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Science Saturday
Author: Will in Chicago    Date: 2018-07-28 10:50:17

Our universe is vast, and I have long thought that it is best to approach the beauty and wonder of our existence with awe and humility. Sometimes, in the midst of our busy lives and frantic news cycles, looking at our universe can put some problems into their proper perspective.

Many people on our spinning blue marble enjoyed the longest lunar eclipse of the 21st Century. While this eclipse was not visible from the U.S.,. there was a lot of coverage. From Space.com

Longest Lunar Eclipse of the Century Dazzles Skywatchers

By Meghan Bartels, Space.com Senior Writer | July 27, 2018 07:29pm ET

The 21st century's longest total lunar eclipse entranced skywatchers around the globe on Friday (July 27).

With totality lasting for an incredible 1 hour and 43 minutes, this eclipse clocked in only 4minutes shorter than the longest possible such event calculated by astronomers. The duration let viewers from around the globe view the phenomenon, with skywatchers gathering at observatories across the totality zone and those with unlucky geography tuning in to livestreams.

The unusually long duration of the eclipse was caused by a few different celestial factors. The moon was near its farthest point from Earth and orbiting slowly, making it appear smaller and take longer to travel through Earth's shadow. In addition, Earth was near its aphelion, the point in its orbit farthest from the sun, making its shadow appear larger. [Blood Moon 2018: Longest Total Lunar Eclipse of Century Occurs July 27]

The eclipse officially began at 1:14 p.m. EDT (1714 GMT), according to NASA, and the moon slowly crept into Earth's shadow and began first to darken, then redden.

A little further out in our solar system, there is evidence of a lake on Mars. From the BBC:

Liquid water 'lake' revealed on Mars
By Mary Halton
Science reporter, BBC News
25 July 2018

Researchers have found evidence of an existing body of liquid water on Mars.

What they believe to be a lake sits under the planet's south polar ice cap, and is about 20km (12 miles) across.

Previous research found possible signs of intermittent liquid water flowing on the Martian surface, but this is the first sign of a persistent body of water on the planet in the present day.

Lake beds like those explored by Nasa's Curiosity rover show water was present on the surface of Mars in the past.

Further out in the cosmos, a star orbiting near a black hole gives more weight to Albert Einstein's theories on gravity.

single star, careening around the monster black hole in the center of the Milky Way, has provided astronomers with new proof that Albert Einstein was right about gravity.

More than 100 years ago, Einstein’s general theory of relativity revealed that gravity is the result of matter curving the fabric of spacetime (SN: 10/17/15, p. 16). Now, in a paper published July 26 in Astronomy & Astrophysics, a team of researchers reports the observation of a hallmark of general relativity known as gravitational redshift. The measurement is the first time general relativity has been confirmed in the region near a supermassive black hole.

As light escapes a region with a strong gravitational field, its waves get stretched out, making the light redder, in a process known as gravitational redshift. The scientists, a team known as the GRAVITY collaboration, used the Very Large Telescope array, located in the Atacama Desert of Chile, to demonstrate that light from the star was redshifted by just the amount predicted by general relativity.

Scientists have observed gravitational redshift before. In fact, GPS satellites would fail to function properly if gravitational redshift weren’t taken into account. But such effects have never been seen in the vicinity of a black hole. “That’s completely new, and I think that’s what makes it exciting — doing these same experiments not on Earth or in the solar system, but near a black hole,” says physicist Clifford Will of the University of Florida in Gainesville, who was not involved with the new study.

Returning to Earth, there is evidence that human actions are making heat waves far worse. This is occuring even as scientists in the U.S. who work for our national government face politicians who do not want them to use the words "climate change." From the BBC:

Climate change driven by humans made heatwave 'twice as likely'
By Matt McGrath
Environment correspondent
27 July 2018

Climate change resulting from human activities made the current Europe-wide heatwave more than twice as likely to occur, say scientists

Researchers compared the current high temperatures with historical records from seven weather stations, in different parts of Europe.

Their preliminary report found that the "signal of climate change is unambiguous," in this summer's heat.

They also say the scale of the heatwave in the Arctic is unprecedented.

We live on a remarkable planet in an incredible universe, and human beings are capable of many amazing things. However, I believe that we must learn that we are a part of the universe. We must abide by the laws of science. My hope is that future generations will say of us that despite many challenges, we rose to meet them.

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