Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Sky Guy INTERNET ALERT! - 7-22-114 - 3 PM EDT Chandra @ 15

Hey Space Placers!

Joint the Google Plus Hangout at 3 pm today, 7-22-14 to celebrate 15 years with NASA's Chandra X-Ray Observatory.

Here are more details on Chandra.


Sky Guy in VA

Attention Mars Lovers - Sharpest Mars Map

Hey Space Placers!

Now that Mars is dimming in the night sky and becoming a small view in telescopes Mars lovers need something to feed their Red Planet habit.

I've got just the thing for you.

The sharpest map of Mars has just been released to the public and it is a doozy as it shows the Martian surface in exquisite detail as you can see in this sample photograph release:

20,000 images made by a camera flown aboard NASA's Mars Odyssey orbiter were put together to make the map.

The map allows users to specify a location/position of interest and really drill down to see details. There are coverage gaps, especially at 40 degrees to 90 degrees latitude N & S, but the remaining coverage is excellent.

As stated in their joint news release, "The new Mars map was developed by the Geological Survey's Robin Fergason at the USGS Astrogeology Science Center in Flagstaff, Arizona, in collaboration with researchers at ASU's Mars Space Flight Facility. The work reflects the close ties between space exploration efforts at Arizona universities and the U.S. Geological Survey."

This map will be used to help NASA select the landing site for its 2020 mission to Mars.

Enjoy your arm chair exploration of Mars.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, July 21, 2014

Lunar Pits May Be Key To Lunar Habitats

Hey Space Placers!

With the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11's landing fresh on our minds it seems appropriate to share this story about lunar pits - holes in the Moon's surface that extend underground.

We know of over 200 such features on the Moon and the NASA pic below shows one in great detail that is in the Sea of Tranquility, the same area that Apollo 11 landed in.

These pits would be of great value to house facilities and protect them from solar radiation and meteorite impacts. They would also be places of great interest to explore.

The Moon will play a great part in humanity's space efforts because it is so close and has much to offer in many ways. Science studies and experiments, mining of resources, power collection and distribution to Earth and strategic considerations are all potentially available to those on the Moon.

I am sure that China will land and keep Taikonauts there on the lunar high ground in a permanent Moon base. They have the fiscal and technical resources to do so with a political agenda that will propel them to the Moon.

I hope to see more missions to the Moon in my remaining lifetime.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, July 20, 2014

UPDATED: Apollo 11 And NASA's "Next Giant Leap"

Hey Space Placers!

WTOP Column

I hope you will tune in live to WTOP.com at 3:20 p.m. EDT as I discuss Apollo 11 @ 45 years AND NASA's "Next Giant Leap".

I will be posting my WTOP column when it is published and hopefully the archived segment.

45 years ago I was home in California taking color slides of CBS News coverage of the event and also looked at the Moon while Neil and Buzz were on the surface. Then waxing crescent Moon was in Virgo and Jupiter was nearby.

Here is a screen shot of the sky while Neil and Buzz were on  the lunar surface.

Sky Safari Plus
Enjoy this day and tune in to all of the celebrations.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Comet ISON's Final Hours

Hey Space Placers!

Remember ISON, the "Comet of the Century" that died last year when it got disrupted by the Sun?

Scientists have continued to study Comet ISON and have analyzed the final hours of the comet. You can read a good summary of the research and see some of the videos taken during Comet ISON's demise here.

I keep hoping we will get another grand comet to awe us in the Northern Hemisphere…..it has been awhile.

Sky Guy in VA

P.S. We had a GRAND time at the University of Virginia's Public Night at McCormick Observatory last night even though it was cloudy. Over 150 people - families, students - came by, heard the lecture, got to learn a lot about the 26-inch telescope and toured the exhibits. If you live near an observatory or college check to see if they have public events. They are a lot of fun, usually free and pretty interesting.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!!! 7-19-14 Venus-Mercury In Pre-Dawn Sky

Hey Space Placers!

Ever seen the planet Mercury? It's always tough to spot the planet closet to the Sun as it is never very far from the Sun.

Mercury is surprising bright to people once they actually see the golden-yellow planet and know it is Mercury. It has been said that less than 1% of humanity has seen AND recognized Mercury as a planet.

The next few days is your chance to join this exclusive club as Mercury and Venus are fairly close to one another in the pre-dawn sky. Your best chance to see the planetary pair is to find a NE horizon free of trees and buildings and use the chart below.

Sky Safari Plus Chart

Find Venus first which is bright and easy to spot. Binoculars can help you but aren't required. Once you have Venus zeroed in, look to the lower left along a slight diagonal. You should see Mercury less than a fist width from Venus.

You can start looking after 5 a.m. local and the chart show the sky in Virginia at about 5:20 a.m. local.

Try your hand at photographing the scene - a tripod and DSLR work best with fast shutter speeds.

Good luck!

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, July 17, 2014

UPDATED 2-for-1 With Comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko

Hey Space Placers!

UPDATED: Be sure to check out NASA's perspective on 67/P.

The European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta mission to Comet 67/P Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67/P) is slowly cruising to a rendezvous in a few weeks. ESA mission planners expect the Rosetta spacecraft with the Philae lander to be within 100 km (60+ miles) of the comet on August 6th. Current plans are for the Philae lander to touchdown in November 2014.

But a BIG surprise greeted mission planners and all of us who follow the mission when the latest imagery showed the nucleus - the dirty snowball heart of the comet - to be not one, but apparently TWO nuclei. 

67/P is certainly unlike any cometary nucleus that has been encountered. As Rosetta gets closer each day better images will provide more information and the rendezvous will certainly be something to see - wow!

We'll have more on this mission as Rosetta/Philae get closer to 67/P.

Sky Guy in VA