The Phases of the Super Blue Blood Moon of 2018 Explained

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The Phases of the Super Blue Blood Moon of 2018 Explained

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No enthusiastic skywatcher ever misses a total eclipse of the moon. The spectacle of the lunar disk slipping into Earth’s shadow and turning a deep shade of red is often more striking and engaging than one might think. What’s more, when the moon is entering into and later emerging out of Earth’s shadow, secondary phenomena may be overlooked, but these additional features of the eclipse are worth looking out for.A total lunar eclipse occurs when the moon is completely submerged in Earth’s dark, inner shadow, called the umbra. If the moon is only partly covered by the umbra, or only enters the outer shadow (called the penumbra), it is considered a partial lunar eclipse. The total eclipse is said to “begin” when the moon is fully covered by the umbra; this phase is also called “totality.” [Super Blue Blood Moon 2018: When, Where and How to See It]

Stages of the Jan. 31, 2018 "super blue blood moon" are depicted in Pacific Time with "moonset" times for major cities across the U.S., which affect how much of the event viewers will see. While viewers along the East Coast will see only the initial stages of the eclipse before moonset, those in the West and Hawaii will see most or all of the lunar eclipse phases before dawn.

Stages of the Jan. 31, 2018 “super blue blood moon” are depicted in Pacific Time with “moonset” times for major cities across the U.S., which affect how much of the event viewers will see. While viewers along the East Coast will see only the initial stages of the eclipse before moonset, those in the West and Hawaii will see most or all of the lunar eclipse phases before dawn.

Credit: NASA

To help prepare for the upcoming eclipse Wednesday morning (Jan. 31), which NASA has dubbed a “Super Blue Blood Moon” eclipse due to its occurance near perigee and during the second full moon of January, has prepared a step-by-step chronology of the eclipses’ major phases and some of the secondary phenomena you might expect to see. Not all of the events mentioned in the chronology will necessarily occur, because no two eclipses are the same. But many will, and those who know what to look for have a better chance of seeing them!

1 5:51 4:51 3:51 2:51 1:51 12:51
2 6:31 5:31 4:31 2:31 1:31 1:31
3 6:48 5:48 4:48 3:48 2:48 1:48
4 6:35 5:35 4:35 3:35 2:35
5 6:46 5:46 4:46 3:46 2:46
6 6:51 5:51 4:51 3:51 2:51
7 6:29 5:29 4:29 3:29
8 7:07 6:07 5:05 4:05
9 6:23 5:23 4:23
10 7:11 6:11 5:11
11 6:28 5:28
12 7:08 6:08

In the above timetable, all times are for a.m. on Jan. 31. When dashes are provided, it means that the moon has set and is no longer visible. Below are the numbered stages listed above, fully described:

1. Moon enters Earth’s penumbra: The shadow cone of the Earth has two parts: a dark, inner umbra, surrounding by a lighter penumbra. The penumbra is the pale outer portion of Earth’s shadow. Although the eclipse begins officially when the moon enters the penumbra, this is, in essence, an academic event. You won’t see anything unusual happening to the moon — at least not just yet. The Earth’s penumbral shadow is so faint that it remains invisible until the moon is deeply immersed in it. We must wait until the penumbra has reached about 70 percent across the moon’s disk. So for about 40 minutes after the “start” of the partial eclipse, the full moon will continue to appear to shine normally, although with each passing minute it is progressing ever deeper into Earth’s outer shadow.

2. Penumbral shadow begins to appear: Now the moon has progressed far enough into the penumbra that the shadow should be evident on the moon’s disk. Start looking for a very subtle, light shading to appear on the moon’s left portion. This will become increasingly evident as the minutes pass, with the shading appearing to spread and deepen. Just before the moon begins to enter Earth’s dark umbral shadow, the penumbra should appear as an obvious smudge or tarnishing of the moon’s left portion.

Areas of the world that will see the Jan. 31, 2018, total lunar eclipse. The eclipse will be visible Jan. 31 in the morning before sunrise for North America, Alaska and Hawaii. Observers in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand will see it during moonrise the evening of Jan. 31.

Areas of the world that will see the Jan. 31, 2018, total lunar eclipse. The eclipse will be visible Jan. 31 in the morning before sunrise for North America, Alaska and Hawaii. Observers in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand will see it during moonrise the evening of Jan. 31.

Credit: NASA


3. Moon enters Earth’s umbra: The moon now begins to cross into the Earth’s dark central shadow, called the umbra. A small dark scallop begins to appear on the moon’s left-hand (eastern) limb, or it’s apparent edge. The partial phases of the eclipse begin; the pace quickens and the change is dramatic. The umbra is much darker than the penumbra and fairly sharp-edged. As the minutes pass, the dark shadow appears to slowly creep across the moon’s face. At first the moon’s limb may seem to vanish inside of the umbra, but much later, as it moves in deeper you’ll probably notice it glowing dimly orange, red or brown. Notice also that the edge of the Earth’s shadow projected on the moon is curved. Here is visible evidence that the Earth is a sphere, as deduced by Aristotle from lunar eclipses he observed in the fourth century B.C. Almost as if a dimmer switch was slowly being turned down, the surrounding landscape and deep shadows of a brilliant moonlit night begin to fade away.

4. 75 percent coverage: With three-quarters of the moon’s disk now eclipsed by the umbra, the part of it that is immersed in shadow should begin to very faintly light up— like a piece of iron heated to the point where it just begins to glow. It now becomes obvious that the umbral shadow does not create complete darkness on the lunar surface. Using binoculars or a telescope, the shadow’s outer part is usually light enough to reveal lunar maria and craters, but the central part is much darker, and sometimes no surface features are recognizable. Colors in the umbra vary greatly from one eclipse to the next, reds and grays usually predominate, but sometimes browns, blues and other tints are encountered.

5. Less than 5 minutes to totality: Several minutes before (and after) totality, the contrast between the remaining pale-yellow sliver of the moon’s surface and the ruddy-brown coloration spread over the rest of the disk may produce a beautiful phenomenon known to some as the “Japanese Lantern Effect.”

The moon during totality. The color of the moon in this phase varies from eclipse to eclipse.

The moon during totality. The color of the moon in this phase varies from eclipse to eclipse.

Credit: NASA

6. Total eclipse begins: When the last of the moon enters the umbra, the total eclipse begins. How the moon will appear during totality is not known. Sometimes the fully eclipsed moon is such a dark gray-black that it nearly vanishes from view. But it can also glow a bright orange. The reason the moon can be seen at all when totally eclipsed is that sunlight is scattered and refracted around the edge of Earth by our atmosphere. To an astronaut standing on the moon during totality, the sun would be hidden behind a dark Earth outlined by a brilliant red ring consisting of all the world’s sunrises and sunsets. The brightness of this ring around Earth depends on global weather conditions and the amount of dust suspended in the air. A clear atmosphere on Earth means a bright lunar eclipse. If a major volcanic eruption has injected particles into the stratosphere during the previous couple of years, the eclipse is very dark.

7. Middle of totality: The moon is now shining anywhere from 10,000 to 100,000 times fainter than it was just a couple of hours ago. Since the moon is moving to the south of the center of Earth’s umbra, the gradation of color and brightness across the moon’s disk should be such that its upper portion should appear darkest, with hues of deep copper or chocolate brown. Meanwhile, its lower portion — that part of the moon closest to the outer edge of the umbra — should appear brightest, with hues of reds, oranges and even perhaps a soft bluish-white.

Observers away from bright city lights will notice a much greater number of stars than were visible before the eclipse began. The moon will be in the dim constellation of Cancer, the Crab, and positioned almost midway between the backward question-mark pattern of stars known as the Sickle of Leo well to its east (upper left) and the “twin stars,” Pollux and Castor of Gemini well to the west (the moon’s lower right). The darkness of the sky is impressive. The surrounding landscape has taken on a somber hue. Before the eclipse, the full moon looked flat and one-dimensional. During totality, however, it will look smaller and three-dimensional — like some weirdly illuminated ball suspended in space.

Before the moon entered Earth’s shadow, the temperature on its sunlit surface hovered at about 266 degrees Fahrenheit (130 degrees Celsius). Since the moon lacks an atmosphere, there is no way this heat could be prevented from escaping into space as the shadow sweeps by. Now, in shadow, the temperature on the moon has dropped to minus 146 degrees F (minus 99 C); a drop of 412 degrees F, or 229 degrees C, in less than 150 minutes!

8. Total eclipse ends: The emergence of the moon from the umbral shadow begins. The first small segment of the moon begins to reappear, followed again for the next several minutes by the Japanese Lantern Effect.

9. 75 percent coverage: Any vestiges of coloration within the umbra should be disappearing now. From here on, as the dark shadow methodically creeps off the moon’s disk, it should appear black and featureless.

10. Moon leaves umbra: The dark central shadow clears the moon’s right-hand (western) limb.

11. Penumbra shadow fades away: As the last, faint shading vanishes off the moon’s right portion, the visual signs of the eclipse come to an end.

12. Moon leaves penumbra: The eclipse “officially” ends, as it is completely free of the penumbral shadow.

Editor’s note: If you capture an amazing photo of video of the Jan. 31 total lunar eclipse and would like to share it with for a story or gallery, send images and comments to:

Joe Rao serves as an instructor and guest lecturer at New York’s Hayden Planetarium. He writes about astronomy for Natural History magazine, the Farmers’ Almanac and other publications, and he is also an on-camera meteorologist for Verizon Fios1 News, based in Rye Brook, N.Y. Follow us@Spacedotcom, Facebook and Google+. Original article on

Image of the Day

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Image of the Day

Twilight Haze on Titan

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Why Wednesday’s Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse Is So Special

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Why Wednesday’s Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse Is So Special

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Why Wednesday's Super Blue Blood Moon Eclipse Is So Special

People who peer up at the night sky this Wednesday (Jan. 31) may see something like this illustration, which shows a blood moon during a total lunar eclipse.

Credit: NASA

Imagine going to a drive-thru and ordering the following: a blue moon, a supermoon, a blood moon and a total lunar eclipse. Although such a request is impossible (if only!), all four events are actually happening tomorrow (Jan. 31).

But what, exactly, are these four celestial treats? And how rare is it that skywatchers can view all of them on the same night?

For starters, it’s extremely rare. A super-blue-blood-moon-and-total-lunar-eclipse combo hasn’t happened in more than 150 years, Live Science previously reported. [Super Blue Blood Moon 2018: When, Where and How to See It]

Even separately, these events are rare. For instance, a blue moon happens when two full moons occur within the same calendar month. Normally, Earth has 12 full moons per year, which equates to one per month. But because the lunar month — the time between two new moons — averages 29.530589 days, which is shorter than most months (with the exception of February), some years have 13 full moons, Live Science previously reported.

Blue moons happen once every 2.7 years, which explains why the last one happened on July 31, 2015. But despite their name, blue moons don’t actually appear blue. A bluish tint is only possible when smoke or ash from a large fire or volcanic eruption gets into the atmosphere. These fine particles can scatter blue light and make the moon appear blue.

Supermoons, however, are more common than blue moons. A supermoon happens when a full moon is at or near perigee, the point in the moon’s monthly orbit when it’s closest to Earth. Because they’re marginally closer to Earth, supermoons can appear up to 14 percent larger and up to 30 percent brighter than regular full moons, Live Science previously reported.

The most recent supermoon happened this past New Year’s Day, on Jan. 1, 2018. Because the upcoming full moon will be January’s second full moon, it has earned the title of “blue moon.”

Finally, the last two events — the total lunar eclipse and the blood moon — are linked. A total lunar eclipse can happen only when the sun, Earth and full moon are perfectly lined up, in that order. With this alignment, the full moon is completely covered in Earth’s shadow.

A composite image showing the total lunar eclipse that happened during a supermoon on Sept. 27, 2015, as seen from Denver. Before 2015, the last supermoon-and-total-lunar-eclipse combo happened in 1982.

A composite image showing the total lunar eclipse that happened during a supermoon on Sept. 27, 2015, as seen from Denver. Before 2015, the last supermoon-and-total-lunar-eclipse combo happened in 1982.

Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

During a total lunar eclipse, the moon may appear “blood red,” or at least ruddy brown. This unusual hue happens because when the moon is covered by Earth’s shadow, some of the light from Earth’s sunrises and sunsets falls on the moon and makes it appear red, at least from Earth,according to, a Live Science sister site.

The last total lunar eclipse happened during Sept. 27 and 28, 2015. To watch the upcoming total lunar eclipse, tune into

Skywatchers in North America will be able to see the total lunar eclipse before sunrise on Jan. 31. People in the Middle East, Asia, eastern Russia, Australia and New Zealand will be able to view it during moonrise on the evening of Jan. 31, according to NASA.

However, the supermoon will be visible worldwide, as will the blue moon, so long as there isn’t too much cloud cover.

Original article on Live Science.

The Most Amazing Space Photos This Week!

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The Most Amazing Space Photos This Week!

Mesmerizing Clouds of Saturn

Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/SSI/Kevin M. Gill/Flickr

Boeing’s Heat Shield Put to the Test

Credit: Boeing

The Many, Many Times Astronomers Mistook Mundane Phenomena for Aliens

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The Many, Many Times Astronomers Mistook Mundane Phenomena for Aliens

The science world is all in a tizzy this week about the supposed discovery of an alien megastructure. It’s an intriguing theory, no doubt, but one deserving hefty amounts of skepticism. As we’ve learned before, inexplicable observations are all too often confused for aliens. Here are some classic examples.

A strange star located about 1,500 light-years from here is confounding astronomers. As reported by Ross Andersen in The Atlantic, the star, dubbed KIC 8462852, appears to be surrounded by “a strange mess of objects,” compelling scientists involved in the hunt for extraterrestrial intelligence “to get a closer look.”

A likely explanation for the anomaly is a massive and irregular cloud of debris left over from a celestial collision. But Jason Wright, an astronomer who studies exoplanets and astrobiology, suspects it may be a Dyson Sphere—an alien-built megastructure consisting of solar panels placed in orbit around a star.

There’s much more to this story than my summary, so I highly recommendPhil Plait’s post at Slate. As Plait himself admits, this star’s behavior is indeed difficult to explain and it’s “clear something weird is happening there.” To be clear, it’s probably not ET, but the suggestion that aliens may somehow be involved is not completely outrageous. As I’ve said before, the search for alien artifacts—or what’s called Dysonian SETI—may be our best route to finally detecting signs of an extraterrestrial civilization.

This issue brings to mind previous instances in scientific history when a “God is in the gaps” explanation gets invoked for inexplicable phenomenon. There seems to be a tendency—and again, not a completely unwarranted tendency—among some astronomers to attribute extraterrestrial intervention when they observe something unexpected or seemingly outside the bounds of established knowledge. But in virtually every instance, these initial deliberations have been superseded by more reasonable explanations, as these following examples attest.

Canals on Mars

Back at the turn of the 20th century, American astronomer Percival Lowell posited the theory that an advanced alien civilization had irrigated crops on the surface of Mars with water drawn from the Red Planet’s poles via an elaborate canal network.

“That Mars is inhabited by beings of some sort or other we may consider as certain as it is uncertain what these beings may be,” wrote Lowell in 1906.

Since the time of Lowell, however, closer inspection of the surface has shown that Mars does indeed feature a complex and dynamic surface, one carved by the ravages of time rather than an alien civilization.


Another example is the discovery of pulsars, those freakishly precise flashes of electromagnetic radiation produced by highly magnetized, rotating neutron stars.

(Credit: NASA)

Because they flash at such steady and rapid intervals, some astronomers speculated that pulsars are actually beacons set up by advanced alien intelligences. When they were first described in 1967, one of the scientists involved in the discovery, Jocelyn Bell Burnell, said that

we did not really believe that we had picked up signals from another civilization, but obviously the idea had crossed our minds and we had no proof that it was an entirely natural radio emission. It is an interesting problem—if one thinks one may have detected life elsewhere in the universe, how does one announce the results responsibly?

Despite their initial skepticism, they named the pulsar LGM-1, which stands for “little green men.”

The Wow! Signal

There’s also the infamous Wow! signal— a 72-second-long radio burst that initially appeared to good to be true. It was.

Patrick J. KIger from National Geographic explains:

[Jerry] Ehman, a volunteer researcher for Ohio State University’s now-defunct Big Ear radio observatory, perused data from the telescope’s scan of the skies on August 15, a few days earlier. In those days, such information was run through an IBM 1130 mainframe computer and printed on perforated paper, and then laboriously examined by hand. But the tedium was shattered when Ehman spotted something surprising—a vertical column with the alphanumerical sequence “6EQUJ5,” which had occurred at 10:16 p.m. EST. He grabbed a red pen and circled the sequence. In the margin, wrote “Wow!”

Ehman’s excitement over that bit of arcane information stemmed from the Big Ear’s mission at the time, which was searching space for radio signals of the sort that might be emanated by extraterrestrial civilizations, if they were attempting to make contact with intelligent life elsewhere in the universe. To Ehman, this signal, which had come from the direction of the constellation Sagittarius, looked an awful lot like it could be such a message. Observatory director John Krauss and his assistant Bob Dixon, who subsequently examined the data, were similarly astonished by it.

The signal, which lasted 72 seconds, was never detected again, even during follow-up studies. Though never fully explained, the signal was likely a natural, continuous signal, or some human-caused artifact.


More recently, astronomers at the Parkes Observatory in Australia detected mysterious radio signals known as perytons.

(Credit: CSIRO)

These brief but intense bursts, which appeared to emanate from deep space, were so strange that some scientists thought they might be coming from, what else, aliens. But a follow-up study ruined the party by showing that the signals were coming from—get this—microwave ovens used in the observatory to re-heat coffee. Ouch.


Of course, supposed signs of aliens need not be limited to space.

Unidentified flying objects, or UFOs, are often associated with alien visitations, though empirical evidence for such claims are completely lacking. In virtually all cases, however, there are perfectly reasonable explanations for these observations.

Keep an Open Mind

The strange behavior of KIC 8462852 may never be explained. Our inability to posit a more reasonable explanation may be due to our limited technologies, insufficient science, or lack of imagination.

In time we may discover what’s really going on, and it’ll probably be a really fascinating explanation. Until then however, we should seek out the simplest solution, while keeping an open mind to other, more radical possibilities. Failure to do both would be a terrible disservice to the scientific process.


Preliminary Scan Suggests This Interstellar Visitor Is Not an Alien Spaceship

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Preliminary Scan Suggests This Interstellar Visitor Is Not an Alien Spaceship

Artist’s impression of ‘Oumuamua (Image: ESO)

On October 19, 2017, astronomers witnessed the first known interstellar asteroid—a bizarre, cigar-shaped rock that, just as quickly as it entered into our Solar System, exited in a hurry. Not satisfied that ‘Oumuamua, as it’s been named, is just an odd asteroid, astronomers from Breakthrough Listen recently tuned their Green Bank telescope into the object to see if it’s an alien spaceship or some kind of probe. The preliminary results are now in and—brace yourself—it’s still a rock.

Typically, scientists at Breakthrough Listen hunt for aliens by scanning distant stars, but when ‘Oumuamua (pronounced “oh-moo-ah-moo-ah” and meaning “a messenger from afar arriving first”) paid us an unexpected visit, it was an opportunity they couldn’t pass up. Indeed, astronomers have catalogued around 750,000 asteroids, yet this is the only known chunk of rock to originate from a different stellar neighborhood. What’s more, ‘Oumuamua’s strange shape and awesome speed (it’s moving at 26.3 km/s) hinted at something perhaps not quite natural.

Using Breakthrough Listen’s backend instrument on the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in West Virginia, the astronomers ran the first of four scans, or “blocks,” of observations from 3:45pm to 9:45pm ET on December 13. The asteroid, or alleged spaceship, was scanned across four radio bands, each of which corresponded to four radio receivers, denoted L, S, X, C, and spanning billions of individual channels from 1 to 12 GHz. During this first block of observations, the astronomers also collected 90 TB of data, which, unsurprisingly, they’re still parsing through.

Image: Brooks Bays/SOEST Publication Services/Univ. of Hawaii

No artificial signals were detected within this first block of data. So depending on your opinion of aliens, this is either good or bad news (raises hand that this is good news).

“The team has just met and reviewed our results from all four bands observed last night and we don’t see anything continuously emitting from ‘Oumuamua,” Andrew Siemion, Director of Berkeley SETI Research Center, told Gizmodo. “We’re now digging in to some of the intermittent candidates, and trying some new machine learning-based techniques we have been working on. We expect our next observation window to be scheduled for [December 15 or 16], when we should get a view of additional ‘phases’ of ‘Oumuamua as it rotates.”

Siemion said the weather cooperated such that his team was able to get data at all four bands. At this stage, only data from the S-band receiver has been processed (between frequencies of 1.7 to 2.6 GHz), and analysis of the remaining three bands is still underway.

This unexpected visit has the Breakthrough Listen team wondering if there are specific search techniques or algorithms that would be more effective when scanning nearby objects or hypothetical probes. This is completely new territory, but for now, Siemion’s team figures that ‘Oumuamua doesn’t emit “an isotropic narrow-band beacon at centimeter-wavelengths above a power of about 0.2W”—or the approximate power of an iPhone.

Some might think this exercise is a complete waste of time, and a venture that skirts the bounds of credible science, but not everyone shares this viewpoint.

“This is a fishing expedition,” Avi Loeb, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, told Gizmodo. “We are most likely not to find anything, but it is worth checking steadily our fishing hooks. It is worthwhile to keep searching for artificial signals from ‘Oumuamua or any other interstellar object that will be discovered in the future. Null results are part of science, and the question ‘Are we alone?’ is one of the most fundamental questions we have.”

Penn State astronomer Jason Wright agrees, but he didn’t think ‘Oumuamua was the greatest candidate to begin with.

“Arthur C. Clarke popularized the idea that we might discover alien probes or spacecraft as they pass by the Sun in his Rama series. We should keep an open mind about how alien technology might be found, and how it might travel through space, and take Clarke’s suggestion seriously.”

Wright said he’s not “particularly persuaded” by the SETI approach for this particular asteroid, but he understands why astronomers like Avi Loeb and Andrew Siemion are, and he’s “excited that Breakthrough Listen is including interstellar objects” in its campaign.

“This is the first interstellar asteroid we know, and we expect to find many more in the future,” said Wright. “By undertaking this campaign, Breakthrough Listen is developing a protocol for these observations, and making us all think harder about how future interstellar asteroids can fit into a comprehensive SETI campaign.”

Defending his work, Siemion says SETI is a key tool in attempting to answer the question of whether or not we’re alone in the universe, and that it’s a reasonable scientific endeavor to determine the number density and distribution of technologically capable life on both galactic and possibly cosmological scales.

“No, I don’t think SETI is a crazy thing to do,” said Siemion in response to a question from Gizmodo. “I think it is perhaps the most profoundly consequential scientific endeavor we have ever attempted as human beings.”

[Breakthrough Listen]

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Top 10 Sickening Facts About Space Travel


The idea of traveling into space seems cool. Many of us have imagined becoming astronauts—or possibly the first person on Mars—at some point in our lives. Who hasn’t wanted to touch the stars?

However, there are some facts that might have made us reconsider if our dreams hadn’t died off, anyway. From the unfortunate consequences of venturing into a decidedly human-unfriendly environment to the inability of Earth-made products to properly adjust to space, there are many attributes of space travel that you may not have anticipated. Here are ten sickening facts about space travel.

10NASA Doesn’t Know What To Do With Astronauts Who Die In Space

NASA has no concrete plans regarding what to do with the bodies of astronauts who die in space. In fact, NASA doesn’t even expect astronauts to die in space, so it doesn’t train them on what to do in the event of the death of a colleague. But what would happen if an astronaut dies in space? The possibility of this is higher than ever as NASA plans for long-term missions like a trip to Mars.

One option is to release the body into space. However, this isn’t really an option since the United Nations prohibits the dumping of litter, which includes bodies, in space over fears that they might collide with spaceships or contaminate other planets. Another option is to store the body inside the spaceship and bury it upon returning to Earth. Again, this is not an option since it would put the lives of other astronauts at risk. A last option, if man ever gets to colonize Mars, is to use the body as fertilizer. However, it remains in doubt whether humans make good fertilizer.

NASA is currently working with Promessa, a burial company, to develop what it calls “Body Back.” With Body Back, a corpse is sealed inside an airtight sleeping bag and attached to the outside of the spaceship, where it is exposed to the extremely cold temperatures of space. The body freezes, vibrates, and finally shatters into small, fine particles as the spacecraft travels through space. By the time the spaceship returns to Earth, all that that’s left of the dead astronaut would be small, fine, dust-sized particles.

9Astronauts Drink Recycled Urine

Photo credit: NASA

Access to fresh water can be a problem in space. American astronauts at the International Space Station (ISS) get most of their water by recycling and recovering it using the Water Recovery System, which NASA introduced in 2009. Just as the name implies, the Water Recovery System allows astronauts to recover most of the water they lose through sweat and urine or while brushing or making coffee.

American astronauts aren’t just recycling their own urine. They’re also recycling the urine of cosmonauts, since the Russians have refused to recycle their own pee. According to Layne Carter, NASA’s water subsystem manager for the ISS, the recycled water tastes just like bottled water.

8Astronauts Lose Muscle And Bone Mass And Suffer From Premature Aging

Photo credit: NASA

The microgravity environment of space causes premature aging in astronauts. Their skin ages faster, becomes drier and thinner, and is prone to itching. As if that isn’t enough, their bones and muscles become weaker. Astronauts lose one percent of their muscle mass and as much as two percent of their bone mass with every month that they spend in space. A four- to six-month trip to the International Space Station would lead to the loss of about 11 percent of the mass of the hip bone.

Even astronauts’ arteries aren’t spared. They become stiffer, as would be expected in people 20 or 30 years older. This makes astronauts susceptible to heart problems and stroke. Canadian astronaut Robert Thirsk suffered weakness, fragile bones, and lack of balance after spending six months in space. He said he felt like a senior citizen by the time he returned to Earth. Premature aging is now recognized as one of the side effects of space travel. It remains unpreventable, although astronauts can reduce its effect by exercising for two hours each day.

7Space Travel Might Be Making Astronauts Infertile

There are speculations that long-term space missions are makingastronauts infertile. In one experiment, male rats suspended above the floor during a six-week-long experiment, mimicking the weightlessness of outer space, suffered shrunken testes and severely low sperm count, which made them as good as being infertile. Female rats suffered a similar or even worse fate when they were sent into space. Their ovaries ceased working after just 15 days. By the time they returned to Earth, the gene responsible for producing estrogen (the female hormone) had become redundant, while the cells that produced eggs were dying.

Space travel has also been linked to loss of libido. In one experiment, two male and five female mice sent into space refused to mate. However, some researchers insist that space travel has nothing to do with libido or infertility. Fish and frog eggs sent into space have fertilized, though the frog offspring never developed past tadpoles. Male astronauts have also impregnated their wives days after returning to Earth.

Female astronauts aren’t left out. They have also gotten pregnant soon after returning from space missions, although they have a higher rate of miscarriage. The effects of space travel on reproduction remain debatable, and from the look of things, we’re not finding out soon. NASA has turned down attempts to get the sperm count of its male astronauts returning from space for privacy reasons.

6Most Astronauts Get Space Sick

Despite advancements in space technology, space sickness remains one ofNASA’s biggest headaches.More than half of all astronauts sent into space experience nausea, headache, vomiting, and general discomfort, which are all symptoms of space sickness, also called space adaptation syndrome. One notable astronaut who experienced space sickness is ex-senator Jake Garn, who started showing symptoms even before leaving Earth. By the time he returned, he couldn’t even walk properly.

Garn’s bout of space sickness was so terrible that his name became an informal measurement for the illness. Astronauts can rate their symptoms with phrases like like “one garn,” “two garns,” “three garns,” and so on. While NASA has yet to find a solution for space sickness, it has created an early warning device that lets astronauts know that they’re about to get space sick.

5All Astronauts Wear Diapers

NASA had an oversight in designing the first space suit. Apparently, its scientists forgot that astronauts might need to pee while in their suits. This oversight caused astronaut Alan Shepard, the first American in space, to pee right inside his space suit. This only happened after series of deliberations because NASA scientists feared that the urine might short-circuit the electrical components of the suit.

To prevent similar scenarios during future missions, NASA came up with a condom-like device that astronauts wore while in their space suits. For obvious reasons, this device became a problem by the time women joined the space party in the 1970s, so NASA came up with a urine and fecal management system called the Disposable Absorption Containment Trunk (DACT). DACT was used by both sexes even though it was specifically made for women.

In 1988, NASA replaced DACT with the Maximum Absorbency Garment (MAG), which is basically an adult diaper, except that it has been modified to look like shorts. Each astronaut is given three MAGs for every mission. They wear one when going into space and one when returning and keep the third as an extra.

4It Might Be A Good Idea To Masturbate In Space

Astronauts are always at risk of contracting genitourinary illnesses while in space. Males are likely to go down with prostatitis, while females are at risk of urinary tract infections. Between 1981 and 1998, 23 of the 508 astronauts NASA sent into space suffered from genitourinary problems. While this statistic proves that genitourinary illnesses only affect a small percentage of astronauts, they aren’t minor issues and could lead to the termination of space missions.

The Soviet Union found this out the hard way in 1985, when cosmonaut Vladimir Vasyutin was forced to return to Earth after spending only two months out of a planned six-month stay at the Salyut-7 space station. Vladimir had suffered severe prostatitis, which caused fever, nausea, and serious pains whenever he urinated.

Marjorie Jenkins, NASA’s medical advisor, clarified that prostatitis could be one of the effects of decreased ejaculation. When men do not ejaculate enough, bacteria can accumulate in the prostate and cause an infection.

It is unknown whether astronauts are required to masturbate during space missions, but this doesn’t mean they haven’t been doing it. A Russian cosmonaut once admitted that he “makes sex by hand” while in space. In 2012, astronaut Ron Garan also clarified during an Ask Me Anything session on Reddit that astronauts do get some “free time” at the International Space Station. When asked for further clarification, he said, “I can only speak for myself, but we’re professionals.”

3Emergency Medical Services Are Nonexistent In Space

Photo credit: NASA/Randy Bresnik

NASA has no sophisticated medical equipment on board its spacecraft or even the ISS. All it has are drugs and basic equipment that qualify as first aid. This means astronauts cannot be treated for anything other than basic ailments. So, what happens when an astronaut becomes severely sick or even requires surgery?

When such happens, NASA demands that the astronaut is sent back toEarth. NASA has an agreement with the Russian Space Agency, Roscosmos, to launch emergency Soyuz rockets to recover sick astronauts from the ISS. Besides the sick astronaut, the rocket would return with two extra astronauts since it requires a three-man crew. Such a trip would cost hundreds of millions of dollars, and a severely ill astronaut might not even survive the journey.

If NASA goes through all this just to recover a sick astronaut from the “nearby” ISS, what happens when it wants to recover an astronaut fromMars? NASA, through one of its subsidiaries, the National Space Biomedical Research Institute (NSBRI) has been funding several agencies to create unique medical equipment that can handle complicated ailments like heart attacks and appendicitis in space.

2Drugs Are Less Effective In Space

Photo credit: NASA

We just mentioned that only medical care immediately available to astronauts in space qualifies as first aid. Even at that, most of the drugs available aren’t as effective as they would be if they were administered here on Earth. During one study, researchers assembled eight first aid kits with 35 different drugs, including sleeping aids and antibiotics. Four of the kits were sent to the International Space Station, while the remaining four were kept in a special chamber at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston.

After 28 months, the drugs sent to the ISS were found to be less effective than those kept at the space center. Six of the drugs were also found to have either liquefied or changed in color compared to only two kept at the space center undergoing those changes. Researchers believe the loss of effectiveness is caused by the excessive vibration and radiation the drugs receive in the outer space. For now, NASA reduces the severity of this problem by replacing the drugs at the ISS every six months. In the future, it plans to improve the packaging and ingredients used in making drugs sent into space.

1Carbon Dioxide Poisoning Is A Problem

Photo credit: NASA

The ISS has a higher-than-average concentration of carbon dioxide. On Earth, the concentration of CO2 is about 0.3 mm Hg, but it can reach up to 6 mm Hg at the ISS. Unfavorable side effects like headaches, irritation, and sleeping difficulties, which have become a norm among astronauts, are few of the consequences of this higher-than-normal concentration of carbon dioxide. In fact, most astronauts complain of headaches early into their missions.

Unlike on Earth, where carbon dioxide leaving the body disperses into the air, CO2 exhaled by astronauts forms a cloud above their heads. The ISS has special fans on board to blow these clouds away from the heads of the astronauts and disperse it around the facility. NASA has also mandated that the concentration of CO2 in the ISS be reduced to 4 mm Hg. However, this is still higher than the recommended 2.5 mm HG. NASA could reduce it to this level, except that it would wear the fans out faster. Hopefully, NASA will find a solution to this problem before we start traveling to Mars.