Stories tagged On this day

Tell us about something that happened today in history, and make it relate to current science.

Blue Moon tonight

by Anonymous on Aug. 31st, 2012

A blue moon: It has nothing to do with the color, but with the appearance of two full moons in a single month.
A blue moon: It has nothing to do with the color, but with the appearance of two full moons in a single month.Courtesy Mark Ryan
Tonight there will be what is known as a Blue Moon. It's not an astronomical event but rather a calendrical one and occurs when two full moons happen in the same month. This kind of thing happens about every 2.7 years and doesn't have anything to do with the color of the moon. You won't see any blue tinge on the night orb tonight unless a nearby volcano has spewed ash laden with cobalt into the atmosphere. The first full moon this month was back on August 2nd. The last blue moon we had was in December of 2009 and the next won't happen until July of 2015, so you might as well out there and enjoy this one. This kind of event only happens once in a blue moon.

Blue Moon Calendar

In 1945, a US warplane dropped the first atomic bomb on the Japanese city of Hiroshima. Three days later the US dropped another nuclear bomb on the city of Nagasaki. The bombings led to Japan's surrender and the cessation of World War II. I seem to post about this each year, so you can find more details here.

Apollo 11 lands on the Moon

by Anonymous on Jul. 20th, 2012

On this day in 1969, two American astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, became the first humans to touch down on and explore the surface the Moon. Relive the actual lunar module landing (juxtaposed with panorama imagery from LRO data) in the above video. Also, learn more about all the Apollo Program and missions leading up to and following Apollo 11's historic landing forty-three years ago.

Mount St. Helens erupts in 1980

by Anonymous on May. 18th, 2012

Mount St. Helens erupting
Mount St. Helens eruptingCourtesy USGS
Preceded by a magnitude 5.1 earthquake, Washington state's Mount St. Helens explodes with a major eruption in 1980 that flattens the surrounding forest, blankets the immediate area with mud and avalanche debris, and unleashes more than 500 million tons of ash into the air that reaches as far as Oklahoma (although traces of the ash encircle the globe). Fifty-seven people lose their lives from the eruption.

USGS page

Birth of Thomas Huxley

by Anonymous on May. 04th, 2012

Born on this day in 1825, Thomas Henry Huxley: aka Darwin's Bulldog
Thomas Henry Huxley: aka Darwin's BulldogCourtesy Public domain via Wikipedia
Thomas Huxley was known as Darwin's Bulldog due to his outspoken advocacy of the naturalist's Theory of Evolution.

"Every great advance in natural knowledge has involved the absolute rejection of authority.“

- T. H. Huxley

Thomas Huxley bio

There were northerly winds over North Atlantic in the months prior to the RMS Titanic leaving port. These winds likely played a role in pushing icebergs farther south than normal and into the Titanic’s path.

When the Titanic left port in Queenstown, Ireland on Thursday April 11, 1912, it sailed under brisk winds from the north-northwest at 15-20 knots and a temperature of about 50 degrees. Two days earlier, well to the west in Boston, MA, a few thousand fans shivered in the cold and snow flurries as the Red Sox beat Harvard University 2-0 in the first game ever played at Fenway Park. On April 12 the winds were from the west-southwest at about 15 knots and the noon temperature was about 60 degrees. As the ship continued westward, the skies got cloudier as a weak cold front approached. The noon time temperatures on Saturday April 12 were still around 60 degrees, but another cold front (associated with the previous Fenway snow flurries) was to the west and north of the ship. As the Titanic passed through the second cold front on Sunday April 14, the winds switched to northwest at 20 knots. The noon temperature was around 50 degrees but by 7:30 pm the temperature was 39 degrees. On Sunday, nighttime temperatures dropped below freezing and the skies cleared and the winds calmed. A large Arctic air mass was now over the area, along with a clear, star lite night, subfreezing temperatures and calm winds that resulted in a sea “like glass”. Icebergs where known to be in the region, but the calm winds made spotting them difficult. To spot icebergs during the night, lookouts searched for wind driven wave breaking around their bases. The ship struck an iceberg at 11:40 p.m. on Sunday, April 14.

On Monday morning, after the sinking, one survivor reported a breeze that came up around dawn to add to the morning chill. Photographs of the rescue that morning show small waves on the ocean surface, confirming that report.

STS-1 Launch

by Joe on Apr. 13th, 2012

STS-1: In this image, the two solid rocket boosters are aglow after being jettisoned.
STS-1: In this image, the two solid rocket boosters are aglow after being jettisoned.Courtesy NASA
April 12, 1981 was the date of the first space shuttle launch. I remember it.

From NASA:

On April 12, 1981, astronauts John Young and Bob Crippen launched into space on space shuttle Columbia on the STS-1 mission--NASA's first mission aboard a reusable spacecraft. STS-1 was NASA's first manned mission since the Apollo-Soyuz Test Project in 1975.

Physics in action

by Liza on Jan. 12th, 2012

Get out there, if you can, and watch skaters take on the insane Red Bull Crashed Ice course here in downtown St. Paul. It's a great place to watch all sorts of physics in action. And bundle up. Winter's back, suddenly, and the laws of thermodynamics apply to you, too.


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New Madrid earthquakes anniversary

by Anonymous on Dec. 16th, 2011

New Madrid earthquakes: Earthquake fissure filled with intruded sand in Mississippi County, Missouri, formed at the time of the New Madrid earthquake. 1904 photograph by M. L. Fuller.
New Madrid earthquakes: Earthquake fissure filled with intruded sand in Mississippi County, Missouri, formed at the time of the New Madrid earthquake. 1904 photograph by M. L. Fuller.Courtesy US Geological Survey Photographic Library
Today marks the bicentennial of the start of the historic New Madrid earthquake series, which began at 2am on December 16, in 1811. The quakes were so powerful, large areas of land uplifted and sank creating new lakes and swamps, and causing islands to disappear. Large waves spawned by the tremors raked across the banks of the Mississippi causing massive landslides, and even briefly changing the course of the mighty river.

Named after the nearby river village of New Madrid in the then Louisiana Territory (now Missouri), the quake and its many aftershocks affected an area 10 times larger than the famous 1906 San Francisco earthquake. Luckily, the New Madrid area was sparsely populated when the line of strong earthquakes took place, as they were the strongest recorded earthquakes ever to take place east of the Rocky Mountains.

Earthquakes of such magnitude as those that struck New Madrid (~ 7.0) typically occur along plate boundaries - areas where one tectonic plate is colliding with another, such as along the West Coast's San Andreas Fault. The mid-section of the country sets on only one plate - the normally stable North American plate. Faults do run through it, such as the Cottonwood Grove and the Reelfoot faults which some scientists hypotheisze were responsible for the New Madrid series.

But researchers don't agree on what caused the strong intraplate earthquakes. They could have been triggered by other distant earthquakes or by the release of energy built up by the heating of the crust from an upper mantle magma plume or from isostatic rebound - that is the release of stresses caused by the retreat of glaciers that once covered the region.

Whatever the cause and despite new data being gathered by present day geologists, the New Madrid earthquakes were an historic anomaly that remain wrapped in mystery.

Earth magazine story
More about the New Madrid earthquakes