this is going to be good.

Espenak notes that "the total lunar eclipse of Oct. 8 is the second of four consecutive total lunar eclipses. Such a set of total eclipses is known as a tetrad." The next eclipse in the tetrad is six months from now, in April 2015. 

"Don't wait," he urges. Mark your calendar for October 8th, wake up early, and enjoy the show.

Credits:

Author: Dr. Tony Phillips |  Production editor: Dr. Tony Phillips | Credit: Science@NASA

 

 

-Rick DeLuca

 

Rick

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09/20/2014

Cold front arrives with small rain chances Sunday.

Following an appropriately warm final weekend of summer, the arrival of a pair of cold fronts will usher in much cooler conditions as we head into the new work week.  

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The first front is currently moving into Central Indiana where it is producing scattered showers and a few storms.  

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This front will bring rain chances to our area as well, but because of timing, it looks like those chances will be pretty slim. 

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Let's time it out with AdvanceTrak...

AT shows a broken line of showers moving into portions of Southern Indiana early in the morning.

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This line struggles to hold together as it crosses the Ohio River around daybreak.  

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 Stray showers push into Eastern/Southern Kentucky during the morning hours.  

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 Sunshine returns during the afternoon with seasonably warm temps.

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Secondary front could bring a few sprinkles into our Southern Indiana Counties during the evening hours.

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Overall, it looks like an enjoyable finish to the weekend.  

Temps will run about 15 to 20 degrees cooler on Monday.

Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell

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Discussing Weekend Rain Chances...

The last weekend of summer is here and it will sure feel like it! Southerly breezes bring along a bit of humidity and highs in the mid 80's. If you have any outdoor plans today, it looks mainly dry but a sneaky shower is possible in a couple spots. Clouds spill in during the evening hours as a cold front drives into the Ohio Valley...

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It will run out of gas by the time it gets here meaning showers and storms are only possible for some. Many spots will miss out on the rain, and this is the only chance we have for the next week. Let’s take a look at future radar to get a rough idea of the exact timing. A handful of weakening storms will enter Southern Indiana around 10-12 pm. They will slide southeast and fade way as we get closer to sunrise...

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Clouds and showers will be possible Sunday morning as the cold front slides through. It will be drier and brighter by the afternoon as the rain exits and sunrise returns. Cooler air moves back in for the official start to the fall season. Dress for a chilly morning on Monday as lows dip into the 50’s and 40’s. Despite a good deal of sun, highs will only make it into the 60’s and low 70’s by the afternoon.

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Enjoy the weekend!

 

-Rick DeLuca

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09/19/2014

Image Of The Day: The Black Dragonfish

Idiacanthus atlanticus, more commonly known as the black dragonfish, belongs to the Stomiidae family. They are found circumglobally in southern subtropical and temperate oceans between latitudes 25°S and 60°S, at depths down to 2,000 metres (6,600 ft). As with many deep sea creatures, these bioluminescent fish have photophores that can produce light. Length can be  up to 53 centimetres (21 in) for the female, but only 5 centimetres (2.0 in) for the male.

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Image Courtesy: Wiki

Another difference between males and females (aside from size) is that they look remarkably different from each other. Females have barbels on their chin and fang-like teeth. Males do not have either one of those features, and they also lack a functional digestive system! Due to a lack of nutrition, male black dragonfish only live long enough to mate.

 

-Rick DeLuca

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Weather Blog: Megalodon Is A Mega Shark

From Jude Redfield...

    I saw this photo on twitter today submitted by Earth Pics. Megalodon is a giant shark that once existed. (Some debate that a few still exist today)  This is a drawing of what it would look like if you encountered one.  Read below for the top 10 facts about this creature and watch the Discovery channel video below of what they say might prove it is still out there.

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1. Megalodon's teeth were about 7 inches long...

Megalodon didn't earn its name ("giant tooth") for nothing. The teeth of this prehistoric shark were over half a foot long, serrated, and heart-shaped (by comparison, the biggest teeth of a Great White Shark are only about three inches long). You have to go back 65 million years--to none other than Tyrannosaurus Rex--to find a creature with consistently bigger choppers, though the canines of some saber-toothed cats also measured up.

2. ...and were once described as "tongue stones."

Because sharks are constantly shedding their teeth--thousands and thousands over the course of a lifetime--Megalodon teeth have been found all over the world, from antiquity to modern times. It was only in the 17th century that a court physician named Nicholas Steno identified peasants' prized "tongue stones" as shark teeth; for this reason, some experts describe Steno as the world's first paleontologist!

3. Megalodon had the most powerful bite of any creature that ever lived.

In 2008, a joint research team from Australia and the U.S. used computer simulations to calculate Megalodon's biting power. The results can only be described as terrifying: whereas a modern Great White Shark chomps with about 1.8 tons of force (and a lion with a wimpy 600 pounds or so), Megalodon chowed down on its prey with a force of between 10.8 and 18.2 tons--enough to crush the skull of a prehistoric whale as easily as a grape.

4. Megalodon may have grown to a length of over 60 feet...

Since Megalodon is known from thousands of teeth but only a few scattered bones, its exact size has been a matter of debate. Over the past century, paleontologists have come up with estimates (based mainly on tooth size and analogy with modern Great White Sharks) ranging from 40 to 100 feet, but the consensus today is that adults were 55 to 60 feet long and weighed as much as 100 tons--and some superannuated individuals may have been even bigger. (See 10 Things Megalodon Could Swallow Whole)

5. ...which made it much bigger than prehistoric reptiles like Liopleurodon.

The ocean's natural buoyancy allows "top predators" to grow to massive sizes, but none were more massive than Megalodon. The giant aquatic reptiles of the Mesozoic Era, like Liopleurodon and Kronosaurus, "only" attained weights of 30 or 40 tons, and a modern Great White Shark can only aspire to a relatively puny 3 tons. The only marine animal to outclass Megalodon is the blue whale, individuals of which have been known to weigh well over 100 tons.

6. Megalodon lunched on giant whales...

Although the bigger-than-Megalodon blue whale is technically a carnivore, it feeds mostly on tiny krill. Megalodon had a diet more befitting an apex predator, feasting on the prehistoric whales that swam the earth's oceans during the Pliocene and Miocene epochs, but also chowing down on dolphins, squids, fish, and even giant turtles (whose shells, as tough as they were, couldn't hold up against 10 tons of biting force). Megalodon may even have attacked the giant whale Leviathan; see Megalodon vs. Leviathan - Who Wins? for an analysis of this epic battle.

7. ...and may have disabled them by biting off their fins.

According to at least one analysis, Megalodon's hunting style differed from that of modern Great White Sharks. Whereas Great Whites dive straight toward their prey's soft tissue (say, a carelessly exposed underbelly), Megalodon's teeth were suited to biting through tough cartilage, and there's some evidence that it may have first sheared off its victim's fins (rendering it unable to swim away) before lunging in for the final kill.

8. Megalodon's closest living relative is the Great White Shark.

Technically, Megalodon is known as Carcharodon megalodon--meaning it's a species (Megalodon) of a larger genus (Carcharodon). Also technically, the modern Great White Shark is known as Carcharodon carcharias, meaning it belongs to the same genus as Megalodon. However, not all paleontologists agree with this identification, claiming that Megalodon and the Great White arrived at their striking similarities via the process of convergent evolution.

9. Megalodon fossils have been found all over the world.

Unlike some marine predators of prehistoric times--which were restricted to the coastlines or inland rivers and lakes of certain continents--Megalodon had a truly global distribution, terrorizing whales in warm-water oceans all over the world. Apparently, the only thing keeping adult Megalodons from venturing too far toward solid land was their enormous size, which would have beached them as helplessly as 16th-century Spanish galleons.

10. No one knows why Megalodon went extinct.

So Megalodon was huge, relentless, and the apex predator of the Pliocene and Miocene epochs. What went wrong? Well, there's no lack of theories: Megalodon may have been doomed by global cooling (which culminated in the last Ice Age), or by the gradual disappearance of the giant whales that constituted the bulk of its diet. (By the way, some people think Megalodons still lurk in the ocean's depths, as detailed in the Discovery Channel special Megalodon: The Monster Shark Lives, but there's absolutely no reputable evidence to support this. See this review for more about this made-up "documentary.")

 

**WATCH VIDEO LINK BELOW**

Discovery Channels Possible Evidence Megalodon Still Exists

 

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09/18/2014

Amazing Image: The Rainbow Eucalyptus...

Eucalyptus deglupta is a tall tree, commonly known as the rainbow eucalyptus, Mindanao gum, or rainbow gum. It is the only Eucalyptus species found naturally in the Northern Hemisphere. Its natural distribution spans New Britain, New Guinea, Ceram, Sulawesi, and Mindanao...

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Image Courtesy: Wiki

The unique multi-hued bark is the most distinctive feature of the tree. Patches of outer bark are shed annually at different times, showing a bright green inner bark. This then darkens and matures to give blue, purple, orange and then maroon tones...

Video Courtesy: johankoss1

In the present day this tree is grown widely around the world in tree plantations, mainly for pulpwood used in making white paper! Interesting, right?

 

-Rick DeLuca

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09/17/2014

Image Of The Day: Volcanic Lightning...

A lightning bolt is nature's way of balancing charge distribution. We commonly observe this phenoma during thunderstorms, but it can also occur during volcanic eruptions!  

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Image Courtesy: Oliver Spalt

Electrical charges are generated when rock fragments, ash, and ice particles in a volcanic plume collide. Regular thunderstorms are fueled by moisture-rich environments, but due to the massive amounts of solid material, volcanic activity creates dirty thunderstorms!

The video below is truly one of a kind. Capturing a volcanic eruption is impressive, however, this video takes it to another level by adding lightning AND a vortex into the mix! 

 

Video Courtesy: CenterStudyVolcanoes

 

-Rick DeLuca

 

Rick

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VIDEO: The Jellyfish Flames in Space!

Astronauts have recently completed a series of tests on flames in the presence of zero gravity onboard the International Space Station.  Here are their surprising findings...

 

Jellyfish Flame on the International Space Station presented by Science at NASA.

We all know that fire is inanimate, but anyone staring into a flame could be excused for thinking otherwise: Fire dances and swirls. It reproduces, consumes matter, and produces waste.  It needs oxygen to survive.  In short, fire is uncannily lifelike.

Nowhere is this more true than onboard a spaceship.  Unlike flames on Earth, which have a tear-drop shape caused by buoyant air rising in a gravitational field, flames in space curl themselves into tiny balls.  Untethered by gravity, they flit around as if they have minds of their own.  More than one astronaut conducting experiments for researchers on Earth below has been struck by the way flameballs roam their test chambers in a lifelike search for oxygen and fuel.
 
Biologists confirm that fire is not alive.  Nevertheless, on August 21st, astronaut Reid Wiseman on the International Space Station witnessed some of the best mimicry yet.  "It was a jellyfish of fire," he tweeted to Earth along with a video. Wiseman was running an experiment called FLEX-2, short for Flame Extinguishment Experiment 2.
 
The goal of the research is to learn how fires burn in microgravity and, moreover, how to put them out.  It's a basic safety issue: If fire ever breaks out onboard a spacecraft, astronauts need to be able to control it.
 
Understanding the physics of flameballs is crucial to zero-G firefighting.  "Combustion in microgravity is both strange and wonderful," says Forman Williams, the Principal Investigator of FLEX-2 from the University of California, San Diego.
 
"The 'jellyfish' phenomenon Wiseman witnessed is a great example." He points out some of the key elements of the video: "Near the beginning we see two needles dispensing a droplet mixture of heptane and iso-octane between two igniters. The fuel is ignited, then the lights go out so we can see what happens next."
 
"The flame forms a blue spherical shell 15-20 milimeters in diameter around the fuel.  Inside that spherical flame we see some bright yellow hot spots. Those are made of soot." Heptane produces a lot of soot as it burns, he explains.  Consisting mainly of carbon with a sprinkling of hydrogen, soot burns hot, around 2000 degrees Kelvin, and glows brightly as a result.
 
"Several globules of burning soot can be seen inside the sphere," he continues.  "At one point, a blob of soot punctures the flame-sphere and exits.  The soot that exits fades away as it burns out."
 
There is also an S-shaped object inside the sphere.  "That is another soot structure," he says.  The 'jellyfish phase' is closely linked to the production of soot.  Combustion products from the spherical flame drift back down onto the fuel droplet.
 
Because sooty material deposited on the droplet is not perfectly homogeneous, "we can get a disruptive burning event," says Forman.
 
In other words, soot on the surface of the fuel droplet catches fire, resulting in a lopsided explosion.  Remarkably, none of this is new to Forman, who has been researching combustion physics since the beginning of the Space Age.  "We first saw these disruptive burning events in labs and microgravity drop towers more than 40 years ago," he says.
 
"The space station is great because the orbiting lab allows us to study them in great detail."  "Tom Avedisian at Cornell is leading this particular study," Forman says.  "We're learning about droplet burning rates, the soot production process, and how soot agglomerates inside the flame."
 
At the end of Wiseman's video, the soot ignites in a final explosion.  That’s how the fire put itself out.  "It was a warp-drive finish," says Wiseman.
 
For more information about strange physics on the space station, stay tuned to science.nasa.gov. 
 
Video and Information Courtesy NASA
 

Meteorologist Jeremy Kappell

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Weather Blog: Spider Nests That Will Give You The Creeps

From Jude Redfield..

    Time for some wild Wednesday videos.  I saw a tiny nest of spiders in my backyard yesterday and it peaked my interest. Here are few videos I think you might enjoy or maybe they will make you itch like crazy?!?! A couple photos below show the very poisonous Black Widow and Brown Recluse nests.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Black Widow Nest Below

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Brown Recluse Nest Below

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