A huge comet almost hit Mars … and then missed. It passed just 87,000 miles from the martian surface. That might seem far away, but remember our moon is about 240,000 miles from Earth’s surface. 

As astronomer Phil Plait, who writes the Bad Astronomy blog for Slate, notes:

The NASA comet page says the coma (the big fuzzy cloud of gas surrounding the solid nucleus of the comet) is about 20,000 km across. At closest approach, that means that if you were standing on Mars, the comet would appear to be over 8° across! That means that if you have a big hand, you could just barely block it with your upraised fist.

Again — our Moon appears only about 0.5°. This was huge.

And human probes orbiting mars had a front row seat. They recorded the comet’s approach, and then quickly swung around behind Mars to avoid potentially harmful debris in the comet’s tail. The data from their close encounter will be trickling in over the next couple weeks.

All those little lines are jokes! ALL THE JOKES! (at least the ones I noticed)

Last year Jeremy Bowers, Danny DeBelius, Christopher Groskopf, Aly Hurt and I made a very silly interactive graphic exhaustively tabulating the running jokes in Arrested Development, along with their connections:

http://apps.npr.org/arrested-development/

And wouldn’t you know it, someone just put in a book — giving me an excuse to put in on tumblr. So if you’d like to see how many times GOB says “I’ve made a huge mistake,” check out the graphic.

Thanks to the hundreds of people who sent me their photos of the lunar eclipse! I used a lot of the photos (though not all — I’ve received a lot more since I put this together) to make this cross-country 20 fps time lapse. (It’s a big GIF so you might have to wait for it to load…)

The title card comes from Max Corneau (aka AstroDad) who camped out in Rockwall, TX and managed to get this terrific shot at totality before the clouds closed in.

Ron Pope in Abilene, TX caught a very spooky shot of the October moon rising from the mist.

I love the “moon bounce" images that Brittney Maehl sent me from Beloit, WI. She told me: “Trying to capture the Blood Moon as an amateur WITHOUT a tripod was like making the ultimate sniper shot!” Luckily she was Navy-trained, so she got some great steady shots as well that I included in the time lapse.

The last shot is from flickr user slworking2. He says, “I used the tracking mount from an old telescope to follow the moon - and this allowed for a sharply-focused exposure.”

It was wonderful to get your photos (there were so many cool ones I couldn’t highlight specifically) and to hear your stories of blood moon hunting. Thanks again!

ICYMI: Why are blood moons red, anyway?

skunkbear:

At moonset/sunrise on Wednesday morning, a few lucky observers east of the Mississippi might glimpse the sun and the eclipsed moon AT THE SAME TIME! Geometrically impossible, and well worth setting your alarms for.

Look up the your specific moonset times here.

If you stay up/get up to see the blood moon tonight, take pictures and send them to me!

nprskunkbear@gmail.com

There’s another lunar eclipse this year and it’s happening tomorrow night! (That’s Tuesday night — in other words the wee hours of Wednesday morning). Europe and Africa will be left out this time around, but viewers in North America and Asia will get the chance to see the moon pass through the earth’s shadow. Details from NASA here.

This eclipse is extra special because it might be a rare selenelion.

Don’t ask me how to pronounce that word, but here’s what it means: the refraction of light through Earth’s atmosphere makes both sun and moon appear higher in the sky then they really are. So at moonset/sunrise on Wednesday morning, a few lucky observers east of the Mississippi might glimpse the sun and the eclipsed moon AT THE SAME TIME! Geometrically impossible, and well worth setting your alarms for.

I put approximate moonset times in this GIF, but you should look up the specific schedule for your location here.