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Astronaut witnessed a solar eclipse from space. It was ‘unnatural.’

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Terry Virts peered down from the International Space Station in March 2015. The NASA astronaut saw a massive, unusual shadow cast upon Earth.

“It was this big, dark thing that wasn’t natural,” Virts, a retired astronaut and former International Space Station commander, told Mashable.

He watched a shadow created by the cosmic dance of the moon, Earth, and sun — specifically the moon traveling between our planet and the sun. It was a total solar eclipse, an event that’s technically natural, though a spectacle so rare and eerie that it certainly doesn’t feel so — either on Earth or in space.

Looking out of space station windows, Virts took in the great shadow with another astronaut. It traversed the north Atlantic Ocean. Fortunately, astronomers can predict eclipses — based on the mechanics and gravities of the sun, moon, and Earth — hundreds of years into the future, so these events aren’t a surprise. If so, that would have made for some truly unsettling observations from space.

“You’d be like, ‘What is happening on Earth?’” Virts said.

Here’s what the eclipse shadow looks like from some 250 miles up in the space station. It’s a rare sight for a small group of people: There are typically around seven astronauts and cosmonauts aboard the orbiting habitat at once.

The 2017 total solar eclipse as viewed from the space station.

The 2017 total solar eclipse as viewed from the space station.
Credit: NASA

The moon casting a shadow across southern Turkey, northern Cyprus, and the Mediterranean Sea in March 2006.

The moon casting a shadow across southern Turkey, northern Cyprus, and the Mediterranean Sea in March 2006.
Credit: NASA

For Earthlings in the center of that shadow, or what’s called the “path of totality,” the event is striking. “In my experience you can’t overhype it,” Richard Fienberg, an astronomer and senior advisor at the American Astronomical Society, told Mashable earlier this year. The moon, by temporarily blocking the sun’s blinding surface for some three to over four minutes (depending where you are), reveals our star’s ghostly atmosphere, or corona. In the moon’s shadow, the temperature drops, and light fades to deep twilight. Animals start acting strange.

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“It was this big, dark thing that wasn’t natural.”

On April 8, 2024, the path of totality is about 115 miles wide. Virts emphasizes that you must be in this path to experience a total solar eclipse. Outside that path, you’ll witness a partial eclipse. A partial eclipse is interesting, but simply pales compared to totality.

“On a scale of one to ten, a partial eclipse is a seven,” said Virts, who experienced his first total eclipse from Earth in 2017. “And a total eclipse is a million.”

Terry Virts on a spacewalk in 2015.

Terry Virts on a spacewalk in 2015.
Credit: NASA

Following his days as commander of the space station, Virts continues his passion for space as an aerospace consultant, author, podcast host, and beyond. To promote the looming total solar eclipse, the ex-astronaut has partnered with Sonic Drive-In — yes, the burger stop — a place he says has some 400 locations in the path of totality. (This eclipse passes over some major metropolitan areas, including Indianapolis, Dayton, Dallas, and Cleveland.) If you still need safe eclipse-viewing glasses, Virts said you can get a free pair with Sonic’s Blackout Slush Float.

“If it is possible, make the effort and go see this thing,” the former astronaut said. After all, the U.S. won’t see another total solar eclipse until 2044.


“If it is possible, make the effort and go see this thing.”

(Importantly, the only time you can look at the sun without approved eclipse viewers is during a few minutes or so of totality; all other times you must wear eye protection.)

From the space station, the view of the moon’s shadow was “unnatural,” Virts underscored, but there were no clear, accessible views of the actual eclipsed sun. Yet weather-permitting, you and millions of others will have the rare chance to witness a view of our blackened star on April 8. It’s not just a view — the total solar eclipse is an experience. You’ll even get to see some radiant planets.

“It blew me away,” said Virts. “It’s an amazing, amazing experience.”





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NASA To Make Major Announcement On Its Ambitious Mars Sample Return Mission Today; Watch Live

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NASA is hosting a press conference on April 15 for a big announcement regarding its Mars Sample Return Mission. The agency said that the speakers will discuss the next steps of the mission aimed at retrieving samples collected by the Perseverance rover on Mars at 10:30 pm IST. The speakers include NASA Administrator, Bill Nelson and Associate Administrator of the Science Mission Directorate, Nicky Fox.

You can watch the teleconference live at NASA TV and its official website here. The discussion will be based on the report by the Independent Review Board which was set up in 2023 to evaluate the technical, cost, and schedule plans prior to confirmation of the mission’s design.

ALSO SEE: NASA Shares Views Of Perseverance Rover’s Sample Collection In Latest Milestone On Mars

The Mars sample return program, apart from its complexities, has a major problem to deal with – a supposedly ‘unrealistic’ budget. Ever since its landing in the Jezero crater on Mars, the Perseverance rover has collected two dozen soil and rock samples which are waiting to be shipped to Earth early next decade.

The samples are being collected because scientists believe they might have signs of ancient life on the red planet since it used to have oceans billions of years ago.

According to NASA’s plan, it will send a lander with a rocket to Mars which will transfer the samples to an orbiter built by ESA. This orbiter will then send the samples back to Earth. All this is expected to cost between $8 to $11 billion, the review board said in its report released last September. In the upcoming announcement, NASA might clear the air regarding the feasibility of the mission and if it is worth pursuing.

ALSO SEE: What Does A Solar Eclipse On Mars Look Like? NASA Answers With Breathtaking Views





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Mess Created By NASA Will Be Inspected By ESA’s Hera Mission; Here’s All About It

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The European Space Agency (ESA) is gearing up for an ambitious mission called Hera, set to launch in October 2024. The mission’s target will be Dimorphos, an asteroid orbiting the larger space rock Didymos.

Dimorphos gained international attention when it became the subject of NASA’s Double Asteroid Redirection Test (DART) mission. On September 26, 2022, NASA’s spacecraft intentionally collided with Dimorphos to test whether altering its orbit was a viable method of planetary defense.

Now, ESA’s Hera mission is poised to rendezvous with Dimorphos in 2026, building on the groundwork laid by DART. The objectives are ambitious: Hera will delve into the Didymos binary asteroid system, conducting the very first assessment of its internal properties. Additionally, it will meticulously analyse the aftermath of DART’s kinetic impactor test, including studying the crater left behind by the collision.

Hera represents a significant milestone in asteroid deflection technology, paving the way for future planetary defense strategies. By conducting a detailed post-impact survey of Dimorphos, Hera aims to transform the DART mission into a well-understood and repeatable defense technique.

ALSO SEE: NASA’s DART Mission’s Second Observer Captures Unsettling Images Of An Asteroid Crash

What makes Hera even more groundbreaking is its role as humankind’s first probe to rendezvous with a binary asteroid system. It will also be armed with innovative technologies, including autonomous navigation and low-gravity proximity operations.

Using ground-based telescopes, scientists know that DART changed Dimorphos’s velocity but they need a close-up inspection to determine the change in its mass. The HERA mission also includes two cubesats – Milani and Juventas – that will collectively investigate Dimorphos’s composition and change in its properties.

NASA ruled the DART mission a success after the spacecraft was able to change Dimorphos’s orbit around Didymos by 33 minutes. Scientists believe that this technology could one day help us deflect a planet-killing asteroid if one heads toward Earth someday.

ALSO SEE: Collision Of NASA’s DART With Asteroid Dimorphos Changed Its Shape; Finding Excites Scientists





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Unexpected Discovery In A Nebula 3,800 Light-Years Away Leaves Astronomers Surprised

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Astronomers peering into the depths of space have stumbled upon a celestial spectacle unlike any other – a stellar pair locked in a cosmic dance, surrounded by a mesmerizing cloud of gas and dust. But what sets this duo, dubbed HD 148937, apart from the stellar crowd is a remarkable tale of cosmic collision and rebirth.

Located a staggering 3800 light-years away in the Norma constellation, HD 148937 is home to two stars of immense magnitude, each boasting a mass far surpassing that of our Sun.

Yet, upon closer inspection, astronomers were met with a perplexing revelation – these stars, once thought to be twins, harbor striking differences. One star appears 1.5 million years younger and inexplicably magnetic, while its counterpart bears the marks of age and lacks magnetic allure.

Utilizing data collected over nine years from cutting-edge instruments like PIONIER, GRAVITY, and FEROS, astronomers uncovered a violent history. The evidence pointed to a tumultuous past, wherein three stars once roamed the system, until two stars collided, birthing the stunning nebula that now envelops HD 148937.

ALSO SEE: NASA’s Hubble Telescope Captures ‘Fierce And Fabulous’ Tarantula Nebula Brimming With Baby Stars

“The two inner stars merged in a violent manner, creating a magnetic star and throwing out some material, which created the nebula,” professor Hugues Sana, lead investigator explained in an official statement.

This cosmic ballet not only reshaped the system’s destiny but also shed light on a longstanding mystery in astronomy – the origin of magnetic fields in massive stars. While magnetic fields are common in stars like our Sun, their presence in more massive counterparts has long puzzled astronomers. The discovery of HD 148937 provides compelling evidence that such magnetic fields can arise from stellar mergers, a phenomenon observed only in theory until now.

“Magnetism in massive stars isn’t expected to last very long compared to the lifetime of the star, so it seems we have observed this rare event very soon after it happened,” said Abigail Frost, lead author of the new paper published in the journal Science.

ALSO SEE: ESO’s Very Large Telescope Captures ‘Gloomy Portrait’ Of Cone Nebula, A Staggering Star Factory





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