Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Captain Kirk and Ensign Crusher Make a Grand Entrance for Curiosity

Hey Space Placers!

Captain Kirk and Ensign Crusher Make a Grand Entrance for Curiosity in two You Tube Videos:


How appropriate that these Star Trek legends give world wide viewers an introduction to Curiosity and her mission to Mars.

"Mars Monday" is fast approaching and I will be on WTTG Fox 5 Monday morning to celebrate or lament Curiosity's landing.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, July 30, 2012

A Week From Now We'll Know if Curiosity Made It

Hey SPace Placers!

A week from now we'll know if Curiosity made it intact to the surface of Mars. Until then each passing second brings the Mars Science Laboratory - Curiosity - closer to her destiny and fate.

Due to land on August 5th/6th  (PDT/EDT) the latest NASA mission to Mars must undergo quite a trial by fire - literally - to land successfully.

Watch Mars this week in the western sky after sunset and think of Curiosity and wish her well.

Read More ABout It: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/29jul_marslanding/
and http://marsprogram.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/.

More to follow each day for this "Curiosity to Mars Week"

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, July 29, 2012

J2X Video

Hey Space Placers!

Want to experience sheer power?

Tune in to NASA's test of its' J2X engine that will power the upper stage of the Space Launch System (SLS) that is being developed by NASA to send humans and cargo into space. The J2X is an upgraded version of the J2 rocket engine used in the S-II and S IVB stages of the Saturn V moon rocket.

Watch your ears if you have big speakers!

Listen and feel the power here: http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/videogallery/index.html?media_id=149202181.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, July 27, 2012

ESA Heading to the Moon in 2018

Hey Space Placers!

The European Space Agency (ESA) is heading to the Moon in 2018. The mission will involve a sophisticated lander at the South Pole. Hopefully the site selected will help to establish how much water ice is at the south ploe in at least one location by directly testing the site.

Lunar Lander

Read More ABout It: http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/lunarlander/SEMS5CA573H_0.html

China and India are looking to land on the Moon as well in the coming years - China with Taikonauts and India with a lander.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, July 26, 2012

T Minus 10 Days and Counting

Hey Space Placers!

I was looking at Mars last night in the west and I thought it would be a good idea to remind you to tune in to http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msl/ to get the very latest on Curiosity's preparations for landing on Mars August 5th.

I get more excited each day - nervous actually - about all of the things that have to go right to get to the surface of the Red Planet. The prelanding checkouts are underway and orbiters are being repositioned to be able to relay Curiosity's signals back to Earth. Course corrections are being tweeked and the seconds are passing to touchdown.

Go to the JPL site and browse the videos and the articles. Take a look at Mars tonight and know Curiosity is almost there.

Current view of the Mars Science Laboratory's position on the journey between Earth and Mars. Image is generated by NASA's Eyes on the Solar System 3-D interactive

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Greenland Ice Sheet Melting

Hey SPace Placers!

As many parts of the U.S. are enduring record heat and drought this summer, check out the following story about Greenland's ice sheet undergoing a 97% melt rate.

Global warming is here regardless of what some politicians have to say.

Read More ABout It; http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/24jul_greenland/

See an iceberg tsunami: http://wtop.com/681/2960502/Tourists-escape-iceberg-tsunami-in-Greenland-VIDEO

Calving a Manhattan size iceberg: http://ecocentric.blogs.time.com/2012/07/21/video-giant-glacier-breaks-off-greenland/

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, July 23, 2012

Sally Ride 1951 - 2012

Hey Space Placers!

A sad note today, Dr. Sally Ride, Ph.D, and America's first woman astronaut to go into space passed away today, 7-23-12 at the age of 61 due to pancreatic cancer.

Sally was a pioneer in many ways before she launched into abort in 1983 aboard Space Shuttle Challenger; she was also the youngest American to go into space a the time. She flew one more mission aboard Challenger the next year and then went on to a distinguished educational career.

In an age when few women were in the sciences, Sally became a physicist in the 1970's and later taught physics after she left NASA. She also founded her own company - Sally Ride Science - to inspire and educate students, especially young girls and women.

Astronaut Sally Ride during the STS-7 mission in 1983. Credit: NASA
Rest in peace Sally and may you roam the stars to continue your voyage of exploration. We on Earth shall miss you.....

Read More About It: https://www.sallyridescience.com/ and http://www.nasa.gov/topics/people/features/ride.html

Sky Guy in VA

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!!!! 7-23-12

Hey Space Placers!

Tonight after sunset in the west catch the Moon keeping company with Saturn and Mars. It is important to look at Mars and know where Curiosity is due to land in less than two weeks!

Moon passing planets in twilight

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, July 22, 2012

A Personal Commentary

Hey Space Placers!

If you get a chance I would like to share my thoughts with you about Apollo 11's 43rd anniversary in a commentary I wrote for WTOP:

Be well and be safe.

Sky Guy in VA

A Taste of Solar Maximum

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the link to see what the upcoming solar maximum could be like: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/20jul_tasteofsolarmax/

The Sun is expected to reach its peak of solar activity in a year or so that is part of the Sun's 11 year cycle of activity. We have seen solar storms on the Sun and their effects here on Earth but the best is yet to come.

I wouldn't be surprised that this solar maximum will be one for the books as far as intensity goes just because of how active the build up has been and how quiet and extended in duration the solar minimum was.

All we can do is watch the Sun with our fleet of space and ground based solar observatories and see what happens.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, July 20, 2012

Did You Remember?

Hey Space Placers!

Do you know what the answer is to my question????

July 20 is a hint.

43 years ago Neil Armstrong and Buzz ALdrin landed their Lunar Excursion Module (LEM) named Eagle in the Sea of Tranquility on the Moon.

I doubt that most of the Earth's population remmebrs this day in the history of humanity but it is a watershed event for me in my time on this planet. I still have the color slides that I took of the news coverage on TV, which I processed myself in my own darkroom that I built myself.

I have much Apollo 11 memorabilia and 26 pices of the Moon in the fomr of lunar meteorites and lunar dust from lunar meteorites. I have models of the Saturn V and the Command and Service Modules along with an attached LEM.

I am attached to the Moon through my memories, my lunar meteorites and my telescope. If I had one place to visit in the Universe it would be the Moon.

The next humans to visit the Moon will in all likelihood be Chinese. SOmeday the human race will realize that it needs the Moon for a base and a colony.

Thank you NASA and all of the men, women and machines that got us to the Moon 43 years ago and several times since. Lunar Reconnaisance Orbiter and the GRAIL lunar missions are still active and allowing us to learn more about the Moon.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Unreal Mars Pic

Hey Space Placers!

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

This is what intakes us about Mars - the geological features we see that are stunning and intriguing at the same time.

Can you imagine what lies in the cavern? Is there any life, are there stalagmites/stalagtities like the wonders in Luray Cavern in VA? Water? 

Curiosity won't be able to go into this cavern but what the roving lab learns while on Mars will help us consider the informed possibilities.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, July 16, 2012

Curiosity News Conference Results

Hey Space Placers!

NASA held a news conference today - 7-16-12 - on Curiosity, the advanced Mars Rover due to land on Mars 8-5/6 -12. NASA released several items for the public - a virtual rover experience and an Xbox360 video game.

Curiosity's Daring Landing (splash, 558px)

Details on Curiosity's mission, landing and the free game and virtual experience can be seen at http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/16jul_daring/

Sky Guy in VA

NASA News Conference on Curiosity Today 7-16-12

Hey Space Placers!

NASA HQ will hold a news conference on the status of MArs-bound Curiosity today, 7-16-12 at 1 p.m. EDT. You can follow along by going to the link below.

NASA is due to announce a new publi collaboration regarding the mission so stay tuned.

Artist's concept of the Mars rover Curiosity

Read More ABout It: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-201b

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Dark Matter Filament Found

Hey Space Placers!

Aurora were visible in the U.S. last night but I had cloud cover so couldn't tell if VA was included.

Follow the link to read about the detection of a dark matter filament that was recently found that runs between two galaxy clusters. It is a big find that will help astronomers in their quest to solve the mystery of dark matter which comprises 70+%of the matter in the Universe.

A filament of dark matter has been directly detected between the galaxy clusters Abell 222 and Abell 223. The blue shading and yellow contour lines represent the density of matter. Image credit: Jörg Dietrich, U-M Department of Physics

The filament was found due to gravitational lensing that allowed the filament to be detected between two large galaxy clusters. This filament is part of the structure that connects galactic clusters in space.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sky Guy DUAL Viewing ALERT 7-14/15-2012!!!!!!!!

Hey Space Placers!

As I write this on 7-14-12, 1000 (EDT), the Earth is being buffeted by a corneal mass ejection that blew out from the Sun last Thursday in an X-class (the most powerful) solar flare from huge and directly facing Earth sunspot AR 1520 - see Solar Dynamics Observatory picture below.


There is a good possibility that auroral displays will be visible at high and even middle latitudes. To check for your geographic area see this link: http://helios.swpc.noaa.gov/ovation/.  This is the biggest solar flare event of the summer so check out your location.

Tomorrow an hour before sunrise face the east and see the waning crescent Moon join Aldebaran, Venus, Jupiter and the Pleiades. You will see Earthshine adorning the dark of the Moon as an added bonus - see the Sky and Telescope diagram below.

Dawn view

Enjoy the sky spectaculars!

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, July 13, 2012

How Are We Going To Get "There" - Deep Space

Hey Space Pkacers!

A couple of NASA engineers have written an interesting technical paper on a possible way of integrating components into a deep sapce mission capable spacecraft seen below.

NASA is working on developing the crew module - Orion, and the Space Launch System (SLS) rocket booster right now. But to get to the asteroids, Moon, Mars and other solar system places, you need a capability to survive and thrive in deep space that we do not have.

Orion by itself cannot do long term missions, it needs other components to go the distance in terms of months in deep space. The paper discusses all of these aspects and  has some pretty good ideas.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Fifth Pluto Moon Discovered

Hey Space Placers!

Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has made another solar system discover - a fifth moon for Pluto:

S/2012 (134340) 1, ("P5" in the photo) as it is now called until it gets an official name from the International Astronomical Union (IAU) was discovered in a series of HST images with the last being takken on July 9, 2012. The moon is estimated to be 6 to 15 miles across and irregular in shape, orbiting Pluto at about 58,000 miles. P4 was found by HST in 2011.

The New Horizons spacecragt will tell us more about all of Pluto's moons as well as the dwarf planet. HST's successor, the James Webb Telescope, will observe the Pluto system also.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Mars Panorama

Hey Space Placers!

We have looked at Saturn the past two days and I thought it was time to give the Red Planet a turn:

See Explanation.  Clicking on the picture will download
 the highest resolution version available.

This compilation of 817 images was taken by the Mars Rover Opportunity during her winter hibernation and was made into a 360 degree view visible here: http://apod.nasa.gov/apod/image/1207/greeley_opportunity_5000.jpg and more about the image here http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mer/news/mer20120705.html

The colors are a bit exaggerated but Mars beckons both Opportunity and the soon to arrive Curiosity to delve into the secrets to be discovered by the two rovers. Opportunity will drive straight ahead to the North in Endeavor Crater while Curiosity will explore Gale Crater.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Learn About Saturn's Rings

Hey Space Placers!

To follow up on my blog yesterday about Saturn, check out this website http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/science/index.cfm?SciencePageID=55 to learn about Saturn's rings.

You may not know that there are several separate rings and gaps that comprise the Saturnian ring system. This website really puts it all in a proper perspective using results from NASA's Cassini mission.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Enjoy the View

Hey Space Placers!

Saturn, Tethys and Enceladus

Recognize the planet?????

It is the planet Saturn taken  by NASA's Cassini spacecraft from a vantage point that was even with the planet's ring system. The rings are the thin line that divides the planet in half. See the two small moons, one on each side of the planet? Tethys on the right and Enceladus on the left.....

See the full size image at the link below. Saturn is in the southwest as it gets dark.

Read More About It: http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/photos/imagedetails/index.cfm?imageId=4542

Sky Guy in VA

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 7-9-12!!!!!

Hey Space Placers!

Tomorrow morning it will be well worth getting up before the Sun to see brilliant Venus and Aldebaran  converge to within one finger-width of one another in the east. Greenish-white Venus and orangish-red Aldebaran will be a nice contrast in the sky with Jupiter and the Pleiades star cluster just above.

If it is cloudy the view will be almost as good on the 10th.

If you have binoculars they will enhance the view nicely and you can see the four main moons of Jupiter if you look closely.

Venus is keeping company with the Hyades star cluster which forms the "V" you see. The star cluster is 153 light years away.

Aldebaran, the "the angry eye of Taurus the Bull", is not really a part of the star cluster as it is 65 light years away. Aldebaran is a red giant star which means it is nearing the end of its stellar life - see my blog of July 7th.

Our heat wave here in DC, MD, VA should end on Monday. Get out and enjoy the view and the coolest part of the day.

Dawn view

Sky & Telescope Diagram

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Stellar Death Throes

Hey Space Placers!

Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has captured many unique and exceptional photographs. The picture below is another. What we are seeing is a star in the beginning stages of its death throes.

Starburst with radiating lines pushing a bubble of reddish haze out from an exploding star

Stars live by turning hydrogen into helium in their cores. But stars have only a finite amount of fuel in their cores and surrounding layers to burn. When the fuel starts to run out the star burns whatever it can to survive. In this amazing HST image, U Cam is a star that is running out of time and fuel.

It is unstable and ever thousand years or so it puffs off a layer of gas in an almost perfectly spherical shell which HST captured in this photo. The star's image is greatly bloated as it would be only one pixel across but due to the overexposure necessary to capture the dimmer shell it has saturated the camera's sensors. 

Our own Sun will look like this in about 5 billion years as it will become a Red Giant that puffs away outer layers until only the white hot core remains - becoming a white dwarf star with a surrounding nebula of gas and dust.

Read More About It: http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/hubble/science/red-bubble.html

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, July 6, 2012

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!!!!! 7-7-12

Hey Space Placers!

Tomorrow morning, 7-7-12, before the Sun rises (and starts heating up the day - we are forecast to hit 103 temperature and that's BEFORE the heat index!!!) there is a nice line up in the east.

Jupiter, Venus and the orangish-reddish colored star Aldebaran all align in an almost straight vertical line. Jupiter leads the way with brilliant Venus next and the red giant star last in line.

The little star cluster above this trio is the Pleiades or Seven Sisters.

There will be a few other early morning alerts that will follow this month involving these two planets.

Enjoy the view and the coolest part of the day.

Read More About It: http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2012/03jul_wakeupatdawn/

Sky Guy in HOT VA

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

A Higgs What??????

Hey Space Placers!

Today the science community and media are all abuzz about the announcement from CERN regarding the "almost" confirmed existence of the Higgs Boson Particle - or "God Particle".  Unless you have been following particle physics for decades you might not have heard of the Higgs Boson Particle.

Here is a brief introduction about the God Particle: http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/science/higgs-en.html. The bottom line is that the Higgs Boson particle gives mass to the Universe.

As to the CERN announcement itself, here it is: http://press.web.cern.ch/press/PressReleases/Releases2012/PR17.12E.html

It is important to note that the Biggs Boson particle has NOT been confirmed, but rather a new particle that was observed during the two different teams' experiments was observed is thought to be the particle. More experiments will be conducted to confirm that the new particle is the Higgs Boson.

Now as to what does it all mean in terms of the Universe, one has to understand that the very large - galaxies, stars, planets, us, all depends (and exists) due to the very small. Atoms and the particles that make them up, neutrinos, electrons, quarks, etc., make up the Universe we see. So to truly understand the Universe we have to understand the tiniest components that make it up: http://public.web.cern.ch/public/en/science/Recipe-en.html

Using the huge atom smasher at CERN as well as other facilities around the world, physicists are able to create  particle collisions to see what comes out of these events. That is how the new particle was found and is seen  below.
Event display showing particle tracks from a collision as seen by the CMS experiment
A proton-proton collision event in the CMS experiment producing two high-energy photons (red towers). This is what we would expect to see from the decay of a Higgs boson but it is also consistent with background Standard Model physics processes. © CERN 2012
Here is a great article that puts it all together: http://www.wtop.com/884/2927241/Eureka-Physicists-celebrate-evidence-of-particle  
Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Martian Fireworks Next Month

Hey Space Placers!

As those of us in the U.S. prepare for the 4th of July and all of the fireworks displays, Curiosity will have her own fireworks going on over MArs one month and one day after the Nation's birthday.

If you haven't watched it yet, make sure you view my blog on June 23rd, "7 Minutes of Terror" which details what Curiosity must do right in order to land on the Red Planet. In order for many of the entry and landing processes to work, pyrotechnics are involved. In fact, there are 76 pyrotechnic events that must work on time and the first time or the mission will fail.

The Curiosity rover and its sky crane separate from the back which helped protect both during entry in the Martian atmosphere.

Read what must fire and how quickly for Curiosity to make it to Gale Crater: http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.cfm?release=2012-192

When you are watching the fireworks on the 4th, think of the 76 that must work perfectly for Curisoity to survive and thrive.

SKy Guy in VA

Monday, July 2, 2012

Helping Out VISTA Science Teachers

Hey Space Placers!

Thought I would share my participation in an excellent program being conducted in Virginia to help science teachers. Called VISTA or Virginia Initiative for Science Teaching and Achievement, this weeks long science camp provides science teahcers from across the state to meet, collaborate and learn science that they can take back to their classrooms.  VISTA is part of George Mason University (GMU)who has partnered with other state schools and industry. The camp is held at GMU as well.

This summer the theme is "Space Exploration" and covers astronomy and space exploration. I was asked to participate in themaking of relevant videos to help the teams in their respective projects. WHat a great honor to help those who are teaching the future of our Nation and the world.

If you get a chance visit the VISTA Facebook page - http://www.facebook.com/vistascience to keep up with their activities and view the videos. Here is one we made last week and another is in production now and should be on Facebook later today - http://vimeo.com/vistascience/review/44683794/264a791371

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, July 1, 2012

6 Million Miles an Hour

Hey Space Placers!

I hope this finds our VA/DC/MD readers back on line with power, water and Internet.A lot of the area is still recovering.

Astronomers have found the potential record holder among pulsars for the fastest moving. Using three different telescopes, they found Pulsar  IGR J1104-6103 was moving away from its supernova remnant at 6 million miles an hour.

A pulsar is the remnant of a massive star that has used up all of it nuclear fuel and becomes a supernova - literally blasting itself to smithereens. In the aftermath of this explosion the core of the now dead star can only do one of two things - become a neutron star or a black hole. It all depends on how much mass is left within the core. 

A neutron star is the size of a city but contains several times the mass of our Sun and spins on its axis at a very high rate of speed. The star also puts out lines of radiation along intense magnetic fields and becomes a cosmic lighthouse. If these radiation beams align with Earth, we "see" the pulses with our radio telescopes and can measure how fast the pulsar is rotating.

In the image above the supernova remnant is the purple colors "cloud". This marks the shattered outer layers of the star that went supernova and is where new heavy elements - all elements above iron- were made in the billions of degrees temperature from the blast. 

The green area marks the high energy X-rays, including a point source, that is moving away from the supernova remnant. The only thing that could be a point source emitting X-rays (that we currently know of) is a pulsar. We have not detected the pulsations from this neutron star but it is a distant 30,000 light years away. So it may be indirect evidence that crowns this point source as a pulsar and the speediest one known.

Read More ABout It: http://www.chandra.harvard.edu/photo/2012/igrj11014/ and http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/chandra/multimedia/fast_pulsar.html

Sky Guy in VA