Monday, November 23, 2020


 Hey Space Placers!

China successfully lunched its next Moon mission, Chang'e 5.


This is a VERY AMBITIOUS mission that if successful, will return the first lunar samples in several decades from an area of the Moon that has never had samples returned.

China has a very capable space program and intends to send Taikonauts to the Moon in the future. 

In sending crews to the Moon NASA leads in prior experience due to Apollo and potential capability due to Artemis.

It remains to be seen what the Biden Administration's plans for space will entail.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, November 22, 2020


 Hey Space Placers!

Humanity is headed back to the Moon to stay this time. Several countries have or are planning lunar missions both crewed and robotic.

Here is a concept from the European Space Agency (ESA) of a "Lunar Village".

If we do not destroy civilization and/or ourselves, humanity could really embark on lunar colonization. A lunar economy that could help pave exploration of the solar system and help conditions on Earth is truly within our reach technologically. The current state of humanity worldwide and climate change are the huge impediments to our assured ability to survive and thrive.

Fortunately space efforts continue in spite of the human condition.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, November 21, 2020


 Hey Space Placers!

If you have been watching the night sky during the past summer or recently you may have noticed two bright "stars" in the southwest sky after sunset. And if you have been watching over time these two "stars" have been moving closer to one another and towards the West. These "stars" are really the planets Jupiter, the brightest of the pair, and Saturn.

Jupiter, Saturn and the Moon 11/19/20
Greg Redfern iPhone11

30 days from today, on December 21, 2020, Jupiter and Saturn will be visible after sunset in the West. But the two gas giants of the solar system will appear to the unaided eye as almost one.  They will be historically close at only a tenth of a degree, or 1/5 the Moon's diameter as seen in the sky. 

In fact, according to Rice University astronomer, Patrick Hartigan, “You’d have to go all the way back to just before dawn on March 4, 1226, to see a closer alignment between these objects visible in the night sky.”  

In case you are wondering, that would be during the Middle Ages!!!

Whenever solar system objects are close to one another in the sky astronomers say they are in conjunction. This event qualifies as a Great Conjunction as it involves Jupiter and Saturn.

December 21st is also the Winter Solstice so for Northern Hemisphere observers sunset occurs very early on this shortest day of sunlight hours. For Southern Hemisphere observers it is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of sunlight hours.

Any optical aid will improve your view, especially in a telescope. In a telescope an observer should be able to see both planets easily, including their brightest moons.

A view showing how the Jupiter-Saturn conjunction will appear in a telescope pointed toward the western horizon at 6 p.m. CST, Dec. 21, 2020. The image is adapted from graphics by open-source planetarium software Stellarium. 
(This work, “jupsat1,” is adapted from Stellarium by Patrick Hartigan, used under GPL-2.0, and provided under CC BY 4.0 courtesy of Patrick Hartigan)
Credit: Rice University Press Release

Start watching tonight and each clear night to see this possibly once in a lifetime celestial pairing. I say that because these two planets will not be this close again for 60 years. As described in the Rice University press release, "Those who prefer to wait and see Jupiter and Saturn this close together and higher in the night sky will need to stick around until March 15, 2080, Hartigan said. After that, the pair won’t make such an appearance until sometime after the year 2400.

Any smartphone or camera or camera can image the celestial pair as they are bright and require short exposures. Just point, focus and shoot like I did with my smartphone.

I'll have more on this as we get closer.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, November 17, 2020


 Hey Space Placers!

To be blunt the 2020 Leonids VISUALLY were not that great, just a couple observed over the hours.

BUT, with 2 cameras working different sections of the sky and in different modes, well, judge for yourself. What you are seeing is taken from almost A THOUSAND FRAMES!!!!

The "star" of the night was this BRIGHT Leonid that actually shows COLORS and left a smoke trail in the sky. The first two pics are close ups while the 3rd is a wide angle view. 

This video is of the beautiful sky and you will see stars, planes, satellites and Leonids.

The Geminid Meteor Shower next month should be far better.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, November 16, 2020


 Hey, Space Placers!

Are you a night owl and/or an early riser and like to look at the night sky?  Midnight tonight into the hours before dawn is just the thing for you as the annual Leonid Meteor Shower is expected to peak during that time frame

The Leonids were first seen in 902 A.D. and “storm” every 33 years producing 100’s to 1000’s of meteors an hour. The last Leonid storm was in 2001. This year a dark sky site should produce 10 to 15 Leonid meteors an hour.

Each year at this time our planet encounters a debris stream of cometary particles made by Comet Temple-Tuttle as it orbits the Sun.  As Earth moves in its orbit around the Sun it collides with this debris stream and the particles hit our atmosphere at 45 miles per second (about 155,000 miles per hour!) to become “shooting or falling stars”. Earth encounters about a dozen major meteor showers a year.

The best place to see the Leonids is a dark sky location that is away from lights and obstructions such as trees and buildings. This will give you the best chance to see the peak of 10-15 meteors an hour. If you are a city dweller you still may see the brightest Leonids as long as you are not staring into a street light or nestled in amongst tall buildings. Out in the country or along the beach is the best place to be. The Moon will be out of the sky so it will not affect our ability to see this year’s Leonids.

You do not need any equipment or know how to enjoy this meteor sky show. Just find a place where you can put a lounge chair or blanket to see the sky towards the East and overhead. Starting after midnight when the constellation Leo the Lion is starting to rise above the horizon look towards the East. A meteor that is part of the shower can be traced back to the constellation Leo which will be completely above the Eastern horizon a little after 1 a.m.. As the night wears on Leo will rise higher in the sky and move towards the West due to Earth’s rotation. 

Sporadic meteors that are not part of the shower can be normally seen during the night as well.

The key to watching the shower is being comfortable, in other words WARM. The Leonids can appear anywhere in the sky but looking at least halfway up in the sky facing the East gives you the widest viewing area - this is where the lounge chair, sleeping bag or blanket come in handy.  Enjoy the shower with family, friends or your significant other. Some music, food and beverages are an added plus. 

More info here:

If you are up before dawn also check out bright Venus and Mercury in the East. Venus is the brighter and higher of the two.

The weather will be clear according to forecasts so enjoy this break from the year 2020.

I'll be trying to get pics so wish me luck!

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, November 15, 2020


 Hey, Space Placers!

All systems remain GO for today's launch of SpaceX Crew-1 to the International Space Station (ISS).

Launch is scheduled for 7:27 p.m. EST today (Sunday 11/15/20).

NASA will begin extensive live coverage online and on NASA TVstarting today at 3:15 p.m. EST.

Here is the background on the Crew-1 mission patch.

SpaceX Crew-1 Patch


SpaceX Crew-1 portrait

NASA astronauts Shannon Walker, Victor Glover, and Mike Hopkins, and astronaut Soichi Noguchi of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency - who constitute the crew of NASA's Crew-1 mission - inside SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Credits: SpaceX

On November 10th, NASA and SpaceX certified "the Crew Dragon, including the Falcon 9 rocket and associated ground systems, is the first new, crew spacecraft to be NASA-certified for regular flights with astronauts since the space shuttle nearly 40 years ago. Several critical events paved the way for this achievement, including grounds tests, simulations, uncrewed flight tests and NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight with astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley earlier this year."

Tune in for the launch and the next few will be history in the making and a welcome change to the year that has been 2020.

By the way, it was President Obama who started the Commercial Crew Program. 

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, November 14, 2020


 Hey Space Placers!

If you have good binoculars and/or a telescope be sure to go hunting for Comet Atlas (C/2020 M3 in Orion tonight.

The comet will be at its closest to Earth tonight and should be visible with the use of optical aid.

It won't be a NEOWISE but it is still potentially a decent view of a comet.

Clear skies and good comet hunting!

Sky Guy in VA