It’s been a pretty big week for astronomers all over the world. First, the blood moon was in full force on September 27, 2015. I went out with some friends to watch the eclipse and saw tens of people on the roof of Tisch, all gathered around to watch the moon fall into the shadow of the Earth. As I watched, I talked to my friend, who’s an astrophysics major, and he said many people had asked him why the Moon turned red if it was in the shadow of the Earth. Well… I’m here to give you an answer.
The first step is to understand that the Moon is not a light source. The reason we see the Moon is because light from the Sun is reflected off of the surface. Good. Now this is where things get fun. During a solar eclipse (when the moon crosses between the Sun and the Earth), the Sun isn’t completely blocked.
There is still a red-ish ring around the Sun which can be seen from Earth. Well, the same goes for a lunar eclipse. The Earth blocks the Sun, but there is still a ring of red-orange light going around the Earth. That light is able to get to the Moon by bending around the Earth, as shown in the image below. And there you have it! A blood moon.
(For more information: http://www.livescience.com/33627-moon-red-orange-lunar-eclipse.html)
And this week, after much anticipation, NASA came out saying that there is evidence of liquid water on the surface of Mars. This is an absolutely incredible discovery. So the next question, naturally: are there organisms living on Mars? The answer, if I had to speculate, would be yes. But, I’m an optimist. They won’t be complex organisms. Simple, single-celled organisms have probably already taken over Mars and it just took us this long to find it.
So… What’s next?
Well, I can honestly say this news couldn’t have come out at a better time. With “The Martian” hitting theaters soon, now is the perfect time to get the public on board with the whole “let’s colonize Mars” thing. But, according to the New York Times, there are many speculations as to whether life can even form on the planet because the water identified is extremely salty. And “The Martian” is about a man being abandoned (after presumed dead) on Mars for 400+ days. So, I don’t think we’ll be going there anytime soon. But I hope we’ll be sending more probes to those areas identified as having liquid water.
(For more information: http://www.nytimes.com/2015/09/29/science/space/mars-life-liquid-water.html?_r=0)
Another thing that makes this discovery so amazing is that Mars was always thought to be outside of the habitable zone (an imaginary area around the Sun where liquid water can exist on the surface of a planet). If Mars can sustain liquid water on its surface, then imagine all the planets slightly outside of the habitable zone of other stars which now have the potential to be habitable!