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Partial Solar Eclipse Occurs Saturday! What to Expect

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What a difference a year makes! Just over a year ago, millions across North America were anxiously awaiting the "Great American Solar Eclipse" of Aug. 21. Now, on Saturday (Aug. 11), another eclipse of the sun will take place, but it's quite likely that the prospective viewing audience will be considerably smaller.

This weekend's solar eclipse will be a partial eclipse of the sun, not the spectacular total solar eclipse that thrilled millions last year. It will be visible from most of Asia, far northern Europe, Iceland and Greenland, as well as from a slice of northern and eastern Canada.

In fact, parts of Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec (along the lower north shore of the Gulf of St. Lawrence) will get a brief glimpse of a tiny "dent" out of the sun's upper-left edge for some minutes immediately after sunrise. [Solar Eclipses 2018: When and How to See Them]

You can find local viewing details for 29 locations in the visibility area here, courtesy of veteran NASA eclipse scientist Fred Espenak of EclipseWise.com.)

You can see the viewing times for a few locations in Newfoundland and Quebec in the table below. The eclipse begins before sunrise.

Location Time Zone Max. Eclipse % of Obscuration Eclipse Ends
Blanc Sablon, QC Atlantic Standard 4:27 a.m. 3-percent 4:47 a.m.
St. Anthony, NL NFLD Daylight 5:56 a.m. 3-percent 6:06 a.m.
Btl. Harbour, NL NFLD Daylight 5:56 a.m. 4-percent 6:19 a.m.

Of course, if you happen to be in the zone of visibility for this eclipse, NEVER look directly at the sun (unless you are using approved filters or eclipse glasses). Staring directly at the sun can damage your eyesight.  

The time of greatest eclipse, with nearly 75 percent of the sun hidden, will occur at local sunset in Russia from Kolyuchinskaya Bay in far northeast Siberia — a large, usually ice-covered bay in the Chukchi Sea on the northern shore of the Chukotka Peninsula. Cape Vankarem is to the west, and Neskynpil'gyn Lagoon and Cape Serdtse-Kamen are to the east.

It's not the kind of place to take your family on a weekend adventure!

Solar eclipses occur when the moon passes across the face of the sun, as viewed from Earth.

When the moon completely covers the sun, it creates a total solar eclipse, casting a shadow of the moon across the Earth's surface. Sometimes, the moon only partially covers the sun, creating a partial solar eclipse, or doesn't completely obscure the sun (an annular, or "ring of fire," eclipse). Because the moon's orbit is tilted, it does not always block the sun as it circles the Earth each month.

[embedded content]

(The video above was created by Larry Koehn of ShadowsandSubstance.com.)

In case you haven't been keeping track, this will be the third eclipse in less than a month. 

On July 27, we had a stunning eclipse of the moon — the longest total lunar eclipse of the century. And flanking that lunar eclipse (two weeks before, and now two weeks after) are two partial eclipses of the sun. [See amazing photos of the July 27 lunar eclipse]

During the lunar eclipse, the moon crossed the ecliptic — the apparent path of the sun in our sky — while at full phase on July 27, resulting in our natural satellite passing through the shadow of the Earth (hence the total lunar eclipse). We call that crossing point a "node." Also during that eclipse, the moon crossed the ecliptic going from north to south, the descending node of its orbit. 

Because of the moon's orbit, either two weeks before or after a total lunar eclipse, the moon reaches the opposite side of its orbit and crosses the ecliptic again — this time, at new-moon phase — resulting in an eclipse of the sun. So that's two eclipses, one solar and one lunar, linked by the moon's orbit. [The Phases of the Moon Explained]

We call this an eclipse season.

But so central was the July 27 lunar eclipse, with the moon passing almost directly through the middle of Earth's shadow, that it allowed for not just one, but two partial solar eclipses: one that occurred two weeks before the lunar eclipse, and another on Aug. 11 (two weeks afterward).  

So we get three eclipses occurring during this 29.53-day synodic lunar month, where normally we would have only two.

Being in the same eclipse season, both solar eclipses occur at the same node (the ascending one) of the moon’s orbit. Having arrived at the ascending node almost too late for the partial solar eclipse on July 13, the moon now passes the same node almost too early.

That is, 20 hours after crossing the ecliptic, the moon arrives at new phase. But by then, the axis of its shadow passes well to the north of Earth. Because the moon is near perigee (the point closest to Earth in the moon's orbit), the dark shadow cone of the moon — called the umbra — tapers to well beyond us (by a distance of approximately three times Earth's radius), but also completely misses touching our planet, passing 4,500 miles (7,300 kilometers) above the North Pole.

So, unlike last year, no place on Earth will see the glorious spectacle of a total solar eclipse. Instead, the moon's outer shadow (the penumbra) will brush the top of our globe, creating a far more modest partial eclipse.

There is one sun-related coincidence during Saturday's partial solar eclipse: By sheer luck, the solar eclipse will occur on the same day that NASA will launch the Parker Solar Probe to the sun.

The Parker Solar Probe will fly faster and closer to the sun than any other spacecraft. It will actually "touch" the sun, flying through the star's outer atmosphere, called the corona. The corona is the brilliant ring of light that is visible around the moon during a total solar eclipse, and scientists hope the Parker Solar Probe will help answer long-standing mysteries about the region.

The spacecraft will launch early Saturday morning at 3:33 a.m. EDT (0733 GMT) atop a United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavy rocket. You can watch the launch live here, beginning at 3 a.m. EDT (0700 GMT), courtesy of NASA TV.

In addition, the annual Perseid meteor shower is peaking this weekend. So, if you miss the eclipse, you can always look for meteors from Comet Swift-Tuttle. Here's our handy 2018 Perseid meteor shower guide.

Editor's note:If you live in the visibility zone for the partial solar eclipse of Aug. 11 and you snap a photo of the event, let us know! You can send your images and comments to spacephotos@space.com.

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York's Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers’ Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for Verizon FiOS1 News in New York’s Lower Hudson Valley. Follow us @SpacedotcomFacebookand Google+. Original article on Space.com.

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Global warming 'pause' about to end, raise Earth's temperatures further

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The past four years have been the hottest on record, but new research shows the Earth was actually in a global warming "hiatus" that is about to end. And when it does, natural factors are likely to help an already warming planet get even hotter over the next four years, according to a new forecasting model.

Rising CO2 levels have caused the temperature of the planet to rise, said lead author of the Nature Communications paper, Florian Sevellec, a professor of ocean and Earth science at the University of Southampton in the United Kingdom and a scientist at France's National Centre for Scientific Research.

Records show 2017 marked the 41st consecutive year with global temperatures at least marginally above the 20th century average, with 2016 being the record-holder. And it's likely that global temperatures in 2018 will be another one for the record books.

However, Earth's natural cycles, which include events like El Nino and La Nina, can also influence global temperatures.

And while Earth seems to have been running a fever for almost a decade straight, the natural cycles have been in their "cooling" phase, Sevellec says — and that's about to shift, raising the global temperature further.

"It will be even warmer than the long-term global warming is inducing," Sevellac said. 

This cooler phase of the planet's natural variability is responsible for what is often referred to as a global warming "pause" or "hiatus." While the planet continued to warm, it seemed to plateau. 

But that had to end sometime.

John Fyfe, senior research scientist at the Canadian Centre for Climate Modelling and Analysis at Environment and Climate Change Canada, says that multiple issues were at play but mainly the natural variability of the planet.

"I'm not at all surprised by the results," Fyfe said of the new study, in which he was not involved. "And the reason for that is that we have gone down this long slowdown period primarily due to internal variability, and the expectation was that we'd come out of it."

With the Earth continuing to warm, the chances increase for events like heat waves. (Yves Herman/Reuters)

Though CO2 levels were still increasing in Earth's atmosphere, natural cycles like the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in the Pacific Ocean were cooler than normal and offset rising global temperatures. 

But, Sevellac says, "the long-term trend was building up."

This doesn't mean, however, that we can point to a specific area and better forecast, say, heat waves. Instead, this is a global measurement. But with the Earth continuing to warm, the chances increase for these events.

And global warming doesn't mean that every location on the planet warms uniformly — there are some regions that can be colder than normal — nor does it mean that each year is hotter than the previous one. Instead, it's an overall trend that can play out within a decade or more, with the temperature of the entire planet rising over time.

Probability vs. certainty

In order to test the ability to predict future climate outcomes, the model employs a method that looks backward. In this case, it was able to predict with accuracy the climate slowdown that occurred around 1998 and onward to roughly 2014.

But it's important to note that this is a probability, not a certainty.

The model shows a higher temperature than what was predicted based just on the increased CO2: the probability is 58 per cent for global surface air temperature and 75 per cent for sea surface temperatures.

"Because we tested it over the last century, we know that we are accurate for the likelihood," Sevellac says. "But the likelihood doesn't mean it will occur … there exists a small chance of being cold."

We could already be seeing a shift: after a record-breaking El Nino year just two years ago in 2016 — which caused heat waves, coral bleaching, drought and flooding around the world — the U.S. Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 70 per cent chance that another one is on its way this winter

There's no telling how long the cycle will last, if it does manifest: it could be five years or 10. But what's important to note, Sevellac says, is that rising CO2 is still the key player in the warming of the planet.

While the study shows that the Earth's natural variability can have an influence in the short term, Sevellac says, "I think it's also a demonstration that global warming will still be there after all this natural variability."

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Scientists Develop Lab-Made Mineral That Will Suck CO2 From The Atmosphere

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Magnesite sample

A dream solution is that humans could develop a way to suck as much CO2 from the atmosphere as we release, and combined with greenhouse gas emission reductions, we could slow or reverse the tide of climate change.

Scientists have found a way to rapidly create the mineral magnesite in a lab both inexpensively and potentially at scale. This could be coupled with carbon sequestration, a process in which carbon is injected and stored underground, typically in depleted oil and gas fields. Reducing the concentration of CO2 in the atmosphere can be both a result of reducing input as well as increasing output of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

The research was presented recently at the Goldschmidt conference in Boston by Professor Ian Power of Trent University, Ontario, Canada. Their findings outline a novel way to rapidly produce magnesite inexpensively and at room temperature, allowing for the expansion of the process to an industrial scale.

If implemented at scale, the potential for another tool of CO2 removal via magnesite becomes a possibility, removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and storing it long-term in the mineral magnesite.

Below is a breakdown of the potential chemical reaction by which carbon dioxide can be removed from the atmosphere to create magnesite.

CO2+ H2O→H2CO3→ H++ HCO3

Mg+2+HCO3− →MgCO3+H+

To explain the above equations, carbon dioxide from the atmosphere is injected into water, which is then dissociated to form carbonic acid. From there, elemental magnesium combines with the carbonic acid to form magnesite (MgCO3).

At this time, most carbon capture and storage options are difficult to implement at scale due to high costs and difficulties scaling. With this new method, however, the rate of magnesite formation goes from hundreds to thousands of years in nature to within 72 days in a lab and at low temperatures.

Based on previous studies, magnesite can remove about half its weight in carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. Estimates put our current CO2 emissions at about 40 billion tons per year. That would mean to remove the equivalent amount of carbon emitted per year solely through magnesite formation, 80 billion tons would have to be produced per year. It becomes increasingly apparent that this cannot be the only lever we pull in mitigating climate change.

By speeding up the process, magnesite could be a legitimate resource for removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. However, the research is still in an experimental phase and will need to be continually tested before it could ever be implemented at industrial scales. In addition, the process will rely on the current price of carbon and financial incentives to remove carbon from the atmosphere.

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Royal Tyrrell research blows swimming dinosaur theory out of the water

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A model of a Spinosaurus is displayed outside the entrance at the National Geographic Society in Washington.


Pablo Martinez Monsivais / AP

New research published by the Royal Tyrrell Museum on Thursday has sunk previous claims that a swimming dinosaur once paddled the rivers of the Earth.

The paper, published in scientific journal PeerJ, uses computer modelling to conclude the Spinosaurus was not adapted to swim as previously thought.

Research published in 2014 by Nizar Ibrahim and others in the journal Science proposed the dinosaur was partly aquatic, meaning it could both swim and walk on land, a first for any dinosaur.

But using different techniques that relied on physics-based testing methods, the Royal Tyrrell Museum’s curator of dinosaurs, Donald Henderson, found that the 95-million-year-old species would not have been able to survive living in water.

Henderson created three-dimensional, digital models of Spinosaurus and other predatory dinosaurs in order to test their centres of mass buoyancy and equilibrium when immersed in water. He also tested the software using models of semi-aquatic animals such as an alligator and emperor penguin, for comparison.


Henderson’s models showed that Spinosaurus could float with its head above water. However, models of other dinosaurs demonstrated similar results.

Courtesy Royal Tyrrell Museum

His models showed the Spinosaurus would have been able to float with its head above water and breath freely, just like other dinosaurs analyzed in the study.

But unlike semi-aquatic animals like alligators, which can easily self-right themselves when tipped to the side in water, the Spinosaurus rolled over onto its side when tipped slightly. The finding implied that the dinosaur species would have easily tipped over in water, forcing it to rely on its limbs to constantly maintain an upright position.

Its centre of mass was also found to be close to its hips, between its hind legs, as opposed to the centre of the torso, which had been proposed by Ibrahim’s 2014 research.


A digital model of the centre of mass of Spinosaurus (illustrated by the black plus symbol located at the hind legs), which is similar to that of other theropods, such as Tyrannosaurus rex.

Courtesy Royal Tyrrell Museum

Henderson’s model found the Spinosaurus to be unsinkable underwater, something that would have severely limited its ability to hunt aquatic prey. This differentiates it from traits commonly demonstrated by living aquatic birds, reptiles and mammals, which can submerse themselves to pursue prey underwater.

The combination of mass close to the hips, an inability to sink underwater, and a tendency to roll onto its side unless constantly resisted by limb use, suggest that Spinosaurus was not specialized for a semi-aquatic mode of life,” the researchers stated.

“Spinosaurus may have been specialized for a shoreline or shallow water mode of life, but it would have still have been a competent terrestrial animal,” added Henderson.

shudes@postmedia.com
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