Monday, October 31, 2011

Happy Halloween Everyone

Hey SPace Placers!

Well, the trick or treaters will be out in force tonight as Halloween is upon us - hard to believe that November is here already.

In the DC area we will probably be clouded out but for the rest of you that enjoy clear skies tonight be sure to check out the Moon in the south, Jupiter in the east and the summer triangle directly overhead.

Russia recently launched its supply rocket to the ISS successfully so the logistics chain is back in place (if the supply ship docks OK).

NASA is getting ready to launch the newest Mars mission - Curiosity - this week. I will have more on that as we get closer to the launch window. NASA is doing the final touched on the spacecraft and launcher this week at Kennedy Space Center.

Have a safe and candy successful night!

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Jupiter Rules the Night/GMU Night 10-31-11

Hey Space Placers!

Well, after our snowfall here in the DC/VA/MD area as well as a Nor'easter of historic significance in terms of it occurring in October, the sky is calling.

Jupiter is now up all night, being visible in the east right at sunset and blazing brightly until sunrise. If you have binoculars you can see the four main moons and even the smallest telescope will show you the planet,  cloud bands and the moons in greater detail.

Add to that the 1st quarter Moon on the 2nd and you have a sky watchers' treat.

For those of you in the DC area come join us at GMU Observatory on Halloween. Jupiter and the Moon will provide a real "trick and treat" for those who show up. Check the website for further details:

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, October 28, 2011

A Solar Cycle Primer

Hey Space Placers!

Here is everything you ever wanted to know about the Sun and its cycle. Be sure to check out the video.

Sky Guy in VA

Eleven years in the life of the Sun, spanning most of solar cycle 23, as it progressed from solar minimum to maximum conditions and back to minimum (upper right) again, seen as a collage of ten full-disk images of the lower corona.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Venus-Mercury-Moon in the West

Hey Space Placers!

If you have clear skies and a clear western horizon, make sure you look for the heavenly trio in the west right after sunset. Binoculars will help your search. The Moon will get higher in the western sky over the next few days and Venus and Mercury will remain close to one another.

A great view if you can see it!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

New Impact Study

Hey Space Placers!

If you are interested in impact events, you have to read the latest from Princeton University. The research has developed a better model for studying the effects of large impact events on Earth. I highly recommend reading the following:

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Monday, October 24, 2011

Sleepy Hollows of Mercury

Hey Space Placers!

Mercury continues to surprise and confound scientists as a result of the ongoing NASA MESSENGER mission. The latest revelation involves newly discovered features called "Sleepy Hollows" - pretty scientific sounding term I must say.

According to NASA, "A key clue is that many of the hollows are associated with central mounds or mountains inside Mercury's impact craters. These so-called “peak rings” are thought to be made of material forced up from the depths by the impact that formed the crater. Excavated material could be unstable when it finds itself suddenly exposed at Mercury's surface."

Be sure to read more about it:

Sky Guy in VA

Sleepy Hollows (splash, 558px)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

A Young Star's Oceans of Water

Hey Space Placers!

Astronomers for the first time have detected what amounts to oceans of water in a potentially comet forming cloud surrounding a young star.

From the NASA-JPL News Release:

Using data from the Herschel Space Observatory, astronomers have detected for the first time cold water vapor enveloping a dusty disk around a young star. The findings suggest that this disk, which is poised to develop into a solar system, contains great quantities of water, suggesting that water-covered planets like Earth may be common in the universe. Herschel is a European Space Agency mission with important NASA contributions.

Scientists previously found warm water vapor in planet-forming disks close to a central star. Evidence for vast quantities of water extending out into the cooler, far reaches of disks where comets take shape had not been seen until now. The more water available in disks for icy comets to form, the greater the chances that large amounts eventually will reach new planets through impacts.

"Our observations of this cold vapor indicate enough water exists in the disk to fill thousands of Earth oceans," said astronomer Michiel Hogerheijde of Leiden Observatory in The Netherlands. Hogerheijde is the lead author of a paper describing these findings in the Oct. 21 issue of the journal Science. 

Read More About It:

Sky Guy In VA
Artist's concept illustrates an icy planet-forming disk around a young star called TW Hydrae

Saturday, October 22, 2011

A Lunar Lover Must Read

Hey Space Placers!

I was very disappointed when NASA's Constellation Program was cancelled which effectively ended our return to the Moon. I have no doubt that the Chinese will be going there as a means to show their fiscal, scientific and political dominance to the world.

A plan to get back to the Moon has been developed by Dr. Paul Spudis, a longtime lunar researcher who has been a force in lunar exploration and study. He has a really neat web site, which I highly recommend Moon lovers visit. I have read his plans and they make sense and are doable, especially in terms of time and money. He has the blueprint to get to the Moon and make it into a lunar colony that could turn a profit. It just needs a conglomerate to pick it up and fund it. Perhaps someday......

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, October 21, 2011

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!!!!!

Hey Space Placers!

Set your alarms for tomorrow morning -10-22-11 - and get up before dawn to watch the Orionid meteor shower. We should get 15 bright meteors an hour AND who knows how many will hit the Moon! NASA will be monitoring the Moon during the meteor shower to see if there are any impacts as in previous years.

The Orionids are beautiful to see amongst the bright winter stars so bundle up and get out and watch.

Read More ABout It:

Orionids (sky map2, 558px)

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Extraterrestrial Comet Storm???

Hey Space Placers!

The NASA Spitzer Space Telescope has observed evidence of what may have happened in our own solar system billions of years ago: a hail of comets sweeping through our system and hitting planets along the way. Known as the "Late Heavy Bombardment" this storm of comets numbering in the thousands, is thought to have deposited water on Earth and perhaps the very ingredients necessary for life to form.

According to NASA, "Spitzer has spotted a band of dust around Eta Corvi that strongly matches the contents of an obliterated giant comet, probably destroyed by a collision with a planet or some other large body. The dust is located close enough to Eta Corvi that Earth-like worlds could exist in the collision zone, suggesting that planets like our own might be involved. The Eta Corvi system is approximately one billion years old, which researchers think is about the right age for such a hailstorm."

Read More About It:

Comet Storm (storm, 558 px)

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

600 Cosmic Mysteries

Hey Space Placers!

Up for a good cosmic mystery? How about 600 of them? That is the number that astronomers using the Fermi Space Telescope are trying to solve.They have been using the telescope to search out and explain high energy events and have been quite successful in doing so - except for the 600 that remain.

What exactly is causing these high energy events to happen? Dark matter, perhaps? Colliding galactic clusters?

Who knows. But as time goes on perhaps there will be answers found from ordinary causes or wholly new discoveries.

Read More ABout It:

600 Mysteries (sky map, 558px)

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, October 17, 2011

GMU Observatory Tonight (10-17-11)

Hey Space Placers!

If in the DC area, and the sky is clear, join us at George Mason University Observatory for our public viewing session.

Check it out here:

The 32-inch and 12-inch telescopes should give us fine view of Jupiter.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, October 14, 2011

Name the Very Large Array

Hey Space Placers!

Want to name the world's most famous radio telescope facility - the Very Large Array or VLA? If you saw Contact, the movie, VLA was as much a "star" as was Vego or Jodie Foster.

The VLA has undergone a complete, decades long transformation that will make it one of the premier astronomical facilities in the world.

Read More About It and get the rules: You have until December 1st.

Good luck!

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

For Those of You In Washington, D.C.

Hey DC Area Space Placers!

With the weather being in cloudy mode more often than clear mode, here is a great way to get over the cloudy blues. The Air & Space Museum has a great line up of space-aviation related activities for everyone in the month of October.

Check it out:

 Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

New Vesta View

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the latest news and views from Vesta: The mountain is 3 times the height of  Mt. Everest!

Oblique View of Vesta's South Polar Region

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, October 10, 2011

GRAIL Update

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's latest lunar mission, Gravity Recovery And Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), has had the two spacecraft go their separate ways by each executing engine burns to start distancing themselves from one another. GRAIL A will enter lunar orbit on New Year's Eve with GRAIL B following the next day. Science operations will start thereafter.

Read More About It:

 the twin GRAIL spacecraft will map the moon's gravity field, as depicted in this artist's rendering.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, October 9, 2011

From PC to Apple

Hey Space Placers!

Well, I did my part for the American economy today as I went out and bought an Apple MacBook Pro. I did this because my 3 PC machines were showing their age and I decided to get back to my roots. I started out with a Commodore 128 in '85 and went to a Mac SE in '86, a Mac Iici in 1993 and PC's in 98'. I am still getting used to the new machine but I have to say it is IMPRESSIVE. Everything you need comes in one box. Steve Jobs, rest in peace and thank you for all you did for humanity, did it right.

I did not see any Draconids last night but the fall constellations are getting higher and the Moon was beautiful as always. Jupiter is rising soon after dark - it is the brightest object in the east - and will soon be visible all night.

Tomorrow will be an update on NASA's GRAIL mission to the Moon.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Meteor Shower?

Hey Space Placers!

While you are out looking at the Moon tonight, keep an eye out for some meteors. I wasn't going to mention the Draconid Meteor shower that peaks today but I think I saw a few beauties last night even with bright moonlight.

The Earth is going through a stream of cometary debris which will cause a great deal of meteors to enter the atmosphere. The peak time does not favor North America but it does in other parts of the globe.

Read More About It:

 Sky Guy in VA

Friday, October 7, 2011

International Observe the Moon Night Oct. 8, 2011

Hey Space Placers and fellow Lunatics!

Oct. 8 is International Observe the Moon Night! This is a world-wide event that hosts events for people to get out and observe the Moon.

Check out the link to see if there is an event in your area:

I will be out watching and maybe photographing as well.

Sky Guy Going Lunar in VA

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Did Comets Create Our Oceans?

Hey Space Placers!

New research indicates that comets may have been responsible for the creation of our planet's oceans. We know comets have lots of water but we now know that some comets have have that is very similar to our planet's ocean water.

This is not a new idea but the research adds evidence to it being true. Be sure to check it out:

New measurements from the Herschel Space Observatory have discovered water with the same chemical signature as our oceans in a comet called Hartley 2

Sky Guy in Sunny at Last VA

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Sun-Comet Interaction????

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the APOD/Spaceweather videos that show a sundiving comet impacting the Sun and then the Sun lets loose with a coronal mass ejection.

Coincidence? Probably. Interesting and something to see? Definitely!

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Hey Kids - Name Those Moon Probes!

Hey Space Placers!

Know any U.S. (sorry to my international readers) kids K through 12? They have until November 11th to enter NASA's contest to "help the agency give the twin spacecraft headed to orbit around the moon new names."

This is a wonderful effort and tradition by NASA to have kids name spacecraft - Curiosity, Sojourner, Spirit, Opportunity have been named by kids and/or popular vote.

Check out this link for more information and contest rules:

Please get the word to children you know and wish them luck.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, October 3, 2011

My Light Pollution Battle

Hey Space Placers!

I have undertaken my own personal light poluution battle. Two months ago a cell phone tower that used to have red lights was changed to a night vision destroying high intensity strobe light that flashes once a second.

This light is so bright that it casts shadows in our backyard and lights the interior walls of certain rooms of our house. We cannot have the windows open at night because the light is everywhere.

I used to be able to enjoyt the night sky from my back longer. The light leaves spots in my eyes and is too bright to see anything but it flashing once a second.

I have sent an email to the FAA, the cell phone tower owner and user, my congressman and the local news station.

Thhis light has not been set to FAA standards in which the light's output is adjusted according to the time of day. The light is as bright during the day as it is at night.

I will let you know how it goes. Me against big corporate America.......

Sky Guy in VA