Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Monitoring Saturn's Giant Storm

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has been diligently monitoring the large storm on Saturn for nearly a year.

As described by NASA, "These brand new, full-color mosaics and animated movies begin with the storm's emergence as a tiny spot in a single image on Dec. 5, 2010, and follow its subsequent growth to a storm so large it completely encircled the planet by late January 2011. The disturbance, which extends north-south approximately 9,000 miles, or 15,000 kilometers, grew to be the largest observed on Saturn in the past 21 years, and the largest by far ever observed on the planet from an interplanetary spacecraft. Other instruments on Cassini have detected the storm's electrical activity and revealed it to be a convective thunderstorm. Its active convecting phase ended in late June, but the turbulent clouds it created linger in the atmosphere today."

"The storm's 200-day active period also makes it the longest-lasting planet-encircling storm ever seen on Saturn. The previous record holder was an outburst sighted in 1903 which lingered for 150 days. The large disturbance imaged 21 years ago by NASA's Hubble Space Telescope was comparable in size to the current storm. That 1990 storm lasted for only 55 days."

The collected images and movies can be seen at, http://saturn.jpl.nasa.govand y include mosaics of dozens of images stitched together and presented in true and false colors.

Huge storm on Saturn

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

MESSENGER at Mercury Update

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's MESSENGER mission around Mercury has made the news lately. The mission was a winner in "Popular Science" as it was named a winner in the magazine's 24th annual "Best of What's New" in the Aviation and Space category. [more].

Also on Nov. 14th, NASA announced that it will extend the MESSENGER mission for an additional year of orbital operations at Mercury beyond the planned end of the primary mission on March 17, 2012. The MESSENGER probe became the first spacecraft to orbit the innermost planet on March 18, 2011. [more]

The spacecraft  has returned over 60,000 images and will continue to return more as time goes on. 9 of those images were combined to show a portion of the limb of Mercury in a view that makes you feel like you "are there". Go to the link and click on the image to see the expanded view


There will be more news, views and discoveries about this fascinating planet in the months to come.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, November 28, 2011

Curiosity Close Up

Hey Space Placers!

Now that Curiosity is on her way to Mars, due to arrive in August 2012, I wanted to give you a link to learn more about the super-sized and capable nuclear powered science lab on wheels. Here is the link:

I look at Mars in the sky and can hardly wait for the Red Planet's newest addition to get there safely and start operations.

see caption

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Curiosity Is on Her Way!!!!

Hey Space Placers!

Hope our US friends had a great Thanksgiving and Black Friday!

Just minutes ago NASA's next mission to Mars, the Mars Science Laboratory named Curiosity, successfully launched from Cape Kennedy aboard an Atlas V right on time at 10:02 a.m. EST.

MSL launch

The 1-ton, $2.5 billion Curiosity is nuclear powered and packed with 10 science instruments that will help scientists determine if life can, did, or does exist on Mars. The MSL will land in a reselected spot within Gale Crater in 8 1/2 months.

Curiosity just separated from the Centaur upper stage and is flying free. There will be a NASA teleconference coming up at

You can read more about Curiosity at

More to follow as the mission progresses!

Sky Guy at VA

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Early Happy Thanksgiving

Hey Space Placers!

In America we are preparing to have family and friends arrive to celebrate Thanksgiving with us. It is a busy time but a welcome one as we take time to be with loved ones and friends, remembering what is important in life.

I hope those of you in the U.S. have a safe, joyous and fun Thanksgiving.

For our international friends, may peace and love be with you and yours.

I will be writing as I get time to do so......

Coming up is Curiosity's launch to Mars on Saturday, the threat of space junk to ISS and hopefully.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

UNREAL(!!!) Video From ISS

Hey Space Placers!

Please take the time to see an INCREDIBLE video made by astronaut Ron Garan while he was on the International Space Station and a member of the Expedition 28 crew. It is set to great music and shows views of our Earth and sky that you can only see from space.

You will not regret taking the time to watch this......I have added it to my favorites. Seeing the aurora, the stars, the Moon (briefly) and the vista of our planet.....priceless.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, November 21, 2011

Curiosity Launch Moved to 11/26

Hey Space Placers

NASA's newest rover-laboratory, Curiosity, is now set for launch on Saturday, 11/26/11. The delay was due to the need to change out a battery.

You can follow the very latest on the mission's progress towards launch here:

I truly believe that this mission to Mars will give us some true answers on the question of life on Mars. Stay tuned and we head for Gale Crater and Mars continues to beckon in the morning sky.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, November 18, 2011

Unreal Pic of the Sun

Hey Space Placers!

The huge filament that has been visible across the Sun the past couple days was captured on the 17th by Solar Dynamics Observatory (SDO) in ultraviolet light.....what a stunning sight. There may be more solar activity to be seen if this filament should collapse onto the Sun.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Water in Europa???

Hey Space Placers,

   Make sure you go to the link to read about the latest results from the Galileo Jupiter probe concerning Europa. There is also an excellent video worth watching as well:

   For you movie trivia buffs, Europa was the center of the plot line in "2010" - "All these worlds are yours except Europa". This was an EXCELLENT movie and follow on to 2001.

Europa's Great Lakes (splash)

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Few Good Applicants

Hey Space Placers!

Looking for a government job? Check out this link and see if you qualify:

The headliner showcases a VERY important point - for the first time in decades NASA is looking for a new group of astronauts to send BEYOND low Earth orbit LEO). Not since the Apollo program has this been the case for new astronauts.....since December 1972 all manned missions have been to LEO.

NASA now needs astronauts to fly the new manned crew vehicle and the to be built rockets to places like asteroids and perhaps lunar orbit and beyond. This shows a commitment by NASA to finally get beyond LEO and GO SOMEPLACE within the solar system.

An update - the Soyuz mission to the International Space Station (ISS) was successfully launched and the new crew should be docking very soon with ISS. What a relief.....

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, November 14, 2011

Is Mars Really Red????

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the one minute video "Is Mars Really Red" at Look for it on the right hand side of the web page.

With Mars getting brighter in the morning sky and closer to Earth, this is a good source of quick information on the "Red Planet".

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Soyuz to liftoff for ISS 11-13-11

Hey Space Placers!

Today is an important day for the future of the International Space Station (ISS) as the Russians are preparing to launch the next trio of few crew members to the ISS at 11:14 today, Sunday Nov. 13, 2011. This is crucial as the Soyuz launch vehicle that lofts the crew to orbit is the same type that failed August 24th and grounded the Russians as they figured out what went wrong.

Since the U.S. retired the Space Shuttle, the Russians are the only ticket to the ISS. If there is another problem with the Soyuz, it can have very dire circumstances for the future of the $100 billion ISS. It is also disconcerting that that the Russians suffered another engine malfunction with their recently launched Mars mission to Phobos. The upper stage engine failed to fire when commanded and has left the spacecraft and mission in doubt.

A Soyuz launched Progress resupply ship successfully docked with the ISS on October 30th but this is the first manned launch since the resumption of Soyuz launches.

I, and I am sure others are wondering if there is a quality control issue on the Russian launcher assembly line.Only time and a successful liftoff will tell.

Read More About It:


Sky Guy in VA

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Spotted Sun

Hey Space Placers!

It has been years since the Sun had this many spots! I think we are going to have a very active build up to Solar Maximum. See the original 11-11-11 image and close up at

Also enjoy the post Full Moon tonight with bright Jupiter in the east and Venus in the west right at sunset.

Sky Guy in VA


Wednesday, November 9, 2011

We're All Still Here

Hey Space Placers!

Space rock 2005 YU55 came and went last night - 11-08-11 -and we are all still here. NASA has put together a "movie" that you should check out:

Oh, and make sure you check out the nearly Full Moon and Jupiter tonight 11-09-11.

Sky Guy inVA

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

2005 YU55Latest Picture

Hey Space Placers!

Here is the latest pic from NASA of space rock 2005 YU55. See my blog from yesterday for basic deatils on this solar system interloper

"This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 was obtained on Nov. 7, 2011, at 11:45 a.m. PST (2:45 p.m. EST/1945 UTC), when the space rock was at 3.6 lunar distances, which is about 860,000 miles, or 1.38 million kilometers, from Earth."

More to follow.
Asteroid 2005 YU55

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, November 7, 2011

INCOMING!!!!!! and Outgoing.....

Hey Space Placers!

The Earth should be in one piece by tomorrow night (Nov 8). If it isn't, at least it won't have been caused by the passage of an aircraft carrier sized asteroid named 2005 YU55   

We know 100% for sure that the Earth will not be hit by this rock for 100 years. It has a close encounter with Venus in 2029 that will alter its orbit so we will have to monitor its new orbit.

This nomad of the solar system comes closest to us on November 8th at 6:28 p.m. EST, when it passes 198,000 miles (319,000 km) from Earth's surface. By the way, that is well inside the Moon's orbit which is about 240,000 miles on any given day.

This space rock is remarkably spherical and will be close enough that we will be able to get radar returns and further our knowledge. Amateur and professional astronomers are planning observing runs to capture images and associated data as the asteroid makes its closest approach to learn even more about this interloper.

Asteroid 2005 YU<sub>55</sub>
This radar image of asteroid 2005 YU55 was generated from radar data taken in April 2010 by the Arecibo Telescope in Puerto Rico.
NASA / Cornell / Arecibo

I will have more on this as the data results come in. Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, November 6, 2011

The Story of Gale Crater

Hey Space Placers!

Nov. 25th is the projected launch date of NASA's newest mission to Mars. The Mars Science Laboratory, named Curiosity, is due to land in a crater named Gale - a 96 mile wide crater that has a central mountain that is three times higher than the Grand Canyon is deep.

Gale Crater was selected for the landing site as it is thought to be a place where the past history of Mars will be available in the layers of sedimentary rock that abounds in the crater. By studying these layers with the sophisticated instruments on board Curiosity, and its ability to roam the Martian surface, scientists are very optimistic that a treasure trove of information will be discovered.

SO when you watch Mars get brighter in the sky in the upcoming weeks think about Gale Crater and what we will find there - perhaps building blocks of life if not not proof of life itself.

Read More ABout It:

Gale Crater (gale crater, 558px)

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, November 5, 2011

Venus Returns to the Night Sky

Hey Space Placers!

I spotted Venus last night for the first time in months. Venus is low in the southwest just as it begins to get dark - if your horizon is clear you cannot miss the brilliant greenish-white planet. Venus will continue to get higher and brighter in the sky as the weeks go by.

With the return to standard time tonight, we will have even more darkness hours to enjoy the night sky as we progress to the Winter Solstice in December.

So as darkness falls, Venus is in the southwest, Jupiter in the east with the Moon. Mars is in the predawn hours keeping bright Regulus company.

Enjoy the sky....don't forget to check out the fly overs of the International SPace STation - get the updates for your location at

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, November 4, 2011

A BIG Sunspot

Hey Space Placers!

You have to check out the BIG sunspot that is causing a bit of a stir as it is one of  the largest we have seen on the Sun in awhile.This sunspot has been active producing solar activity and will probably continue to do so.

See more about this sunspot here: and follow its progress from day to day.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, November 3, 2011

A Star With Spiral Arms Found

Hey Space Placers!

The Universe is ALWAYS full of surprises and here is the latest - a star that has spiral arms! Located in Lupus the Wolf at about 400 light years, this star may be in the process of creating new planets. Make sure you Read More About It:

A Star with Spiral Arms (spiral splash, 558px)

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Got Mars????

Hey SPace Placers!

For you early risers - an hour or more before dawn, be sure to look up Mars high overhead, a little towards the east. Mars is becoming brighter as it moves closer to Earth and it now is a little brighter than the star Regulus in the constellation of Leo the Lion. You will see Mars and Regulus near one another and Mars is steadier, brighter and reddish-orange tinted as opposed to yellowish-white Regulus.

Mars will continue to get brighter and redder in color as the weeks roll by. It is fitting that we know where Mars is in the sky as NASA prepares to launch Curiosity towards the Red Planet on the 8th of this month. The super rover-laboratory on wheels promises to revolutionize our search for signs of life - past and present- on the planet in Gale Crater.

More to come on Mars and Curiosity to come but take a peek tomorrow in the pre-dawn sky and spot the Red Planet for yourself.