Why telling time on the moon is a conundrum for NASA


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It’s easy to take the moon for granted as a silvery orb in the night sky, providing a soft light on most evenings. But have you ever pondered what time it is on the moon?

As multiple countries race to establish a human presence on the lunar surface, experts say it’s time to establish a time scale for Earth’s natural satellite. Otherwise, things could get confusing.

Albert Einstein’s theory of relativity decades ago changed the way we understand time, and time even passes differently depending on where a clock is sitting on Earth. Determining a lunar time scale will be even more challenging.

The new system of measurement that NASA and its international partners need to agree on will have to account for the fact that seconds tick by faster on the moon. Over time, those seconds add up.

But it will be crucial for astronauts living in lunar habitats and scooting around in moon buggies who need to know exactly what time it is.

Defying gravity

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore (left) and Suni Williams were prepared to launch Saturday, but officials scrubbed the Boeing Starliner mission moments before liftoff. - Joe Skipper/ReutersNASA astronauts Butch Wilmore (left) and Suni Williams were prepared to launch Saturday, but officials scrubbed the Boeing Starliner mission moments before liftoff. - Joe Skipper/Reuters

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore (left) and Suni Williams were prepared to launch Saturday, but officials scrubbed the Boeing Starliner mission moments before liftoff. – Joe Skipper/Reuters

Boeing officials scrubbed the highly anticipated crewed maiden voyage of the Starliner spacecraft moments before liftoff on Saturday.

An automatic hold was triggered by the ground launch sequencer, the computer that essentially launches the rocket, a few minutes prior to the scheduled launch time of 12:25 p.m. ET, and mission teams are still assessing the cause of the issue.

It’s possible that Starliner could be ready to launch again as soon as Sunday if the issue can be easily resolved.

Veteran NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore remain safe and have exited the capsule, and will be ready for the next Starliner launch attempt when all systems are ready to go.

Look up

The sunspot clusters responsible for the May 10 solar storm, which painted the skies around the world with colorful auroras, are coming back around.

Experts predict that auroras could dance over northern and upper Midwest states on Saturday, but there is also a chance for more dazzling displays over the next week as the sunspots directly face Earth.

Meanwhile, a “planet parade” in which six planets appear to align in the sky will soon occur, with optimal viewing in North America and Europe right before sunrise on Sunday. Expect to glimpse Mars, Saturn and Jupiter, but Uranus, Mercury and Neptune likely won’t be visible to the naked eye.

And the “devil comet” will make its closest approach to Earth on Sunday as well, but it will likely only be glimpsed by those in the Southern Hemisphere with the aid of binoculars or a telescope.

We are family

A digital reconstruction of a Bronze Age woman's face is on display at Scotland's Perth Museum and Art Gallery. - Perth Museum, Culture Perth & Kinross/Chris RynnA digital reconstruction of a Bronze Age woman's face is on display at Scotland's Perth Museum and Art Gallery. - Perth Museum, Culture Perth & Kinross/Chris Rynn

A digital reconstruction of a Bronze Age woman’s face is on display at Scotland’s Perth Museum and Art Gallery. – Perth Museum, Culture Perth & Kinross/Chris Rynn

About 4,000 years ago, a woman living in Bronze Age Scotland likely took an accidental bump to the head, causing her to die in her 30s.

Now, visitors to the Perth Museum and Art Gallery can see a blinking, expressive digital version of her face, thanks to a recreation by Dr. Chris Rynn, a craniofacial anthropologist and forensic artist who studied her skull.

Other facial reconstructions on display at the museum include an Iron Age man who could have belonged to a group called the Picts and a young murder victim who lived in medieval Scotland.

Additionally, scientists have uncovered evidence that ancient Egyptian physicians attempted to remove a cancerous tumor from the skull of a young man more than 4,000 years ago.

A long time ago

The remains of 28 horses buried nearly 2,000 years ago at Villedieu-sur-Indre in central France are astounding archaeologists — especially because the horses’ cause of death is still a mystery.

The nine graves date between 100 BC and AD 100, and the horses were all carefully laid to rest in the same position at the same time.

The adult stallions may have been killed in battle during the Gallic Wars, when Julius Caesar conquered Gaul, or perhaps they were part of a ritual sacrifice, according to the researchers.

Separately, an exceptionally complete Stegosaurus fossil is going up for auction this summer, but paleontologists have concerns about where it will end up.

Fantastic creatures

People first spotted "salty licorice” cats with a distinctive white fur pattern in the Finnish village of Petäjävesi more than 15 years ago. - Ari KankainenPeople first spotted "salty licorice” cats with a distinctive white fur pattern in the Finnish village of Petäjävesi more than 15 years ago. - Ari Kankainen

People first spotted “salty licorice” cats with a distinctive white fur pattern in the Finnish village of Petäjävesi more than 15 years ago. – Ari Kankainen

When people first began to observe cats with striking fur patterns living in the Finnish village of Petäjävesi in 2007, scientists sat up and took notice.

The cats sported ombré strands of fur that were dark at the root and faded to white. And now, researchers know what creates their unusual fur pattern: a mutation affecting a gene called KIT, which controls hair color.

The felines have been dubbed “salty licorice” cats, named after salmiak, a popular Finnish treat of black licorice speckled with white salt.

Curiosities

Explore these intriguing new findings:

— Archaeologists excavating Pompeii in southern Italy have uncovered children’s sketches depicting scenes of gladiators and hunters battling animals, suggesting that young kids watched the violent displays firsthand.

— Observations of the asteroid Dinkinesh captured by NASA’s Lucy mission reveal that a sun-driven quake may have created a baffling double-lobed moon orbiting the space rock.

— The modern cockroach has a surprising history that began more than 2,000 years ago, and the insect’s path to becoming a pest involved hitching rides in the lunch baskets of soldiers and travelers.

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