Friday, February 27, 2015

Ask An Astronaut

Hey Space Placers!

Forget #llamadrama and #whatcoloristhedress. Two weeks from today, March 13, WTOP will be carrying a LIVE 10-minute interview with two astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS). Mike Moss and Joan Jones will be talking live with NASA Astronaut Terry Virts and European Space Agency (ESA) Astronaut Samantha (Sam) Cristoforetti

The interview will be broadcast by WTOP sometime between 7 and 9 a.m. EDT. ISS mission planners at NASA’s Johnson Space Center, Houston, Texas, will provide WTOP with the exact time in the very near future. WTOP wants you to submit your questions for Terry and Sam to our live blog. We’ll pick the best and ask Terry and Sam.

You can follow ISS, Terry and Sam on Twitter as I do. Terry and Sam have Tweeted gorgeous and stunning pictures from ISS. By the way, you can actually see ISS fly over your location by subscribing to Spot The Station. It is a beautiful sight, especially when you realize you are looking at a million pounds of space hardware and six humans 250 miles up traveling at 17,500 miles per hour!

Good luck with your question submission and be sure to tune in to this unique listening experience at WTOP.

Sky Guy in Thawing Out But Stiil COLD & CLOUDY VA

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tired of Winter? Watch This Video…You'll Be Glad You Did

Hey Space Placers!

For those of us in the weird grip of this winter, take heart - Spring is 22 days away and I could smell spring as I shoveled snow this morning.

With gray skies and white all around, take a peek at this video .  Watch it in a darkened room with the sound up a bit and marvel at our planet and our ability to see it as we do in this video.

Watch closely and you will see much in the sky and on the ground.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter Visit

Hey Space Placers!

Sorry I missed you yesterday but I was at NASA's Goddard Space FLight Center in Greenbelt, MD, catching up on my favorite spacecraft,  Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

I wrote a feature article on LRO for Sky & Telescope magazine that was published in June 2009 and had a pic of me and LRO taken:

I visited with the LRO team - the mission director, the former chief scientist for the mission, the current deputy scientist, visualization experts and LRO herself (sort of).  When I did the article in 2009 the operations center where LRO is monitored an controlled was not operational. Yesterday I was able to visit LRO's mission control room.

While I was there LRO was over the North Pole of the Moon! To be exact, this picture shows that she was at 86.7 degrees N lunar latitude at a height of 165.8 KM. I could see the orientation of the spacecraft and the area of the Moon she was flying over based on prior pics taken by LRO. I have to say it was a surreal moment for me and one I will always remember.

LRO is still doing cutting edge science and is in perfect health….she could last another 20 years. NASA currently has no funding for LRO in NASA's Fiscal Year 2016 budget which means that unless funding is found, LRO will cease operation effective 10/1/2015. This would mean that there would be no operational spacecraft in lunar orbit - and no one has plans to build such a mission that I am aware of.

Other space agencies depend on LRO's instruments and science is done on LRO 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. New discoveries are being made and there are 100's and 100's of Terrabytes of LRO data being added to the already bursting amounts of data the spacecraft has collected in almost 6 years. We know the surface of the Moon better than we do our own planet thanks to the cameras and instruments aboard LRO.

As I have blogged here the Moon is a VERY interesting world that has much to offer and is in my personal opinion, very important to humanity's future in space.

You can keep up on LRO at Twitter,  Facebook and of course on the web.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Milky Way Galaxy - Wormhole Transporter?

Hey SPace Placers!

Here was my pic on Friday of the triple conjunction:

ANd then all hell broke loose with -1 temp - no wind chill - 9+ inches of snow AND ice. Took a few hours to dig out today.

You have to read this science article about how our very own Milky Way Galaxy could be a wormhole - can you say Interstellar - transport system.

Very Star Trek…..

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 2/20 & 21 Venus, Mars, Moon After Sunset

Hey Space Placers!

If you have clear skies on 2/20 and 2/21 be sure to look at the triple pairing in the western sky after sunset of Mars, Venus and the thin Crescent Moon. This will be a pretty sight to see.

Sky and Telescope Diagram
You can get more details here.

Sky Guy In Siberia, VA

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Happy 85th Birthday Pluto!

Hey Space Placers!

Today, February 18th, marks the 85th anniversary (OK, I called it birthday) of the discovery of the dwarf planet Pluto by Clyde Tombaugh.

I wanted to share with you this autographed picture of Clyde, artist's rendition of Pluto and its largest moon Charon, and the actual discovery slides.

Clyde gave a talk back in the late 80's at the Chabot Observatory in Oakland, CA and I attended. He was graciously providing autographs and the picture at a minimal charge to help raise funds for the Chabot Observatory so I couldn't refuse.  I need to get a new frame and glass in 2015 so I can hang it while New Horizons is enroute for the historic Pluto encounter.

Clyde was a true gentleman and it is fitting that he is with New Horizons for the Pluto encounter and follow on mission.

Sky Guy in Frigid and Frozen (with worst yet to come) VA

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Dawn Closing in on Dwarf Planet Ceres

Hey SPace Placers!

The Dawn spacecraft is closing in on the dwarf planet Ceres and getting ever better pics while doing so.

The latest pics are from about 52,000 miles away and show the icy world as being heavily cratered. The two pics below show the rotation of Ceres.

I'm rather convinced that the white spots we seeing are fairly new impact craters that are showing ice that lies underneath the surface. There seem to be few major features so far except for the craters which is in direct contrast to the amazing world we saw in Vesta, Dawn's previous destination.

Dawn is due to rendezvous with Ceres on March 6th and enter into orbit to start a 5 month science mission.

The science gathered from visiting these two largest worlds in the asteroid belt will go a long way in helping us to understand the birth and evolution of our solar system.

More to come…….

Sky Guy in VA