Saturday, September 20, 2014

Galaxy Merger Discovery

Hey Space Placers!

Here is another discovery about galaxies and their formation.

The new research shows how galaxies like our own Milky Way Galaxy, a spiral/disk galaxy can merge with another galaxy and produce a disk galaxy in the process. Previously astronomers thought that such mergers would lead to the formation of an elliptical galaxy - that is one without spiral arms.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, September 19, 2014

SUPERMASSIVE Black Hole Found in Dwarf Galaxy

Hey Space Placers!

The Universe never ceases to amaze me.

NASA-ESA Artist's Concept

Astronomers have just announced the discovery of a SUPERMASSIVE black hole (SMBH) that is FIVE times larger than our own Milky Way Galaxy's (MWG) SMBH in a dwarf galaxy 1/500th the size of the MWG. That is impressive.

Astronomers are pretty sure that supermassive black holes (SMBH) reside at the center of larger galaxies like the MWG. Some of these SMBHs are millions or even billions of times the mass of our Sun. It is not known which comes first, the SMBH or the galaxy but it is pretty certain that the two are connected to the lives and evolution of galaxies.

But to discover a SMBH this large in such a small dwarf galaxy only 300 light years across is a major find. The SMBH in M-60 UCD-1 makes up 15% of the dwarf galaxy's mass; there are an estimated 140 million stars in the galaxy.

This discovery will help in the search for more SMBHs in the cores of other dwarf galaxies and may lead to an important understanding of galaxy formation and evolution..


Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 9/19-9/20 Jupiter & Crescent Moon Before Dawn

Hey Space Placers!

The waning crescent Moon and bright Jupiter will be visible near one another for the next few days - 9-19 to 9-20 - in the east before dawn.

The two will form a pretty pair easily visible to city and suburban dwellers alike. The motion of the Moon relative to Jupiter will be obvious over the two days and Earthshine should be present on the Moon. Earthshine is the dark portion of the Moon that is visible due to the reflection of sunlight off of our planet's clouds and oceans. This phenomena was explained by none other than Leonardo da Vinci.

If viewers have binoculars they can see the four main moons of Jupiter as small "stars" just as Galileo did when he discovered them with his crude telescope. Binoculars will also enhance the view of the Moon and Earthshine.

Let's hope it is clear!

Sky Guy in VA

Sky Guy Internet ALERT 7:30 PM, EDT, 9-1-8-14, Debate on "What Is A Planet?"

Hey Space Placers!

Still mad about Pluto's demotion to minor planet status? Want to learn more about the whole "what is a planet" debate?

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. EDT is you chance as the HARVARD-SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS (CfA) hosts an Internet debate.

Here are the details from the CfA press release:


In 2006, when the International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted on the definition of a “planet” and booted Pluto out of the club, confusion resulted. Was a “dwarf planet” a small planet or something else? Was a “dwarf fruit tree” a small tree or something else? Almost eight years later, most astronomers and the public are still as uncertain about what a planet is as they were back then.

On September 18th, three different experts in planetary science will present each of their cases as to what a planet is or isn’t. Science historian Dr. Owen Gingerich, who chaired the IAU planet definition committee, will present the historical viewpoint. Dr. Gareth Williams, associate director of the Minor Planet Center, will present the IAU’s viewpoint. And Dr. Dimitar Sasselov, director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, will present the exoplanet scientist’s viewpoint.

After these experts have made their best case, the audience will get to vote as to what a planet is or isn’t and whether Pluto is in or out. And just like the IAU, you have to be present to cast your ballot! The results will be announced on Friday, September 19th.

Watch It Live

Date: Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014
Time: 7:30 p.m. EDT

The talk will also be archived on the Observatory Nights YouTube channel immediately following the event.

I look forward to seeing the voting results.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How Many Stars Can We See With Our Eyes?

Hey Space Placers!

Ever looked up at the night sky and wondered how many stars you could see?

Here is a GREAT article that tells you the answer.

And remember, astronomers think there are about 10 planets on average orbiting each star!

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Hey Space Placers!


NASA has announced it has selected Boeing and Space-X for the Commercial Crew Transportation Program.

Get details here.

This is a very important date in American spaceflight history as it sets America on the path to having its own access to space since 2011. The first manned flight for both companies is scheduled for 2017.

Tune in today, 9-16-14 at 4 pm EDT to hear who NASA will select as the winner of NASA's Commercial Crew Transportation Program.

This will be interesting to watch live from Kennedy Space Center, Florida as NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and his senior leaders make the announcement.

This is a MAJOR announcement as it will decide between Boeing, Sierra Nevada or Space-X, or a combination of these three, as to who will win the contract to deliver U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

The selection will allow the winner(s) to go full speed on developing their manned spacecraft for the transportation of U.S. astronauts to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and ISS. This is a capability the U.S. has not had since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.

The U.S. (and the other ISS partners) have had to rely on and pay Russia for seats on the Soyuz spacecraft. The U.S. has been paying about $71 MILLION a seat and tensions over the Ukraine has strained U.S.-Russian ties. There has been no real affect on the operation of the ISS as a result although Russia has indicated it will cease ISS participation sooner than the U.S. desires.

Each of the competing companies has their own design:

Boeing's CST-100 spacecraft is very similar to Apollo/Orion;

Space-X will convert its very successful Dragon spacecraft that currently delivers cargo to the ISS into a manned version;

Sierra Nevada has chosen a spaceplane, the Dream Chaser for its design.

You can learn more about the CCP here.

I personally think that NASA will not put all of its manned access to LEO and ISS in just one basket, especially with this being a COMMERCIAL and not government program like Orion/SLS are. It makes sense to have two private companies available in case one goes under and/or has an accident which would ground U.S. astronauts again. We saw this happen with the Challenger and Columbia accidents and cancellation of the program altogether.

NASA cannot afford such a repeat again. The U.S. has to have its own manned access to LEO/ISS AND the ability to go deep into space which NASA's Orion/SLS will give us.

Watch this and get goose bumps like I did…..

More on this tonight.

Sky Guy with GOOSE BUMPS in VA

Monday, September 15, 2014

Site J For Philae

Hey Space Placers!

The cross marks the spot for Rosetta's Philae Lander - or Site J as ESA calls it (See yesterday's blog). This was one of five sites selected from a larger list that ESA had compiled and studied.

ESA has just announced its selection of the landing site and it will be a combination of safe landing probabilities and high science return for Philae.

The landing will take place in November 2014.

Sky Guy in VA