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A rare Halloween Blue Moon will light up the scariest night of the year – The Weather Network

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Fall 2020 has three ‘micromoons’, but the October 31 Full Moon is extra special.

It sounds like the start of a scary story, but on Halloween night, a Full Moon will rise, and it will be remarkable in a few different ways.

To start, this is the first Halloween Full Moon we’ve seen in 19 years. Technically, though, in 2001, while the Moon was considered full on the night of October 31, it didn’t actually reach its completely full phase until very early in the morning on November 1. To have a Halloween Full Moon timed the same as we are seeing this year, we have to go all the way back to 1944! The next Halloween Full Moon will be 19 years from now, in 2039.

Halloween Full Moons are seen in 1944, 2020 and 2039. Background image credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio.

Also, the October 31 Full Moon is a micromoon. We often hear about the supermoon, which is a Full Moon that is exceptionally close to Earth (closer than 361,500 km). A micromoon is a Full Moon that occurs when the Moon is exceptionally far from Earth (at least 405,000 km away).

In fact, this is the farthest Full Moon of the entire year, making it 2020’s ‘apogee’ Full Moon!

2020-Perigee-Apogee-FullMoon-CompareA comparison between the April 7 Perigee Full Moon and the October 31 Apogee Full Moon. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Scott Sutherland

Visit our Complete Guide to Fall 2020 for an in depth look at the Fall Forecast, tips to plan for it and a sneak peek at the winter ahead

With the Harvest Moon having occurred on October 1, the October 31 Hunter’s Moon is the second Full Moon occurring in the same calendar month. By one definition, that makes it a Blue Moon!

So, it’s a Halloween Hunter’s Blue Micro Moon!

Halloween-Micro-Blue-Moon-Oct312020The October 31 Halloween Full Moon and its various possible names. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio/Scott Sutherland

The last ‘calendar’ Blue Moon was during the Super Blue Blood Moon total lunar eclipse, on January 31, 2018. The last time we had a Halloween Blue Moon, though, was in 1974, although just barely! The Moon was actually full on the night of October 30-31, but it officially reached its full phase after midnight on the 31st. We again have to go all the way back to 1944 for an actual Halloween Blue Moon.

The 2039 Halloween Full Moon will also be the next Halloween Blue Moon.

Related: See every view of the moon for 2020 in less than 5 minutes

IS A BLUE MOON ACTUALLY BLUE?

The Moon doesn’t actually appear blue on the night of a Blue Moon. It is just a saying, taken to mean “seldom” or “rare” since we don’t often see the Moon look blue.

Most often, when we see the Moon change colour, it’s either orange or red. This can be due to a lunar eclipse, when a Full Moon passes through Earth’s umbra – the darkest part of the planet’s shadow. The umbra is tinged red because when sunlight passes through the atmosphere, the air molecules and the various dust, particles, water droplets and so on, scatter the shorter wavelengths of the light first. So, only the reds emerge out into space on the other side.

NASA-Lunar-Eclipse-from-MoonWatching a lunar eclipse from the surface of the Moon, the Earth would appear ringed in red, as sunlight filtered through the atmosphere. Credit: NASA’s Scientific Visualization Studio

We can also see this kind of colour-change when there are smoke and ash particles in the air. In this case, the shorter wavelengths of the moonlight are quickly scattered, letting only the longer orange and red wavelengths pass unchanged.

Read more: Watch for these amazing Fall night sky sights

Every once in awhile, though, we can see the Moon actually look blue, and it doesn’t necessarily have to be full for this to happen.

According to NASA, “The key to a blue Moon is having in the air lots of particles slightly wider than the wavelength of red light (0.7 micron) – and no other sizes present. This is rare, but volcanoes sometimes spit out such clouds, as do forest fires.”

As it happens, if there are a lot of ultrafine ash particles in the air (~1 micron), and these are the only particles present, the red wavelengths of light will be scattered first. Thus, since only the shorter wavelengths pass through unimpeded, it gives the Moon a blue tinge. There were reports of the Moon appearing blue for years following the 1883 Krakatoa eruption. They were also seen after Mount St. Helens erupted in 1980, following the 1983 El Chichon eruption, and after the Mount Pinatubo eruption in 1991.

Sources: NASA SVS | NASA | Fourmilab

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NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, Russian counterparts return safely to Earth from space station – Fox News

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A trio of space travelers safely returned to Earth on Thursday after a six-month mission on the International Space Station.

The Soyuz MS-16 capsule carrying NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, and Roscosmos’ Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan at 7:54 a.m. (2:54 GMT) Thursday.

After a brief medical checkup, the three will be taken by helicopters to Dzhezkazgan from where they will depart home.

NASA RELEASES NEVER-BEFORE-SEEN PICTURES OF BENNU, AN ASTEROID THAT MAY HOLD THE BUILDING BLOCKS OF LIFE

Cassidy will board a NASA plane back to Houston, while Vagner and Ivanishin will fly home to Star City, Russia.

In this photo released by Rosaviatsiya, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy sits in a chair shortly after the landing near town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.
(Rosaviatsiya via AP)

The crew smiled as they talked to masked members of the recovery team, and NASA and Roscosmos reported that they were in good condition.

In this photo released by Roscosmos Space Agency, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy sits in a chair shortly after landing near town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.

In this photo released by Roscosmos Space Agency, NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy sits in a chair shortly after landing near town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.
(Roscosmos Space Agency, via AP)

As part of additional precautions due to the coronavirus, the rescue team members meeting the crew were tested for the virus and the number of people involved in the recovery effort was limited.

Cassidy, Ivanishin and Vagner spent 196 days in orbit, having arrived at the station on April 9. They left behind NASA’s Kate Rubins and Roscosmos’ Sergey Ryzhikov and Sergey Kud-Sverchkov, who arrived at the orbiting outpost a week ago for a six-month stay.

In this photo released by Roscosmos Space Agency, Roscosmos' cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin, left, and Ivan Vagner sit in fchairs shortly after the landing near town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.

In this photo released by Roscosmos Space Agency, Roscosmos’ cosmonauts Anatoly Ivanishin, left, and Ivan Vagner sit in fchairs shortly after the landing near town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.
(Roscosmos Space Agency via AP)

Cassidy, returning from his third space mission, has now spent a total of 378 days in space, the fifth highest among U.S. astronauts.

NASA’S OSIRIS-REX SPACECRAFT MAKES HISTORIC TOUCHDOWN ON ASTEROID BENNU

While serving as the station’s commander, Cassidy welcomed SpaceX Demo-2 crew Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley, the first NASA astronauts to launch to the space station on an American spacecraft from American soil since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011.

In this photo released by Rosaviatsiya, Roscosmos' cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin sits in a chair shortly after the landing near town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.

In this photo released by Rosaviatsiya, Roscosmos’ cosmonaut Anatoly Ivanishin sits in a chair shortly after the landing near town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020.
(Rosaviatsiya via AP)

Cassidy and Behnken completed four spacewalks for a total of 23 hours and 37 minutes, becoming two of only four U.S. astronauts to complete 10 spacewalks.

In this photo released by Rosaviatsiya, Russian rescue team helicopters land near a Russian Soyuz MS-16 capsule, left, landed near town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. Rosaviatsiya via AP

In this photo released by Rosaviatsiya, Russian rescue team helicopters land near a Russian Soyuz MS-16 capsule, left, landed near town of Dzhezkazgan, Kazakhstan, Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. Rosaviatsiya via AP
(Rosaviatsiya via AP)

Before the crew’s departure, Russian cosmonauts were able to temporarily seal the air leak they tried to locate for several months. The small leak has posed no immediate danger to the station’s crew, and Roscosmos engineers have been working on a permanent seal.

The Soyuz MS-16 capsule carrying NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, and Roscosmos' Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan, southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan, on Thursday.

The Soyuz MS-16 capsule carrying NASA astronaut Chris Cassidy, and Roscosmos’ Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner landed on the steppes of Kazakhstan, southeast of the town of Dzhezkazgan, on Thursday.
(Roscosmos Space Agency via AP)

In November, Rubins, Ryzhikov and Kud-Sverchkov are expected to greet NASA’s SpaceX first operational Crew Dragon mission comprising NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover and Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi.

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NASA Astronaut Kate Rubins Votes From Space – TMZ

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NASA successfully tags asteroid Bennu: What you need to know about the mission – CNET

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Artist’s conception of NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft and the asteroid Bennu.


NASA/Goddard/University of Arizona

Editors’ note: Osiris-Rex has touched down on Bennu. Our coverage of the event is here. Our answers to questions about the mission are below.

NASA’s Osiris-Rex spacecraft briefly touched down on a large asteroid Tuesday to snag some rocks and dust from its surface to be returned to Earth for study. On Wednesday, NASA revealed the first batch of images. The event marks a major first for NASA and a boon for science, space exploration and our understanding of the solar system. 

The touch-and-go, or TAG, sample collection of asteroid 101955 Bennu was deemed a success at around 3:12 p.m. PT. NASA broadcast the TAG maneuver live on NASA TV and the agency’s website. You can find a video at the end of this piece. For answer to your mission questions, read on. 

When did the mission begin?

Osiris-Rex as a concept has been in existence since at least 2004, when a team of astronomers first proposed the idea to NASA. After more than a decade of development, the spacecraft launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Sept. 8, 2016, atop an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Lockheed Martin and Boeing. The spacecraft spent the next 26 months cruising to Bennu, officially arriving on Dec. 3, 2018.

Since then, the mission team has spent nearly two years orbiting the diamond-shaped space rock, surveying and mapping its surface to select the best sampling spot. In recent months, rehearsals led up to the sample collection attempt. 


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Why Bennu?

Bennu is what’s called a “rubble pile” asteroid, meaning it was formed in the deep cosmic past when gravity slowly forced together remnants of an ancient collision. The result is a body shaped something like a spinning top with a diameter of around one-third of a mile (500 meters) and a surface strewn with large rocks and boulders. 

Bennu is thought to be a window into the solar system’s past: a pristine, carbon-rich body carrying the building blocks of planets and of life. Some of these resources, such as water and metals, could also be worth mining at some point in the future for use on Earth or in space exploration. 

The asteroid has one other characteristic that makes it particularly interesting to scientists, and humans in general. It has a chance of impacting Earth in the distant future. On NASA’s list of impact risks, Bennu is ranked No. 2. Current data shows dozens of potential impacts in the final quarter of the 22nd century, although all only have a minute chance of actually happening. 

How does TAG work?

For anyone who’s ever dabbled with robots or maybe even entered a robotics competition, the Osiris-Rex mission would seem to be the ultimate culmination of a young roboticist’s dreams. The touch-and-go sampling procedure is a complex, high-stakes task that’s been building to a key climactic moment for years. If it succeeds, it will play a role in history and our future in space. 

The basic plan was for Osiris-Rex to touch down on Bennu at a rocky landing site dubbed Nightingale. The van-size spacecraft would need to negotiate building-size boulders around the landing area to touch down on a relatively clear space that’s only as large as a few parking spaces. However, a robotic sampling arm was the only part of Osiris-Rex to actually set down on the surface. One of three pressurized nitrogen canisters was fired to stir up a sample of dust and small rocks that could then be caught in the arm’s collector head for safe keeping and return to Earth. 

The descent to the surface of Bennu took roughly four hours, about the time it takes the asteroid to make one full revolution. After this slow approach, the actual TAG sample collection procedure remarkably lasted only a few seconds. 

Preparing for TAG did not go exactly as planned. Mission organizers initially hoped the surface of Bennu would have plenty of potential landing spots covered primarily with fine materials comparable to sand or gravel. It turns out the surface of Bennu is extremely rugged with no real welcoming landing spots. 

After spending much of the last two years reevaluating the mission, the team decided to try “threading the needle” through the boulder-filled landscape at Nightingale.

It’s all paid off, so far. Osiris-Rex was able to touch down, but we won’t know for sure if it collected a sample until later in October. Fortunately, if the tag was unsuccessful, the spacecraft can try again. It’s equipped with three nitrogen canisters to fire and disrupt the surface, which means the team gets up to three tries at nabbing a sample. 

Then what?

Immediately after collecting its sample, Osiris-Rex fired its thrusters to back away from Bennu. The spacecraft will continue to hang around above Bennu for the rest of 2020 before finally performing a departure maneuver next year and beginning a two-year journey back to Earth. 

On Sept. 24, 2023, Osiris-Rex is scheduled to jettison its sample return capsule, which will land in the Utah desert and be recovered for study. 

Hasn’t this been done before?

Yes. Japan’s Hayabusa spacecraft successfully returned tiny grains of the asteroid 25143 Itokawa to Earth in 2010. Its successor, Hayabusa-2, fired a special copper bullet at the large asteroid Ryugu in 2019 and then retrieved some of the shrapnel. That sample is on its way back to Earth.  

How can I watch? 

The CNET Highlights channel covered the event live. You can rewatch the stream below:

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