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Rare 'ring of fire' solar eclipse on the longest day of the year – Reuters

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CHIAYI, Taiwan (Reuters) – A shimmering ring of light flashed into view on Sunday in parts of the eastern hemisphere as the moon drifted across the face of the sun in a rare eclipse on the longest day of the year.

The path of the eclipse spanned East Asia, South Asia, the Middle East and Africa. Most locations saw only a partial eclipse, with just a handful witnessing the true “ring of fire”.

Unlike in a total eclipse, the moon in an annular, or ring-like, eclipse is unable to completely cover the sun, leaving a thin halo of light at its maximum phase.

Such an eclipse happens when the moon is farther away in its elliptical orbit around the Earth, appearing smaller as a result.

Hundreds of skywatchers gathered in an open space in Chiayi in southern Taiwan, one of the locations in Asia where the annular eclipse was visible.

“I’m more than 50 years old, so it’s great that I could see this,” said retiree Zhuang Yuhui, 56, who travelled to Chiayi from nearby Taichung city.

“I’m beyond excited.”

In Taipei, groups of people gathered to view the eclipse through tinted glasses and their phones as the sky turned eerily darker.

“It’s an astronomical miracle,” said Elisa Chen, 29.

Solar eclipses on the summer solstice are rare. The last one was in June 2001.

But a “ring of fire” eclipse that falls exactly in midsummer – whether in the northern or southern hemisphere – is even more uncommon.

Slideshow (10 Images)

There have been none in at least 100 years, according to Reuters calculations based on NASA data.

The next one is in 2039, and then in 2392.

(Open NASA search engine here in an external browser.)

Reporting by Ann Wang; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard and Ryan Woo; Editing by William Mallard

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'Canada, Canada, Cana…da': Researchers Spot Change To White-Throated Sparrow's Song – NPR

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Experienced birders might be familiar with the sounds of the white-throated sparrow. Some say the end of the call sounds like the word Canada repeated several times.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHITE-THROATED SPARROW CALLING)

KEN OTTER: Canada, Canada, Canada, Canada.

KELLY: That is Dr. Ken Otter. In 2000 he was doing his first field study in northern British Columbia. He was studying area bird populations and made a discovery.

OTTER: I was working on chickadees, but I noticed that there was white-throated sparrows around.

KELLY: White-throated sparrows – they weren’t known to be in the area, but there they were. And they sounded a bit different.

OTTER: They were going, can-a-can-a-can-a-Canada-da (ph), almost like they were stuttering that last phrase.

(SOUNDBITE OF WHITE-THROATED SPARROW CALLING)

KELLY: Otter figured this unusual new tune was maybe specific to this one community of sparrows.

OTTER: It wasn’t until seven or eight years later that we started to realize that the song was actually spreading eastwards.

KELLY: Yeah. In 2004 only around half of the sparrows in Alberta, Canada, were singing the song. By 2014, that had changed. You might say the tweet went viral.

OTTER: All the birds in Alberta were now singing this Western dialect.

KELLY: Now, Otter does not know why exactly this new song has caught on. He imagines this little spark of variation maybe might improve a male sparrow’s chances with the ladies.

OTTER: If there’s a little bit of female preference, which is something we want to test next, then it would be advantageous for males to sing an atypical song. And after a while, it would just take over.

KELLY: In that case, it seems like the white-throated sparrow’s sultry new crooner is here to stay.

(SOUNDBITE OF THE BEATLES’ “FLYING”)

KELLY: You’re listening to All Tweets Considered.

Copyright © 2020 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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How can we be alone? – Skywatching – Castanet.net

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The latest estimate is that there are around six billion Earth-like planets in our galaxy alone.

However, when we really dig into the issue regarding what makes a planet suitable for life as we know it, this large number could be a considerable understatement.

First, we know about places where liquid water and warmth are available for living things, but otherwise they are very un-Earth-like — such as Europa, one of the moons of Jupiter, where tidal forces warm an ocean hidden under a roof of ice.

For the moment, let’s just stick to the Earth-like planets. The starting point in identifying an Earth-like planet is that it is the right size, it has an atmosphere, and its surface temperature is high enough to support a water ocean.

There also needs to be a water cycle, where water evaporates from the ocean and returns to it as rain. If there are landmasses, they will be irrigated and material will be eroded from the land and taken into the sea as nutrients for living creatures. However, there is a range of conditions under which this may happen.

First, the planet should be in the Goldilocks Zone, where the planet receives enough warmth and light from its star to ensure a high enough surface temperature and to drive a water cycle.

This is where the situation becomes more complicated. Planets, including ours, exist in a thermal equilibrium. Heat from our star warms our world. As the temperature rises, the Earth radiates increasing amounts of infrared, sending heat off into space.

Eventually, the input and output are equal and the planet’s temperature stabilizes. Intriguingly though, if we do this calculation for the Earth, we find our planet should be frozen solid, with a mean temperature more or less equal to the Moon’s, around minus 50C.

This obviously isn’t the case, and the explanation is the greenhouse effect. Gases such as water vapour, carbon dioxide and methane are greenhouse gases, which means they impeded the ability of a planet to re-radiate heat into space.

The result is that in order to meet a balance of input and output, the planet has to be hotter. Planets with lots of greenhouse gases can be further from their stars and still have comfortable temperatures.

Planets with atmospheres low in greenhouse gases must be closer. The atmospheres of young planets are rich in greenhouse gases.

During the 4.5 billion years since the Earth formed, the Sun has brightened steadily, but on Earth living things removed them and replaced them with oxygen, which is not a greenhouse gas, keeping our environment stable and our planet inhabitable.

In the 1970s, James Lovelock proposed the Gaia Hypothesis (Gaia is the Earth goddess), in which he proposed that once life is established, it has a certain power to keep its environment comfortable.

There are two other factors.

First, there are clouds.

Water evaporated from the oceans by solar heat forms clouds, which can reflect solar energy back into space, providing a stabilizing influence. Of course, more energy in the atmosphere can drive more severe weather.

Second, there is dust.

Every day, warm air heated by contact with warm ground rises, carrying dust with it.  This can act as an insulator, keeping in heat, or as a reflector, sending it back out, depending on the grain size and the amount.

In addition to being the right distance from their stars, we need our planets to have an atmosphere and a signature of water vapour.

If we see oxygen, which needs living things to produce and maintain it, we can be pretty sure there are living things.

Maybe fortunately, the distances between stars ensure it will be a long time before we can interfere with our alien brethren or they with us.

  • Jupiter and Saturn rise in the southeast around midnight
  • Mars follows in the early hours.
  • Venus lies low in the sunrise glow.
  • The Moon will reach Last Quarter on the 12th.

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Full buck moon with penumbral lunar eclipse visible in Saskatchewan this weekend – Humboldt Journal

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Saskatchewan residents will have the opportunity to view a magnificent full Buck Moon this July in addition to a lunar eclipse. 

Named after the time of year when young bucks begin to grow new antlers from their foreheads, the July full moon marks a time of renewal. With this in mind, the July moon, like the other months of the year, has many names.

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For example, the full moon is also known as the “Thunder Moon.” According to the Old Farmer’s Almanac, the moon was given that name, “because thunderstorms are so frequent during this month.” They note that Native peoples would give distinctive names to each reoccurring full moon to mark the change of seasons. As such, many of these names arose when Native Americans first interacted with colonialists.

The moon also has number of Native American names which, translated directly into English, mean the “Ripe Corn Moon” by the Cherokee, “Middle of Summer Moon” by the Ponca, and “Moon When Limbs of Trees Are Broken by Fruit” by the Zuni.

The full Buck Moon will be at its fullest on July 4.

As the full moon increases in fullness, Humboldt residents will also be able to view a ‘penumbral lunar eclipse’. Timeanddate.com explains how it is set to begin July 4 at 9:07 p.m. but that it won’t be directly visible from Humboldt at that time.

At 9:24 p.m., “it will be rising but the the combination of a very low moon and the total eclipse phase will make the moon so dim that it will be extremely difficult to view until moon gets higher in the sky or the total phase ends.” 

The moon will be closest to the centre of shadow at 10:29 p.m. (-0.65 Magnitude). It will end at 11:52 p.m.

During this penumbral lunar eclipse, the Earth’s main shadow does not cover the Moon.

Stargazers should opt to travel as far away from city lights as possible in order to avoid light pollution that will obscure the clarity of heavenly bodies. While this works best in more remote places, anywhere that has a higher elevation will also provide more ideal viewing conditions.

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