Friday, September 15, 2017

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!! Weekend Moon & Planets Before Sunrise

Hey Space Placers!

No matter where you are in the Northern Hemisphere this weekend has some GREAT skywatching in the hours before dawn in the East.

The waning crescent Moon, Venus, Mercury, Mars and bright Regulus will all be visible against the backdrop of the wonderful winter constellations.

Venus, Regulus, Mercury, Mars in the dawn, Sept. 16, 2017
Venus, Regulus, Mercury, Mars in the dawn, Sept. 17, 2017
Get full details here.  


Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, September 14, 2017

SKY GUY INTERNET ALERT 9/15/17: Farewell Cassini, Onward Voyagers

Hey Space Placers!

Today around the world much of the astronomical community is profoundly moved by the impending death of the Cassini spacecraft Twitter abounds in Tweets about the intrepid explorer that has been in space almost 20 years and in orbit around Saturn and its moons for 13 years. I am quite sure there are a few wet eyes behind those Tweets for what NASA is calling the Grand Finale .

Artist's illustration of NASA's Cassini spacecraft at Saturn
In this computer generated visual Saturn looms ever larger to the Cassini spacecraft as it begins its final plunge into Saturn.
At approximately 7:55 a.m. EDT, September 15, 2017, NASA expects to lose contact with Cassini as the spacecraft hits the upper atmosphere of the ringed planet at a blistering 70,000 miles per hour . An explorer to the very end, Cassini will be live streaming its last moments and gathering data with 8 of its 12 science instruments until the thrusters cannot overcome the aerodynamic forces and Cassini starts to tumble, break apart and finally be consumed like a shooting star in the atmosphere of Saturn. 

It will take 83 minutes for Cassini’s final data transmission to reach Earth traveling at the speed of light - 186,000 miles per second. Almost a billion miles away Saturn and its moons will once again be solitary in their orbit around the Sun. Gone will be the amazing spacecraft that took thousands of photographs, collected Terabytes of data, sent the ESA’s Huygens lander to Titan      and discovered a large global ocean under the thick ice at Enceladus  .

As stated by NASA,“the final set of views from Cassini's imaging cameras is scheduled to be taken and transmitted to Earth on Thursday, Sept. 14. If all goes as planned, images will be posted to the Cassini mission website beginning around 11 p.m. EDT (8 p.m. PDT). The unprocessed images will be available at:  .”

“Live mission commentary and video from JPL Mission Control will air on NASA Television and the agency’s website from 7 to 8:30 a.m. EDT (4 a.m. to 5:30 a.m. PDT) on Sept. 15. A post-mission news briefing from JPL is currently scheduled for 9:30 a.m. EDT (6:30 a.m. PDT), also on NASA TV.”

“A new NASA e-book, The Saturn System Through the Eyes of Cassini, showcasing compelling images and key science discoveries from the mission, is available for free download in multiple formats at:  .”

Bright Saturn is in the southwest sky after dark. Tonight look at Saturn and say farewell to Cassini. And when ‘The Grand Finale” for Cassini is finally over take some comfort as will I in knowing that the atoms that were Cassini are now part of Saturn.


Two NASA spacecraft - Voyager 1 and Voyager 2    - made world-wide headlines recently by celebrating their 40th anniversaries in space. Voyager 1 is about 13 billion miles from Earth and is cruising interstellar space while Voyager 2 is 11 billion miles distant. The spacecraft are healthy and continue to send data back to Earth. They will finally go silent years from now when their radioactive fuel supply is spent.

These twins opened up the outer solar system of gas giant planets - Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune - as we had never seen them before  . With their respective flybys the Voyagers transformed these giants from what could be obtained through telescopes to up close and mesmerizing personal views. The science obtained filled volumes and the photographs we saw transformed these worlds into actual worlds we had been to.

The Voyagers have become cultural icons due in part to their longevity, discoveries and perhaps most importantly of all, the “Golden Record”   that each of them carries. The late Dr. Carl Sagan was the primary mover in getting these artifacts of Earth and humanity placed on the Voyagers. He also convinced NASA to take the first ever portrait of the solar system which included our Earth .

Solar System Portrait - 60 Frame Mosaic.
The famous “Pale Blue Dot” photograph became the subject of a wonderful book by Dr. Sagan. Much of what he wrote is even more meaningful today . I highly recommend reading it as well as Sagan’s other books.

 The Voyagers may very possibly outlive humanity as they could roam the Milky Way Galaxy for hundreds of millions of years. Unless they collide with something in space they will be a lasting testament to a species who reached for the stars  - and put a Golden Record out amongst them to say, ‘Hello’.


Saturday, September 9, 2017

Cassini Video - MUST SEE!!

Hey Space Placers!

Watch this video - it is one of the BEST NASA has produced. I watched it a dozen times - awe inspiring. I will have more on Cassini's fiery end next week.


Friday, September 8, 2017

UPDATED Sky Guy ALERT Severe Geomagnetic Storm Underway

Hey Space Placers!



3 Atlantic hurricanes, an 8.2 earthquake and an X9 solar flare that leads to G4 (severe) geomagnetic storms. Watch this video to see raw power, especially the second one.

Humanity exists on this planet ONLY because the weather and geology allow it. Change either of them and you change humanity.

Right now we are witnessing the awesome power of Mother Nature in weather, geology and space weather. It is something to behold and comprehend.

Check NOAA SWPC for more details and updates. Could be Aurora tonight.

Sky Guy in VA humbled by Mother Nature's display of  space/terrestrial weather and geology

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

New Horizons Flight Plan for 2014 MU69

Hey Space Placers!

With solar flares, hurricanes and general political  dysfunction dominating the world, the Universe goes on.

Such it is with the New Horizons mission which just filed its flight plan for the 1/1/18 flyby of 2014 MU69. 

Artist's concept of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flying by a possible binary 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019.
Artist's concept of NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft flying by a possible binary 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019. Early observations of MU69 hint at the Kuiper Belt object being either a binary orbiting pair or a contact (stuck together) pair of nearly like-sized bodies with diameters near 20 and 18 kilometers (12 and 11 miles).
Credits: Carlos Hernandez
This will be an amazing feat in the history of the solar system exploration as it will be the farthest encounter with a solar system object to date.

Sky Guy in VA

PS - If you are the path of Irma, be prepared....that includes you SC, NC, AND VA>

Tuesday, September 5, 2017


Hey Space Placers!

Earth is due to get a solar storm that will likely produce Aurora for the upper latitudes.

Check here for details  and here for NOAA Space Weather.


Saturday, September 2, 2017

Florence Flyby Reveals TWO MOONS!

Hey Space Placers!

Read my blog from yesterday about Florence for background and then check out the results of the flyby that revealed the true size of this big boy asteroid - 2.8 miles - and its TWO moons!

Animated sequence of radar images of asteroid Florence obtained on Sep. 1, 2017 using the 70-m antenna at the Goldstone Deep Space Communications complex. The resolution of these images is about 75 meters. The images show two moons orbiting the much larger central body, which is about 4.5 km in diameter. The inner moon briefly disappears as it moves behind the central body and is hidden from the radar. (NASA/JPL).
GIF of Radar Images of Florence & TWO Moons

Sky Guy in VA