Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Earth-Moon From Juno

Hey Space Placers!

Here's a nice family portrait of our place in space as seen from 6 million miles away taken by Jupiter bound Juno:

This image of Earth (on the left) and the moon (on the right) was taken by NASA's Juno spacecraft on Aug. 26, 2011

Shows you how small we are in the blackness of space......  Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

ISS Status

Hey Space Placers!

You may have heard news that NASA is considering worse case scenarios to de-crew the International Space Station (ISS) in November. This is due to the failure of the first ever Russian re-supply module launch which occurred on August 24th. The third stage engine suffered a failure and subsequently crashed.

The ISS Progress 44 resupply craft launches

Russian space agency officials think that a gas generator failed in the 3rd stage engine and if verified it would go a long way in getting the Progress resupply modules flying again. The crew has plenty of supplies for now. The de-crewing of ISS would be to insure the safety of the crew as the same engines are used on Progress as the manned Soyuz rockets. Without the Space Shuttle, Soyuz is the only manned access platform available.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, August 29, 2011

Bats & Arcturus

Hey Space Placers!

Well, the skies somewhat cleared last night and I sat outside to just relax after the week we have had - earthquake and Irene.

It was dusk and there were a few clouds outside but my beloved bats came out and I so enjoyed watching them fly and turn and do all of those incredible things bats do in the sky when they are out hunting. I saw 3 of them together and then it was singles after that flying not even 20 feet away when they made a low pass. At one point one of them flew in front of Arcturus - what a lovely sight in the gathering darkness.

And it made me reflect on what a planet/Universe we live in. One in which plate tectonics and climate ultimately rule our existence here on the planet and a Universe that can produce stars and bats and people to marvel at them. The atoms are the same in stars and bats and people but the process of making each of them is vastly different.

Each of us should take a few moments regardless of what is going on in our lives and marvel in the wonders that surround us - like bats and Arcturus....

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, August 28, 2011

New Supernova

Hey SpacPlacers!

Between earthquakes and hurricanes, sky events have been taking place. I hope everyone on the East Coast has made it through safely without damage or injury.......

A new supernova - a rare white dwarf star that exploded - occurred in the nearby Pinwheel Galaxy known as M-101. The supernova was detected very quickly after the explosion and has been under constant observation. The explosion was discovered on August 24th in an area that had been observed the night before.

The supernova remnant is brightening nightly and may become visible in small backyard telescopes. Read More About It: and

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, August 26, 2011

Here Comes Irene

Hey Space Placers!

For those of you on the East Coast I hope you are wtaching an preparing for Hurricane Irene:

I am driving back from Georgia today.

Be careful everyone!

Sky Guy in GA

Thursday, August 25, 2011

NASA's Next Mission to the Moon

Hey Space Placers!

While we track Irene's progress, NASA is making final preps to launch their newest mission to the Moon - GRAIL, or Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory. As stated by NASA, "GRAIL's twin spacecraft are tasked for a nine-month mission to explore Earth's nearest neighbor in unprecedented detail. They will determine the structure of the lunar interior from crust to core and advance our understanding of the thermal evolution of the moon."

GRAIL is set for launch on Sept. 8th and the spacecraft and Delta II launch vehicle are undergoing final checks at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy Still in GA

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Rock 'n Roll

Hey Space Placers!

Sorry I missed you yesterday but the "Great Quake" in VA kept me busy. I must confess that I was in Georgia and did not feel it but there were reports of it being felt down here. Read More About It:

When it happened at just before 2 pm, Tuesday, it felt very similar to 9/11. I was in the DC area when that happened. The cell phone circuits were messed up and a panicked, and hysterical - literally- woman called my cell phone which had the incoming call listed as "Home". She said she was trying to get ahold of her daughter and the phone number was really not simialr to mine.

People in Northern VA and DC are not used to earthquakes - this is being billed as a "once in a century" seismic event, so when it was rumbling and quaking the ground, people thought it was an explosion or plane crash. With the 10th anniversary of 9/11 right around the corner this really got to people.

It is amazing to me that the quake's center was only a 1/2 mile down! That is incredible - no wonder the now calculated 5.8 event was so sharp and strong.

I'll say it again - we are ALLOWED to live on this planet ONLY because the climate and geology allow us. We get reminders of weather every day - yesterday it was geology's turn to remind us of its affects.

Sky Guy in GA

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Watching the Sky

Hey Space Placers!

Greetings from Georgia (USA)> I am down here for the week andI wanted to share my thoughts following the early morning and now evening skies.

The Last Quarter Moon was almost directly overhead this morning at 5 am and Jupiter was not far from it. Both were a beautiful sight....there were clouds intervening so I could not see the stars and constellations of winter. Yes, the winter stars are amongst us and if you look in the east at 11 pm you will see the constellations of fall, most notably Pegasus, the Great Square, rising. You will also see Casseopia in the northeast standing as a "W".

The Sun rose in a "red sky" which to me means that weather will be in your forecast, and sure enough, severe thunderstorms in Northern Virginia with great sky cover here in the deeper south. There may by a tropical storm this way before the week is up.

My point to you is to always take the time to see what the sky has to offer, whether it be day or night. It is a constant companion that needs only your attention to divulge message and meaning....

Sky Guy in GA

Saturday, August 20, 2011

New Mars Rover Photos

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the new Mars photos released from NASA showing Endeavour Crater where Opportunity is now exploring....really cool.

Sky Guy in VA

View across Endeavour crater

Friday, August 19, 2011

Solar Cloud Smacks Earth

Hey Space Placers!

This ia ONE you have to see! A billion-ton cloud of Sun stuff smashing into our planet caught LIVE by the STEREO A

See the movie here:

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Age of the Moon

Hey Space Placers!

Here is a great article on the age of the Moon. It's "only" 200 million years difference between the competing ages but it does have implications for our understanding of the Moon.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Comet Elenin Poses No Threat to Earth

Hey Space Placers!

The dommsdayers and the 2012'ers are trying to use Comet Elenin as the comet of doom.

Relax......the comet will pass 22 million miles from us at closest approach this October. Won't be able to hang the end of the world on this interloper from space. Read More ABout It:

Sky Guy in VA

Trajectory of comet Elenin.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Dragon to the ISS????

Hey Space Placers!

SpaceX has announced that they will send their Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) on their next flight. This is BIG news as it would mean that there would be US assets available to get to the ISS. This brings forth the possibilit of eventually getting astronauts to ISS using SpaceX spacecraft as well. Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA
 Photo Credit: Roger Gilbertson/SpaceX

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Opportunity Arrives at Endeavour Crater

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's Mars Rover Opportunity has arrived at Endeavour Crater to begin studies of this new area. The new site is 13 miles from the last crater studied by Opportunity. New rocks usually means new discoveries and Endeavour is a larger crater than Victoria Crater. Should be an exciting time for Opportunity's controllers and science team.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

West Rim of Endeavour Crater on Mars

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Perseids & Luna & ISS

Hey Space Placers!

Sorry I missed you yesterday but had company from England and just couldn't get around to writing you. The Perseid meteor shower is underway and tonight into tomorrow morning is worth checking out. The Moon is Full and takes away the dimmer meteors but the Perseids are fast and bright so it is worth checking it out. ISS will be flying over for some in the early hours before dawn so another sky treat is there for you.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, August 11, 2011

LRO Goin' LOW!

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) is lowering its lunar orbit from about 30 miles to 12 miles! This is being done to get sharper views of the Apollo lunar landing sites. The orbit change will result in views that are 4 times sharper. The pics will be obtained from August 14-19,

Read More About It:!/LRO_NASA

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Brought a Tear to My Eye.....

Hey Space Placers!

You know the Moon is my favorite place in the Universe.......The picture of Luna was taken aboard the International SPace Station (ISS) and is just beautiful. It reminds me of the opening scene from 2001 which shows an Earthshine drenched Moon hanging in the sky.....

Enjoy......Here is the link

Sky Guy in VA

The Moon as seen by astronaut Ron Garan on the ISS on July 31, 2011. Credit: NASA/ Ron Garan

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Earth's Own Asteroid

Hey Space Placers!

Our planet has its very own asteroid that leads our planet in orbit around the Sun. Discovered by NASA's space-based Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission and announced in a July 28, 2011 paper, 2010 TK7 is a special class of asteroids called Trojan Asteroids. These asteroids either follow or lead a planet in the same basic orbit around the Sun. They remain gravitationally stable which means their orbits do not change. Neptune, Mars, Jupiter and two of Saturn's moons share their orbits with Trojan asteroids. 2010 TK7 is estimated to be 1,000 feet across and 50 million miles from Earth.
Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

This artist's concept illustrates the first known Earth Trojan asteroid, discovered by WISE.
This artist's concept illustrates the first known Earth Trojan asteroid, discovered by WISE. The asteroid is gray and its extreme orbit is shown in green. Image credit: Paul Wiegert, University of Western Ontario, Canada

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Juno is Jupiter Bound!

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's newest planetary mission - Juno - lifted off yesterday at 12:25 p.m. EDT on an Atlas V and successfully separated from its Centaur upper stage - see artist impression below. The spacecraft will zoom past the Moon in one day and head towards Jupiter on a 5 year flight. Powered by the largest solar panels flown on an interplanetary spacecraft, Juno will orbit the poles of Jupiter 33 times over the course of a year and hopefully unlock the secrets beneath Jupiter's cloud tops. Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, August 5, 2011

Martian Flowing Water???

Hey Space Placers!

NASA held a news conference yesterday (8-4-11) to announce findings that Mars most probably has flowing liquid salt water. The findings are based on study of photographs taken by Mars Reconnaissance Oribter (MRO). The photos show dark "fingers" running down the sides of steep slopes in the Martian spring and summer. Scientists can think of no other probable reason for this to occur.

See a movie showing these dark fingers and read more about it:

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Legos Jupiter Bound

Hey Space Placers!

These 3 Legos are bound for Jupiter if all goes well for Juno tomorrow. Lift off is scheduled for 11:34 a.m. EDT. Read More ABout It:

Three LEGO figurines representing the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno and Galileo Galilei are shown here aboard the Juno spacecraft.
Three LEGO figurines representing the Roman god Jupiter, his wife Juno and Galileo Galilei are shown here aboard the Juno spacecraft.  NASA-JPL

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Vesta Vista

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the full frame camera shot of Vesta at:

What really intrigues me the most is the very fresh looking impact crater in the near center that has dark material exposed - perhaps lower layer of lava as in a diogenite meteorite? You can see the ejecta rays in the full image - the impactor probably came in from the lower right.

As Dawn spirals down ever closer to the surface our views will get better and better. I can hardly wait to see the interior of that crater and get the data as to its composition.

Full-Frame image of Vesta

Monday, August 1, 2011

Follow the Moon in August Skies

Hey Space Placers!

This month the Moon will be your guide to finding planets, star clusters and only the brightest Perseid Meteors! With August being the last full month of summer many people get outside and go on vacation. Take some time to look up at the sky and enjoy the view as provided by your guide – the ever changing Moon.

Skywatching Highlights

One of the best meteor showers of the year, the Perseids, occurs on the night of the 12th and 13th. Unfortunately, the bright light of the Full Moon will hide all but the very brightest “falling stars”. Just watch the sky for bright meteors during the evening.

Mercury will be in the eastern sky about 45 minutes before dawn at the end of the month. If you have a clear and unobstructed horizon you should be able to see golden-yellow Mercury. On the 27th Mercury will be below and to the left of the thin crescent Moon. Binoculars will help you find the elusive planet. Also get the latest on the MESSENGER mission at Mercury:

Venus is not visible this month.

Mars is well up in the eastern sky before the light of dawn begins. The Red Planet is to the immediate left of the crescent Moon on the 25th. Just to the the left of Mars lies two bright stars, Castor and Pollux – Castor is the higher of the two. The next NASA mission to Mars, Mars Science Laboratory, named Curiosity, is at Cape Kennedy undergoing final checkout for a launch later in the year. Read More About It:

NASA’s DAWN mission arrived at Vesta on the 16th. The spacecraft is in orbit and studying the second largest asteroid in the main belt up close and personal for the next year. Then DAWN will set sail for the largest asteroid, Ceres. Read More About It: Vesta is directly opposite the Sun on the 5th and is visible all night but is relatively dim. I will post a finder chart on my blog for those of you interested in trying to spot Vesta.

Jupiter dominates the eastern sky rising at about midnight as August begins and at around 10 p.m. as the month ends. The gibbous Moon will be just above Jupiter on the 19th. Juno, NASA’s next mission to Jupiter is scheduled for launch on August 5th. You can read more about it here:

Saturn is in the West-Southwestern sky at sunset. The ringed planet is to the left a famous double star, Porrima (Gamma Virginis) all month long. The crescent Moon glides below this duo on the 3rd. NASA’s Cassini mission is till going strong and you can read about it here:

First Quarter Moon is on the 6th and this month’s Full Moon occurs on the 13th. This month’s Full Moon is called the “Full Sturgeon Moon” in recognition of the peak of Sturgeon fish in the Great Lakes and other bodies of water. Late evening the Last Quarter Moon is below the Pleiades star cluster on the 21st. New Moon is on the 28th. NASA’s Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter remains in orbit around the Moon. Read More About It:

Here are our down to Earth events for this month.

Open House at the Department of Astronomy at the University of Maryland, College Park Campus Observatory, will be at 9 p.m. on the 5th and the 20th. There will be a “Vesta Fiesta” celebrating the Dawn mission to the asteroid Vesta on the 5th so be sure to attend.
Read More About It:

For information on other “Vesta Fiesta” events including NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, see

The National Capital Astronomers (NCA) have a star party at Rock Creek Park on the 27th at 8:30 p.m.
Read More About It:

The Northern Virginia Astronomy Club (NOVAC) will meet at 7 p.m. at George Mason University (GMU) on the 14th. The speaker is Bryan Wilburn and his topic is “Beginning in Astrophotography”.
Read More About It:

NOVAC will hold a public star party at Great Meadow on the 19th from 8:00 to 11:00 p.m.
Read More About It:

The United States Naval Observatory (USNO) has Monday night tours but space is limited.
Read More About It:

The National Air and Space Museum (NASM) has several space related activities this month.
Read More About It:

Join NASM astronomer Sean O’Brien as he hosts a public star party on the 20th at Sky Meadows State Park from 7:30 p.m. to 11 p.m. Read More About It:

The TriState Astronomers General Meeting will not have a meeting this month as the Brish Planetarium is closed for the summer. Read More About It:

The Astronomical Society of Greenbelt (formerly the Greenbelt Astronomy Club) (ASG) will hold a star party on the 6th and 20th starting at 9 p.m. at the Northway Field and Observatory. 8/7: ASG will host “Sidewalk Astronomy” at Roosevelt Square, across from the movie theater (129 Centerway, Greenbelt, MD), at 8 p.m. ASG will meet on the 25th at 7:30 at the Greenbelt Community Center and the speaker will be Craig Levin on “Astronomy vs. Astrology, What's the Difference?”.
Read More About It: