Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Curiosity Finds a VERY PROBABLE 3rd Meteorite on Mars!

Hey Space Placers!

Another Mars-Curiosity story. The rover has found its third iron meteorite! At least I am convinced it is from its appearance and the shiny spots caused by the laser zapping the surface. NASA should have the test results soon to confirm my speculations.


Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Curiosity Studies POSSIBLE Martian Mud Cracks

Hey Space Placers!

Just got back from a cruise aboard +Cunard Line's Queen Victoria. Wow, what a ship! I'll be posting some pics for you to enjoy.

In the meantime check out Mars' 'Mud Cracks'???

Sky Guy Back in VA

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2 New NASA Missions Selected

Hey Space Placers!

Off to sea.

Here are NASA's latest selected missions that will study the early solar system.

Hope to stay in touch while transiting the Atlantic.

Sky Guy Leaving VA

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

NASA's Newest Approved Mission

Hey Space Placers!

As I head out to sea here is the news on NASA's newest approved mission.

I hope to keep in touch....but one never knows at sea!

Sky Guy Greg

Monday, January 2, 2017

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 1/2-3/17 Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Hey Space Placers!

If your skies are clear try catching the Quadrantid Meteor Shower tomorrow morning.

Credit: Sky & Telescope Magazine

All of the details are here.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top Space Story of 2016 - ‘The Waves Have It’

Hey Space Placers!

Happy New Year’s Eve everyone. Last year at this time I was in the Indian Ocean enjoying the stars way down under and couldn’t get out a ‘Top Space Pick for 2015’. The July flyby of Pluto      would have been my pick.

For 2016’s pick  we leave the solar system and enter the realm of the Cosmos. February’s announcement regarding the discovery of gravitational waves  is my pick for 2016’s “Top Space Story”. 

Illustration of gravitational waves produced by two orbiting black holes. (Image: Henze/NASA)
Ever since humans looked up at the night sky 2.5 million years ago and the invention of the astronomical telescope by Galileo in 1609, almost all information we have gleaned about the Universe has come to us in the form of electromagnetic radiation. Literally the entire spectrum       - radio waves to gamma rays. I say ‘almost all’ because we have sent spacecraft to land on planets, comets and asteroids, obtained comet dust, and sent humans to the Moon. We have recovered over 50 thousand meteorites - rocks from space - including specimens from the Moon and Mars. All of this has added to our cosmic knowledge.

The detection of gravitational waves was made possible by finally developing the exquisite technology that enabled us to detect the physical warping of spacetime by an event. A second event was announced in June 2016  and showed us that more events were going to come our way - that gravitational waves were not a ‘one and done’ occurance.

Gravitational wave astronomy is now a new branch of humanity’s oldest science. Plans are underway for placing gravitational wave detectors in space    and adding a third detection facility in Italy .  New discoveries regarding black holes, neutron stars and the Big Bang  itself await us      . Even more exciting is what we don’t know about that we will uncover - therein lies the prize of new discoveries and knowledge.

What lies ahead space-wise in 2017? NASA will get a new Administrator and we will see what that means for the country’s space program. There are a number of unmanned mission scheduled to go to the Moon in 2017. The U.S. will witness an eclipse of the Sun on August 21st  .

And once again, what we don’t know about in the upcoming space year will be the ultimate prize….

Have a safe and wonderful New Year and we’ll follow the Universe together in 2017.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Access The Universe - From Your Computer

Hey Space Placers!

Ever dreamed of roaming the Universe? Well, now you can from the comfort of your computer!

Here is the full news release:


The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, in conjunction with the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy in Honolulu, Hawaii, is publicly releasing data today from Pan-STARRS -- the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System -- the world’s largest digital sky survey. The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is among the partners who contributed to the Pan-STARRS1 Surveys.

“The Pan-STARRS1 Surveys allow anyone to access millions of images and use the database and catalogs containing precision measurements of billions of stars and galaxies,” said Dr. Ken Chambers, Director of the Pan-STARRS Observatories. “Pan-STARRS has made discoveries from near Earth objects and Kuiper belt objects in the solar system to lonely planets between the stars; it has mapped the dust in three dimensions in our galaxy and found new streams of stars; and it has found new kinds of exploding stars and distant quasars in the early universe.”

“With this release we anticipate that scientists -- as well as students and even casual users -- around the world will make many new discoveries about the universe from the wealth of data collected by Pan-STARRS,” Chambers added.

The four years of data comprise 3 billion separate sources, including stars, galaxies, and various other objects. The immense collection contains 2 petabytes of data, which is equivalent to one billion selfies, or one hundred times the total content of Wikipedia.

The first Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) observatory is a 1.8-meter telescope at the summit of Haleakala, on Maui. In May 2010, it embarked on a digital sky survey of the sky in visible and near-infrared light. This was the first survey to observe the entire sky visible from Hawaii multiple times in many colors of light. One of the survey’s prime goals was to identify moving, transient, and variable objects, including asteroids that could potentially threaten the Earth. The survey took approximately four years to complete, and scanned the sky 12 times in each of five filters.

Achieving the high quality of the Pan-STARRS1 measurements and maintaining it over such an enormous quantity of data was a unique computational challenge and the results are a tribute to the dedicated efforts of our small team of scientists at the UH IfA and our collaborators who worked to process and calibrate the extraordinary volume of raw image data,” said Dr. Eugene Magnier, lead of the Pan-STARRS Image Processing team.

A number of CfA scientists were involved in analyzing Pan-STARRS data and extracting groundbreaking results. For example, Dr. Douglas Finkbeiner and students Edward Schlafly and Gregory Green led the effort to map the interstellar dust in the Milky Way in three dimensions. They used the colors of nearly 1 billion stars, requiring photometric calibration at a level unprecedented for ground-based surveys.

“The tiny particles in dust clouds make background stars fainter and redder, for the same reason the sky turns red at sunset,” said Dr. Finkbeiner. “In order to measure the subtle color shifts, we must know the brightnesses and colors of the stars at the percent level. With vastly more data than any human could ever look at directly, this required serious effort, and I’m proud of everyone who contributed.”

“Pan-STARRS also has given us an unprecedented view of the dynamic and transient nature of astronomical phenomena,” said CfA astronomer Dr. Edo Berger. “Our group discovered and studied new types of supernova explosions and the disruptions of stars by supermassive black holes from the Pan-STARRS data.”

This research program was undertaken by the PS1 Science Consortium -- a collaboration among 10 research institutions in four countries with support from NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Consortium observations for the sky survey, mapping everything visible from Hawaii, were completed in April 2014. This data is now being released publicly.

“It’s great to see the Pan-STARRS1 data release supported by the NSF now made available to the general astronomical community,” said Nigel Sharp, Program Director in NSF’s Astronomical Sciences division. “I am impressed by the work the team invested to make the best-calibrated and best-characterized data set they could. I eagerly anticipate the science from mining these data.”

“The cooperation between STScI and the Pan-STARRS team at the University of Hawaii has been essential to ensuring that this initial data release is successful,” explained Dr. Marc Postman, Head of the Community Missions office at STScI, and liaison between STScI and the PS1 Consortium. “STScI was a natural partner to host the Pan-STARRS public archive given its extensive experience serving astronomy data to the international community. In advance of the release of the Pan-STARRS data, STScI staff helped perform checks of data quality, helped write archive user documentation, tested and installed the local data storage and database query system, and designed, built and deployed the web-based user interfaces to the archive system.”

The roll-out is being done in two stages. Today’s release is the “Static Sky,” which is the average of each of those individual epochs. For every object, there’s an average value for its position, its brightness, and its colors. In 2017, the second set of data will be released, providing a catalog that gives the information and images for each individual epoch.

The Space Telescope Science Institute provides the storage hardware, the computers that handle the database queries, and the user-friendly interfaces to access the data.

The survey data resides in the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST), which serves as NASA’s repository for all of its optical and ultraviolet-light observations, some of which date to the early 1970s. It includes all of the observational data from such space astrophysics missions as Hubble, Kepler, GALEX, and a wide variety of other telescopes, as well as several all-sky surveys. Pan-STARRS marks the nineteenth mission to be archived in MAST.

The data can be accessed at

So when those clouds have you bummed, just click your way to who knows, a new discovery!

Sky Guy in VA