The First Total Solar Eclipse in Two Years Is Coming in July

Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

If you saved your protective glasses from 2017's solar eclipse, now's the time to dig them out of storage. A total solar eclipse, the first one visible from Earth in nearly two years, will occur over parts of South America and the South Pacific on July 2, 2019.

What is a solar eclipse?

There are several different types of eclipses, including lunar (when the Moon passes beneath our planet's shadow) and annular (when the Sun's edges are visible as a ring around the Moon). A total eclipse is the best-known and most anticipated of such phenomena: When the Moon is in the right position in the sky, it perfectly aligns with the Earth and the Sun, appearing to totally block out the Sun from certain vantage points. While partial solar eclipses, in which the Moon only covers part of the Sun, can happen a few times a year, total solar eclipses are much rarer.

Where to Watch the Total Solar Eclipse of 2019

Unlike the last total solar eclipse in 2017, this next one doesn't fall over the United States. Most of it will be obscured above the Pacific Ocean, but a small section of the path of totality will be visible from South America. On Tuesday, July 2 around sunset, people in parts of Chile and Argentina can look to the horizon and see the Moon cross the Sun. The event may be worth the trip for eclipse chasers: the Andean region where the eclipse will take place is known for its low humidity and clear skies at high altitudes.

This particular total eclipse is also notable for its duration. At its peak, totality will last four minutes and 33 seconds—which exceeds the peak totality of the total solar eclipse in 2017. But to see the Moon block the Sun for that long, sky-gazers will need to take a boat into the middle of the South Pacific.

A Rare ‘Full Cold Moon Kiss’ Is Coming This Week—Here’s How to See It

jamesvancouver/iStock via Getty Images
jamesvancouver/iStock via Getty Images

Every year ends with a cold moon—the name given to a full moon that appears in December. The full cold moon that's lighting up skies in 2019 will come with a bonus spectacle for sky-gazers. As Forbes reports, a planetary "kiss" between Saturn and Venus will coincide with the last full moon of the year. Here's what you need to know about the astronomical events.

What is a Full Cold Moon Kiss?

The full moon of each month has a unique nickname associated with the time of year it occurs. A cold moon happens as temperatures drop and winter settles in, hence the name. December's full moon has also been called the long nights moon by some Native American tribes and the moon Before Yule in Europe, according to Travel and Leisure.

This year's moon will be visible the night of December 11 through the morning of December 12. On this same night, the planets Venus and Saturn will appear closer than usual in the night sky. The celestial bodies will be less than 2° apart and share a celestial longitude, a phenomena known as a conjunction or a planetary "kiss."

How to See the Full Cold Moon Kiss

During twilight on Tuesday, December 10, the bright planet Venus and the dimmer planet Saturn will arrive at their closest conjunction, 1.8° apart, above the southwestern horizon. The following evening, they'll be just .01° further away. Stick around the night of Wednesday, December 11 to catch the full cold moon, which reaches peak illumination at 9:12 p.m. on the West Coast and at 12 minutes after midnight on the East Coast.

Not planning on staying up late to see the moon reach its fullest state? Moonrise on December 11 will be just as spectacular. When the moon surfaces around sunset, it will appear larger and more reddish in color in the sky. Meanwhile, Venus's and Saturn's kiss will be visible 180º away.

[h/t Forbes]

First-Ever Map of Titan Reveals That Saturn’s Moon Is a Lot Like Earth

NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho
NASA/JPL-Caltech/Univ. Arizona/Univ. Idaho

If there's any life in this solar system outside Earth, we likely won't find it on Mars or even on another planet. Saturn's moon Titan is the place in our celestial neighborhood that's most similar to our own home, and it's where scientists think we have one of the best chances of discovering life. Now, as Nature reports, newly visualized data shows just how much Titan has in common with Earth.

Between 2004 and 2017, the NASA spacecraft Cassini performed more than 100 fly-bys of Saturn's moon. Titan is unique in that it's the only moon in the solar system with clouds and a dense, weather-forming atmosphere. This has made it hard to study from space, but by flying close to the surface, Cassini was able to capture the landscape in an unprecedented level of detail.

Map of Titan.
The first global geologic map of Titan.
NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

NASA's new map of Titan, published in the journal Nature Astronomy, reveals a varied world of mountains, valleys, plains, and sandy dunes that starkly contrast with the desolate wastelands we've seen on neighboring planets. It's also home to seas and lakes, making it the only place in the solar system other than Earth with known bodies of liquid. But instead of water, the pools mottling the moon's surface consist of liquid methane.

Even with its Earth-like geology and atmosphere, chances of finding life on Titan are still slim: Temperatures on the surface average around -300°F. If life does exist there, it's likely limited to microbes in the moon's craters and icy volcanoes.

It will be a while before NASA is able to study Titan up close again: NASA's next drone mission to the body is set for 2034. Until then, scientists have plenty of data recorded by Cassini to teach them more about how the moon formed and continues to change.

[h/t Nature]

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