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10 astronomical events in 2018 and how you can see them
Need more astronomical phenomena in your life? We've got you covered.
2018 started off with a tremendous lunar spectacle and promises to keep up the show. Here we have ten major astronomical events that will take place this year, including the stats on time, place, and which part of the sky to be looking in.
Super Blue Blood Moon
The moon rises over Istanbul. (Getty Images)
On January 31, 2018, people living in East Asia, the Pacific Islands, and the West Coast of the United States had the best views of a lunar eclipse which turned the moon a vibrant red. This eclipse was particularly special because it occurred as the moon was in perigee, the closest approach to the Earth in its orbit. For most time zones this was also the second full moon of the month, making it a “blue moon” as well.
A Multi-exposure photograph of a partial solar eclipse, similar to the one that will happen this year. (Getty Images)
On Feb 15 the moon will return for an encore and partially eclipse the sun. While this event will not be anywhere near as fantastic as the total eclipse seen by millions of Americans in 2017, it will still offer interesting views. Regrettably, most of the eclipse will occur over the South Pole, with only the ending of the event being visible to residents of Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay.
For anybody reading this in Buenos Aires, don’t forget your eclipse glasses.
A blue moon rises over London. (Getty Images)
On March 2nd and 31st, the moon will be full. As it will be the second full moon in a calendar month, residents of Eastern and Central Asia will get a great view of a blue moon. For everybody living east of the dateline border, such as in the United States, the date will shift before the moon is truly full and it won’t count as being in the same month.
Of course, the moon itself won’t really be blue, it's just a name. A blue hue is possible after volcanic activity or wildfires as dust particles filter out red light, however.
Lyrid Meteor Shower
A falling star over Myanmar as part of the Lyrid meteor shower. (Getty Images)
This meteor shower is caused by Earth passing into dust shed by the long period comet C/1861 G1 (Thatcher). It is one of the oldest astronomical events known and it was likely referenced by the ancient Chinese in the work Zuo Zhuan. It is named for the constellation Lyra, and the meteors will seem to originate from that part of the sky.
This event occurs every year from April 16th to the 25th and commonly peaks around the evening of the 22nd. This meteor shower will be visible to the entire Northern hemisphere and for the extreme north of the Southern Hemisphere.
Halley's Comet as seen from the Soviet spacecraft Vega in 1986. (Getty Images)
Yes, we know; the real Halley’s Comet isn’t coming back until 2061. For those of us who don’t want to wait, during the night of May 6 and 7th small remnants of the comet will be seen streaking across the sky. The Eta Aquariids meteor shower is comprised of dust particles left along the path of the famed comet which burn up as the Earth moves into them.
This shower isn’t very spectacular, but it is notable for being visible primarily in the Southern hemisphere. While the peak will be around the 7th of May there will be a week of activity, as it is with most meteor showers. It is named for the Aquarius constellation and the falling stars will be focused around it.
Lunar Eclipse at Apogee.
Time lapse of a partial lunar eclipse over Pakistan. (Getty Images)
The second lunar eclipse of the year will also be the longest of the 21st century. The moon will be at apogee, the furthest the moon gets from the Earth in its orbit, and be passing right through the center of the Earth’s shadow. Such an eclipse is called a “central lunar eclipse” and is relatively rare.
The eclipse will occur on July 27th. It will be visible from Australia to Brazil, with the best views being over Eastern Africa and Central Asia.
The Perseid meteor shower over the Lovell Radio Telescope. (Getty Images)
Named for the constellation Perseus, where it appears to originate. The source of this shower is the dust from the comet Swift-Tuttle. Most of the dust which will burn up to create this event has been drifting in Earth’s path for thousands of years, though some of it is known to have broken off its comet in 1865 and will cause a slight boost in activity right before the peak of the event.
This meteor shower will peak between August 12th and 13th; though it should be visible for some time before and after that as well. As with most meteor showers, the best views will come just before dawn. This meteor shower will be visible to everyone in the Northern Hemisphere
The Orion Nebula, which shares a namesake with the Orionid Shower. (Getty Images)
Another meteor shower, this time it seems to come from the Orion constellation. The comet responsible for this event is none other than the famed Halley’s Comet. This is one of two annual meteor showers caused by dust from that comet, the other being the Eta Aquarids in May.
While the meteors will be visible for the first week of October, expect the peak to occur around the second. This shower will be visible in both the Northern and Southern hemispheres.
The green streak of a meteor seen in the southern sky of New England as part of the 2001 Leonids. (Getty Images)
Seeming to come out of the constellation Leo, this meteor shower is caused by the Earth moving into dust left behind by the comet Tempel-Tuttle. While the most spectacular events this shower can produce were seen between 1999 and 2002, this year’s Leonids will still be fun to watch and stronger than last year. This meteor shower also has the distinction of having produced one of the most, if not the most, amazing shows on record. In 1833 it was estimated that more than 240,000 meteors were visible over nine hours in the skies of the United States and Mexico.
Occurring for most of November, the peak of this event will be between the 17th and 18th. This event will be visible everywhere in the world no matter which hemisphere you find yourself in.
A shooting star as part of the Geminids meteor shower. (Getty Images).
The last major astronomical event of the year is yet another meteor shower. This is one of two meteor showers not caused by a comet. Instead, the source for the dust which creates the dazzling spectacle is the asteroid 3200 Phaethon. This shower is notable for its consistency and the medium speed of the falling stars, making it an excellent choice for beginning stargazers.
The event can last from December 7th to the 17th and tends to peak around the 14th. This event will be visible primarily to residents of the Northern Hemisphere, though amateur astronomers in the tropical areas of the Southern Hemisphere may be able to see a view falling stars.
Now, get out to a nice, dark, place in the countryside and look up.
Certain water beetles can escape from frogs after being consumed.
- A Japanese scientist shows that some beetles can wiggle out of frog's butts after being eaten whole.
- The research suggests the beetle can get out in as little as 7 minutes.
- Most of the beetles swallowed in the experiment survived with no complications after being excreted.
In what is perhaps one of the weirdest experiments ever that comes from the category of "why did anyone need to know this?" scientists have proven that the Regimbartia attenuata beetle can climb out of a frog's butt after being eaten.
The research was carried out by Kobe University ecologist Shinji Sugiura. His team found that the majority of beetles swallowed by black-spotted pond frogs (Pelophylax nigromaculatus) used in their experiment managed to escape about 6 hours after and were perfectly fine.
"Here, I report active escape of the aquatic beetle R. attenuata from the vents of five frog species via the digestive tract," writes Sugiura in a new paper, adding "although adult beetles were easily eaten by frogs, 90 percent of swallowed beetles were excreted within six hours after being eaten and, surprisingly, were still alive."
One bug even got out in as little as 7 minutes.
Sugiura also tried putting wax on the legs of some of the beetles, preventing them from moving. These ones were not able to make it out alive, taking from 38 to 150 hours to be digested.
Naturally, as anyone would upon encountering such a story, you're wondering where's the video. Thankfully, the scientists recorded the proceedings:
The Regimbartia attenuata beetle can be found in the tropics, especially as pests in fish hatcheries. It's not the only kind of creature that can survive being swallowed. A recent study showed that snake eels are able to burrow out of the stomachs of fish using their sharp tails, only to become stuck, die, and be mummified in the gut cavity. Scientists are calling the beetle's ability the first documented "active prey escape." Usually, such travelers through the digestive tract have particular adaptations that make it possible for them to withstand extreme pH and lack of oxygen. The researchers think the beetle's trick is in inducing the frog to open a so-called "vent" controlled by the sphincter muscle.
"Individuals were always excreted head first from the frog vent, suggesting that R. attenuata stimulates the hind gut, urging the frog to defecate," explains Sugiura.
For more information, check out the study published in Current Biology.
New research from the University of Granada found that stress could help determine sex.
Stress in the modern world is generally viewed as a hindrance to a healthy life.
Indeed, excess stress is associated with numerous problems, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, insomnia, depression, obesity, and other conditions. While the physiological mechanisms associated with stress can be beneficial, as Kelly McGonigal points out in The Upside of Stress, the modern wellness industry is built on the foundation of stress relief.
The effects of stress on pregnant mothers is another longstanding area of research. For example, what potential negative effects do elevated levels of cortisol, epinephrine, and norepinephrine have on fetal development?
A new study, published in the Journal of Developmental Origins of Health and Disease, investigated a very specific aspect of stress on fetuses: does it affect sex? Their findings reveal that women with elevated stress are twice as likely to give birth to a girl.
For this research, the University of Granada scientists recorded the stress levels of 108 women before, during, and after conception. By testing cortisol concentration in their hair and subjecting the women to a variety of psychological tests, the researchers discovered that stress indeed influences sex. Specifically, stress made women twice as likely to deliver a baby girl.
The team points out that their research is consistent with other research that used saliva to show that stress resulted in a decreased likelihood of delivering a boy.
Maria Isabel Peralta RamírezPhoto courtesy of University of Granada
Lead author María Isabel Peralta Ramírez, a researcher at the UGR's Department of Personality, Evaluation and Psychological Treatment, says that prior research focused on stress levels leading up to and after birth. She was interested in stress's impact leading up to conception. She says:
"Specifically, our research group has shown in numerous publications how psychological stress in the mother generates a greater number of psychopathological symptoms during pregnancy: postpartum depression, a greater likelihood of assisted delivery, an increase in the time taken for lactation to commence (lactogenesis), or inferior neurodevelopment of the baby six months after birth."
While no conclusive evidence has been rendered, the research team believes that activation of the mother's endogenous stress system during conception sets the concentration of sex hormones that will be carried throughout development. As the team writes, "there is evidence that testosterone functions as a mechanism when determining the baby's sex, since the greater the prenatal stress levels, the higher the levels of female testosterone." Levels of paternal stress were not factored into this research.
Previous studies show that sperm carrying an X chromosome are better equipped to reach the egg under adverse conditions than sperm carrying the Y chromosome. Y fetuses also mature slowly and are more likely to produce complications than X fetuses. Peralta also noted that there might be more aborted male fetuses during times of early maternal stress, which would favor more girls being born under such circumstances.
In the future, Peralta and her team say an investigation into aborted fetuses should be undertaken. Right now, the research was limited to a small sample size that did not factor in a number of elements. Still, the team concludes, "the research presented here is pioneering to the extent that it links prenatal stress to the sex of newborns."
Stay in touch with Derek on Twitter and Facebook. His most recent book is "Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."
The world's 10 most affected countries are spending up to 59% of their GDP on the effects of violence.
- Conflict and violence cost the world more than $14 trillion a year.
- That's the equivalent of $5 a day for every person on the planet.
- Research shows that peace brings prosperity, lower inflation and more jobs.
- Just a 2% reduction in conflict would free up as much money as the global aid budget.
- Report urges governments to improve peacefulness, especially amid COVID-19.
What is the price of peace?
Or put another way, how much better off would we all be in a world where armed conflict was avoided?
To give some context, 689 million people - more than 9% of the world's population - live on less than $1.90 a day, according to World Bank figures, underscoring the potential impact peace-building activities could have.
Just over 10% of global GDP is being spent on containing, preventing and dealing with the consequences of violence. As well as the 1.4 million violent deaths each year, conflict holds back economic development, causes instability, widens inequality and erodes human capital.
Putting a price tag on peace and violence helps us see the disproportionately high amounts spent on creating and containing violent acts compared to what is spent on building resilient, productive, and peaceful societies.
—Steve Killelea, founder and executive chairman, Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP)
The cost of violence
In a report titled "The Economic Value of Peace 2021", the IEP says that for every death from violent conflict, 40 times as many people are injured. The world's 10 most affected countries are spending up to 59% of their GDP on the effects of violence.
Grounds for hope
But the picture is not all bleak. The economic impact of violence fell for the second year in a row in 2019, as parts of the world became more peaceful.
The global cost dropped by $64 billion between 2018 and 2019, even though it was still $1.2 trillion higher than in 2012.
In five regions of the world the costs increased in 2019. The biggest jump was in Central America and the Caribbean, where a rising homicide rate pushed the cost up 8.3%.
Syria, with its ongoing civil war, suffered the greatest economic impact with almost 60% of its GDP lost to conflict in 2019. That was followed by Afghanistan (50%) and South Sudan (46%).
The report makes a direct link between peace and prosperity. It says that, since 2000, countries that have become more peaceful have averaged higher GDP growth than those which have become more violent.
"This differential is significant and represents a GDP per capita that is 30% larger when compounded over a 20-year period," the report says adding that peaceful countries also have substantially lower inflation and unemployment.
"Small improvements in peace can have substantial economic benefits," it adds. "For example, a 2% reduction in the global impact of violence is roughly equivalent to all overseas development aid in 2019."
Equally, the total value of foreign direct investment globally only offsets 10% of the economic impact of violence. Authoritarian regimes lost on average 11% of GDP to the costs of violence while in democracies the cost was just 4% of GDP.
And the gap has widened over time, with democracies reducing the cost of violence by almost 16% since 2007 while in authoritarian countries it has risen by 27% over the same period.
The report uses 18 economic indicators to evaluate the cost of violence. The top three are military spending (which was $5.9 trillion globally in 2019), the cost of internal security which makes up over a third of the total at $4.9 trillion and homicide.
Peace brings prosperity
The formula also contains a multiplier effect because as peace increases, money spent containing violence can instead be used on more productive activities which drive growth and generate higher monetary and social returns.
"Substantial economic improvements are linked to improvements in peace," says the report. "Therefore, government policies should be directed to improving peacefulness, especially in a COVID-19 environment where economic activity has been subdued."
The IEP says what it terms "positive peace" is even more beneficial than "negative peace" which is simply the absence of violence or the fear of violence. Positive peace involves fostering the attitudes, institutions & structures that create and sustain peaceful societies.
The foundations of a positively peaceful society, it says, are: a well functioning government, sound business environment, acceptance of the rights of others, good relations with neighbours, free flow of information, high levels of human capital, low levels of corruption and equitable distribution of resources.
The World Economic Forum's report Mobilizing the Private Sector in Peace and Reconciliation urged companies large and small to recognise their potential to work for peace quoting the former Goldman Sachs chair, the late Peter Sutherland, who said: "Business thrives where society thrives."
The lush biodiversity of South America's rainforests is rooted in one of the most cataclysmic events that ever struck Earth.