The Fastest Way to Sync the Biggest Space Events of 2018 to Your Calendar

Mike Hewitt, Getty Images
Mike Hewitt, Getty Images

If you missed last year's meteor showers, supermoon, or total solar eclipse, don't dismay: There are plenty of spectacular celestial events to catch in 2018. Start with our January skywatching guide. This year, your resolution to watch as many of them as possible is more doable than ever. Along with a list of the year's biggest space events, The New York Times released a tool that allows you sync them all to your digital calendar in seconds.

Whether you use Google calendars or iOS calendars on your mobile device, the feature makes uploading the dates and descriptions of the year's most significant days for stargazers easy. Just follow the links provided to automatically input them into your account. This way, you won't forget to look up at the year's most dramatic cosmic displays no matter how hectic life gets.

With your calendar updated, now you can start planning for events like the total lunar eclipse of a super blue moon (January 31), the vernal equinox (March 20), and a partial solar eclipse (August 11). In addition to natural phenomena, The New York Times also includes events in space exploration. On May 5, for example, NASA could launch the Mars InSight spacecraft which will monitor the seismic activity of the red planet deep beneath its surface. That comes about a month after the March 31 deadline for the Google Lunar X Prize, the date by which participating companies must land a spacecraft on the Moon to win a cash prize.

While some of these events can be predicted down to the hour, others, like rocket launches, are subject to last-minute schedule changes. The New York Times plans to track the year's biggest dates in space as they develop and update their calendar accordingly.

[h/t The New York Times]

Friday’s Best Amazon Deals Include Digital Projectors, Ugly Christmas Sweaters, and Speakers

Amazon
Amazon
As a recurring feature, our team combs the web and shares some amazing Amazon deals we’ve turned up. Here’s what caught our eye today, December 4. Mental Floss has affiliate relationships with certain retailers, including Amazon, and may receive a small percentage of any sale. But we only get commission on items you buy and don’t return, so we’re only happy if you’re happy. Good luck deal hunting!

3D Map Shows the Milky Way Galaxy in Unprecedented Detail

ESA
ESA

It's our galactic home, but the Milky Way contains many mysteries scientists are working to unravel. Now, as The Guardian reports, astronomers at the European Space Agency have built a 3D map that provides the most detailed look at our galaxy yet.

The data displayed in the graphic below has been seven years in the making. In 2013, the ESA launched its Gaia observatory from Kourou in French Guiana. Since then, two high-powered telescopes aboard the spacecraft have been sweeping the skies, recording the locations, movements, and changes in brightness of more than a billion stars in the Milky Way and beyond.

Using Gaia's findings, astronomers put together a 3D map that allows scientists to study the galaxy in greater depth than ever before. The data has made it possible to measure the acceleration of the solar system. By comparing the solar system's movement to that of more remote celestial objects, researchers have determined that the solar system is slowly falling toward the center of the galaxy at an acceleration of 7 millimeters per second per year, The Guardian reports. Additionally, the map reveals how matter is distributed throughout the Milky Way. With this information, scientists should be able to get an estimate of the galaxy's mass.

Gaia's observations may also hold clues to the Milky Way's past and future. The data holds remnants of the 10-billion-year-old disc that made up the edge of the star system. By comparing it to the shape of the Milky Way today, astronomers have determined that the disc will continue to expand as new stars are created.

The Gaia observatory was launched with the mission of gathering an updated star census. The previous census was conducted in 1957, and Gaia's new data reaches four times farther and accounts for 100 times more stars.

[h/t The Guardian]