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Everything You Need to Know About the Last Eclipse of 2018

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For much of the world, the last chance to catch an eclipse for a while is about to happen.

This weekend’s partial solar eclipse will span across many countries in the Northern Hemisphere on Saturday, Aug. 11 — becoming what could be the most widely-viewed solar eclipse of 2018.

The eclipse kicks off at 5:46 a.m. E.T., and will be visible in Greenland before expanding toward Iceland, northern Europe, most of northern Russia and part of northern China, according to NASA. If the weather is good in the morning, when the eclipse starts (around 4:02 a.m. E.T.), then it may become the most viewed solar eclipse of the year. The wide path across parts of the Northern Hemisphere means much more people will be able to catch it than the July 13 partial solar eclipse. Even though it will be visible to a wider swath of the world, the August 11 eclipse still won’t be visible in the U.S.

In addition to potentially being the most viewed eclipse, the August 11 eclipse will also be the last eclipse — lunar or solar — of 2018. Eclipses happen approximately every 173 days during what’s called an eclipse season. According to NASA, twice a year, the moon’s orbit crosses paths with the sun’s orbit for 34 days when up to three eclipses can happen.

In 2018, the first eclipse was the super blue blood moon on Jan. 31 followed by a partial solar eclipse on the Feb. 15. The Aug. 11 eclipse marks the end of this eclipse season after two previous eclipses during the month of July. You’ll have to wait until Jan. 21, 2019 for the next eclipse. It will also be a supermoon.

To celebrate the last eclipse of the season, here’s everything you need to know to prepare for the August 11 partial solar eclipse.

What is a solar eclipse?

A solar eclipse happens when the moon comes between the Earth and the sun, casting a shadow on the planet. According to Space.com, because the moon is relatively smaller than Earth, the shadow is cast on a small area of the Earth’s surface. However, for those who can see it, during a total solar eclipse the moon will cover the sun, blocking out the visible light. The point at which the sun is totally blocked is called totality, and that can last from around 30 seconds to seven minutes.

During a partial solar eclipse, there is no totality because the moon will only cover a portion of the sun, according to NASA. Partial eclipses tend to look different — it can leave only a sliver of the sun visible, it can cover half of it can only cover a very small potion — depending on your location during the big celestial event.

A solar eclipse is basically the opposite of a lunar eclipse, like the one that happened on July 27. A lunar eclipse occurs when the Earth comes between the moon and the sun, causing the moon to be covered by Earth’s shadow and fade away. Unlike solar eclipses, a lunar eclipse often lasts much longer, and are less rare because they can be seen by everyone on the side of Earth where it’s night, while only those within the radius of the moon’s shadow on Earth can see a solar eclipse.

Staff photo by Derek Davis/Portland Press Herald via Getty Images)

Portland Press Herald—Press Herald via Getty Images

What time is the solar eclipse?

The partial solar eclipse will start at 4:02 a.m. E.T. on August 11 and the moon will reach its maximum coverage of the sun at 5:46 a.m. E.T., according to NASA. The eclipse will not be visible to those in this time zone, but if you live in the U.S. and want to see the solar eclipse, the closest area you can view it is northern Canada.

A partial solar eclipse is visible over a statue. (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

A partial solar eclipse is visible over a statue. (Photo credit should read JOE KLAMAR/AFP/Getty Images)

JOE KLAMAR—AFP/Getty Images

Where can you see the solar eclipse?

The solar eclipse will be visible in Russia, northern parts of China, Mongolia, Northern Europe and northern Canada as well as the Arctic Ocean. The moon will cover approximately 73% of the sun when the eclipse is at its peak, according to NASA.

Other parts of the world that will have views of the partial solar eclipse, albeit a much smaller version of it, include Harbin, China, Nuuk, Greenland and Seoul, South Korea.

Special glasses to look at the partial solar eclipse. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

Special glasses to look at the partial solar eclipse. (Photo by Jeff Gritchen/Orange County Register via Getty Images)

Digital First Media Group/Orange County Register via Getty Images—Digital First Media via Getty Images

Just like during the August 2017 total solar eclipse, you will need special eclipse glasses to get the best viewing experience of the partial eclipse to protect your eyes.

According to the American Astrological Society (AAS), partial solar eclipses can be very dangerous to look at with the naked eye. During a partial solar eclipse, only a portion of the sun is covered by the moon’s shadow, making it just as bright as the sun on a typical day.

The AAS recommends getting special-purpose sun filtering glasses and not looking at the sun through binoculars, a camera lens or a telescope even with the eclipse glasses on because of the strength of the sun’s light. Instead, they suggest the “Pinhole Projection” or the “Optical Protection” methods for viewing safety.

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'A big piece of the puzzle of life': New gallery will tell the story of life's origins through Canada's geography

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Jean-Bernard Caron, senior curator of invertebrate paleontology at the Royal Ontario Museum, is awaiting a shipment of fossils from Quebec.

They won’t be much to look at, he says, just microscopic flecks in stone, invisible to the naked eye. But they will be different from the collection of 500-million-year-old fossils in black shale laid out on his desk in a corner office overlooking the provincial legislature.

The recently discovered Quebec fossils are something like 4.2 billion years old. That is almost as old as the planet Earth itself, which is about 4.6 billion years old.

He is understandably excited. The dawn of life is being pushed ever farther back in time, and the vastness of Canada’s geography — which overlays ancient tropical seas and prehistoric forests of ferns — has been the key to many of the discoveries that prove this.

It’s a big piece of the puzzle of life we haven’t told yet

Canada, as Caron puts it, tells the whole story of life on Earth, from the mostly bacterial life forms that arose in the earliest eras, through the first complex organisms that became plants and animals, into the time of dinosaurs, and eventually the more familiar creatures we know today. From the oldest bacterial fossils in Quebec, through the “proto-animals” of Mistaken Point, Nfld., the diverse creatures in the Burgess Shale of British Columbia, the fish transitioning to land life at Miguasha, Que., the giant plants and first evidence of eggs at Joggins, N.S., to the dinosaurs of Alberta’s Badlands, Canada has it all.

But this museum, Canada’s largest, has not told this evolutionary story in all its glory. It’s got mammals down, with their own gallery. The dinosaur gallery is famous. But that only takes you back a quarter billion years. The life forms that predate the dinosaurs, most long since extinct, could fill a museum many times over. Nearly four billion years of life’s history have got short shrift.

“It’s a big piece of the puzzle of life we haven’t told yet,” Caron said.

The Burgess Shale is home to some of the planet’s earliest animals.

There was, for example, one particular Acutiramus, a giant monster lobsterish creature as long as a man and wide as a pig, with claws like lacrosse sticks, that hunted the warm waters over Ontario 420 million years ago, only to be buried in some catastrophic mudslide, and unearthed in the last century. That terrifying slab of stone is now safely stored in the ROM’s back rooms. The museum also has a smaller specimen, from the Fort Erie, Ont., area, that is preserved so well you can not only see its eyes, but the cells that compose them.

“It’s a giant shrimp. You don’t want to meet him in the sea when you scuba dive,” Caron said. “I’m glad he’s extinct.”

So work has begun in earnest on a new gallery dedicated to the “Dawn of Life,” set to open in 2021, financed largely by philanthropists Jeff Willner and Stacey Madge. Nearly all of the artifacts on display will have come from Canada.

It’s a giant shrimp. You don’t want to meet him in the sea when you scuba dive

“We want people to be fascinated by their own history,” Caron said. So the gallery will be designed not only as a journey back in time into the ancient Cambrian Sea, but a journey across Canada, from Newfoundland and Nova Scotia westwards through Ontario toward the Rocky Mountains. Each will represent a new step in evolution: the origins of multicellularity, complex organs, sex, eggs, and the various modifications that let animals escape the water for the land and sky.

There is an old joke that evolution is a tale of teeth mating to produce slightly different teeth. After all, teeth are what gets left behind. Most else rots away. But most animals that existed on Earth had no hard parts, let alone teeth. Finding the soft parts of extinct animals has long been a tricky part of paleontology.

The Burgess Shale cut through this conundrum.

story slug   A big piece of the puzzle of life: New gallery will tell the story of lifes origins through Canadas geography

Dr. Jean-Bernard Caron in the Marble Canyon Quarry in Kootenay National Park.

This is Caron’s specialty, an area in the Rocky Mountains in Yoho National Park where a collapse of a huge amount of sediment half a billion years ago exquisitely preserved the earliest creatures of the Cambrian explosion, one of the most productive periods of evolutionary history. It is “a window into a world that normally would have disappeared,” Caron said. Sometimes you can even make out the creatures’ intestines and their final meals. One of the ROM’s fossils from the Burgess Shale is a 500-million-year-old fish that is the ancestor of all modern vertebrates.

Mistaken Point, on the southern tip of Newfoundland’s Avalon Peninsula, is the oldest of the four fossil sites, at 565 million years old. One fossil the ROM has from there, for example, is of Bradgatia linfordensis, a strange organism that shows a kind of fractal symmetry. Caron says scientists used to think it was a plant or fungus or algae, but now it is regarded as an early and extinct branch of animals. “They are still very mysterious,” he said.

Miguasha, Que., on the south shore of the Gaspé Peninsula, is 375 million years old, and has given up evidence of the evolutionary changes that later enabled fish to transition from sea to land. Joggins, N.S., on the Bay of Fundy, is a bit more recent, and shows evidence of animals on land in the Carboniferous period, when there was an explosion of plant life and a rise in atmospheric oxygen levels. Caron called it the dawn of the age of giants, such as dragonflies the size of dogs and ferns that grew as high as a 10 storey building.

Josh Basseches, the ROM’s director and CEO was to formally announce the gallery at an event Wednesday morning. Jeff Willner, one of the namesake donors, said the gallery will be “a story for all people, told from a uniquely Canadian perspective, which will help us understand not only our past, but also the world we’ll live in tomorrow.”

• Email: jbrean@nationalpost.com | Twitter:

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Menu for astronauts in space includes variety, comforts of home

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By Rachel Feltman

Special To The Washington Post

Neil Armstrong may have taken that first small step for man onto the moon, but it was John Glenn who took the first slurp of applesauce for humankind.

Until he ate while orbiting Earth in 1962, scientists at NASA weren’t sure humans could swallow and digest food while in space. Luckily, he chowed down in zero gravity with no trouble. Today’s astronauts sometimes spend months at a time living in the International Space Station, so they’d get pretty hungry without a few snacks!

Of course, while the human body is happy to take in a meal while hovering 250 miles above Earth, the process of cooking and eating food isn’t exactly the same as it is back home. That’s why NASA scientists are working hard to perfect astronaut menus. A healthy diet is even more crucial for space travelers than it is here on the surface, because spending time in space makes your body start to lose bone and muscle mass. NASA has to figure out how to send food up in a rocket, store it for as long as possible and make sure it delivers a perfect balance of nutrients — and it has to keep astronauts from getting bored, too!

“Imagine trying to eat the same food for every meal for six months. You may get tired of the food and eat less than you need to maintain weight, health and performance. That’s why we have to make sure there’s a large variety of healthy food available for the astronauts to make choices,” says F. Ryan Dowdy, ISS food system manager at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.

Astronauts have about 200 food items to pick from. According to Dowdy, a lot of the options are surprisingly similar to meals we eat on Earth.

“Whether it’s macaroni and cheese or chocolate pudding cake, it’s important for the astronauts when eating to be reminded of home,” he says. “Food can be an important psychological comfort in the stressful environment of space.”

It’s the preparation that’s unique: Food often has to sit in storage for six months before it even goes into space — and last for weeks or months at a time once it’s up there — so NASA designs everything with a shelf life of at least two years. Macaroni and cheese is freeze-dried (meaning that most of the moisture is removed, which makes it safe to store at room temperature), and astronauts add hot water to it on the space station. Chocolate pudding cake is preserved similarly to canned food, but NASA puts it in a flexible pouch so it takes up less space.

Some Earth foods are perfectly fit for zero-gravity consumption. Tortillas, for example, are a great alternative to bread — they last a long time in storage, and they don’t form crumbs that float around and get caught in important parts of the ship. Astronauts can request small quantities of fresh fruits and vegetables whenever NASA sends supplies up, but for the most part, they’re eating various combinations of super-durable stored foods.

As NASA looks to the future of spaceflight — with missions to Mars, and perhaps even farther — the agency has to design even more durable food. It takes about eight months to get to Mars, and astronauts will have to bring food for the journey home, too. Dowdy says NASA is working to extend the shelf life of its foods to around five years, but experiments in space farming are also part of the plan.

Astronauts on the ISS are able to farm plants such as lettuce in small quantities, but Dowdy says it will take some time before this is a sustainable source of calories.

He thinks 3D printed treats may also be on the menu someday soon. One thing is for sure: It’s going to take a lot of scientific know-how to feed the space explorers of the future.

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Gigantic "ghost" galaxy spotted circling the Milky Way

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“The simplest explanation of why Ant 2 appears to have so little mass today is that it is being taken apart by the Galactic tides of the Milky Way,” says Sergey Koposov, co-author of the study. “What remains unexplained, however, is the object’s giant size. Normally, as galaxies lose mass to the Milky Way’s tides, they shrink, not grow.”

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