Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!!!!! Blue Moon Friday 8-31-12

Hey Space Placers!

It is Blue Moon Friday, 8-31-12, or in popular parlance, the second Full Moon in a month.

Read all about it here: and

The next Blue Moon won't be until July 2015, so enjoy!.

While you are looking take a moment to say hello to Neil Armstrong - his private funeral will take place on the same day as the Blue Moon - fitting I think for the first human to walk on another world.

Sky Guy in Blue Moon VA


HeySpace Placers!

As I am found of saying, "humanity is allowed to exist because of two things - geology and climatology - change either of them and you change the human race.

Here is an excellent story on the supervolcano that exists under Yellowstone National Park. This was a centerpiece of the disaster flick '2012'.

Yellowstone IS going to blow again - in fact it is overdue. WHen it does, humanity and civilization as we know it is going to change as a result.

Reda More ABout It:

Sky Guy in VA

Tomorrow: Blue Moon Friday

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Sharp Mount Sharp

Hey Space Placers!

You GOTTA' see this sharp view of Mount SHarp taken with the 100mm telephoto lens on the MastCam:

It is AMAZING! You can look at the annotated image to see the distances to various landmarks.

Just an AWESOME landscape.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Armstrong 1930-2012

Hey Space Placers!

Neil Alden Armstrong, the 1st person to walk on the Moon died today following complications from heart surgery earlier this month.

Although I never met Neil, I have followed his life for decades. I am old enough to have watched the news when he flew Gemini 8 and calmly prevented a disaster. The Agena rocket that his Gemini spacecraft had docked with - this was the first time in history two spacecraft had done so and was a necessary milestone to get to the Moon - began to gyrate wildly. With the very real possibility of blacking out due to the high g-load caused by the frantic spinning, Neil initiated an emergency landing sequence which saved the day.

He also had a brush with death flying the lunar excursion module trainer - the "Flying Bedstead". The craft went out of control and Neil was seconds from death when he ejected. That kind of calm under pressure gave him a well deserved reputation for being "a cool stick" - a nerves of steel pilot that could handle the hairiest situations cooly and successfully.

Neil flew 78 combat missions in Korea off of aircraft carriers - he was a naval aviator. He joined the predecessor to NASA, the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA) in 1955 as a civilian. He flew over 200 aircraft/spacecraft types and was an accomplished aeronautical/aerospace engineer with an undergrad degree from Purdue and a Master's from University of Southern California.

He transferred as a NASA employee to the astronaut corps in 1962 and flew/commanded Gemini VIII in March 1966. The rest is as they say, history.

The world has lost an icon.

He now belongs to the Cosmos.......

Read and hear more at

Sky Guy in VA

New Milky Way Galaxy Look Alikes Found

Hey Space Placers!

Continuing on our theme from yesterday of looking at the Cosmos, it was announced recently that astronomers had found two Milky Way Look alikes in the seaof galaxies.

Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is a large barred spiral that has two relatively large companion galaxies, the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. This combination really sets us apart from the large majority of galaxies and none had been found that were matches for us - until now.

If we could go deep into space and look back home this indeed may be what it would look like:


This is a pretty cool view and is probably as close as we will ever get to finding a twin or two for the Milky Way Galaxy. Read More ABout It:

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, August 24, 2012

Fly Through the Universe

Hey Space Placers!

A step back from Mars and into the deep cosmos.

Here is a movie that shows the birth of galaxies and their evolution to the present day that was created using new software and modern up to date observations:

Here is the background on the project, including the links to the technical papers:

And finally, here is a WONDERFUL "Fly Through the Universe" video that was created using the very latest observations from the SLoan Deep Sky Survey:

Sit back, relax, turn the lights off and enjoy the view.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Curisoity's First Drive

Hey SPace Placers!

The odometer on Curiosity read only a couple of meters - 6 to be exact -but she went forwrd, backward and made some turns to show that all 6 wheels and associated hardware and software worked!

In the picture below and at the link ypu can see her tread marks and the blast zone caused by the skycrane's rockets.

NASA's Mars Science Laboratory Image

The path is now clear for Curiosity to begin further treks and operate her scientific instruments in the upcoming days and weeks.

I can hardly wait.....

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Curiosity Should Be Driving Very Soon

Hey Space Placers!

Curiosity should have received uploaded commands last night that will prepare her for a drive today (8/22) according to this link:

The link also shows the rear wheel moving and the sundial in the lower corner of the pic. We will be able to get weekly Martian weather reports too.

NASA will have another news conference today so maybe we will learn mnore about "First Drive"

Buckle up!
End of Curiosity's Extended Arm, Full-Resolution

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Meet New Mars Mission - Insight

Hey Space Placers!

Even as Curiosity is stretching her arms and getting ready to move on Mars, NASA has announced the selection of a new Discovery class mission to Mars - Insight.

Read All About It Here:

This mission will drill into the subsurface layers of Mars to learn what lies underneath and learn about the Red Planet's interoir.

Artist's concept of the InSight lander spacecraft

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, August 20, 2012

Curiosity ZAPS First Mars Rock

Hey Space Placers!

Curiosity fired her laser at a nearby rock and everything worked as planned. The laser ablated the surface of the rock so that the science instruments working with the laser could analyze what the rock is made of and the telescope zoomed in to see the results. It will take some time to get the test results and learn the composition of "Corononation" - the nickname for the first zapped rock in Mars' history! That is a result I can hardly wait for as I have 6 meteorites from Mars in my collection and want to see how they stack up against a rock ON Mars.

This composite image, with magnified insets, depicts the first laser test by the Chemistry and Camera, or ChemCam, instrument aboard NASA's Curiosity Mars rover.

Curiosity should be wheels moving very soon - a day or so as she heads for her first science spot.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Hot Summer of 2012

Hey SPace Placers!

I have ben hanging on to this story - I have a backlog of several others - so that I could share it with you. Curiosity has been stealing all of the headlines lately but I have updates on MESSENGER at Mercury, DAWN at Vesta, Voyager 1 at the solar system boundary to pass along in the near future.

With over 60+ wildfires burning in the west, 60% of the U.S. in drought conditions, and summer temps at record highs in many areas, here is a story you will want to read:

Global warming is a fact but is it behind this summer's heat wave? Bottom line is that we do not know and only time and more data will tell.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Where Will Curiosity Go First

Hey Space Placers!

I must admit that this question has been uppermost in my thoughts about Curiosity now that she is down safe and sound and checked out.

NASA gave us the answer yesterday: she will check out an area called Glenelg where water was thought to have flowed and been deposited. After that, it will be on to Mount Sharp.


Check out the details here: and

Wheels should be moving very soon - hopefully next week!

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Curiosity in Color From 120 Miles Up

Hey Space Placers!

Check out Curiosity in color from 120 miles up as obtained by the Mars Reconnaissaance Orbiter (MRO). You can see a lot of detail in the surrounding landing zone when you click on this link:

Curiosity in Exaggerated Color

It is a good possibility that Cuuriosity is days away from turning her wheels proceeding to her first area of exploration.

I can hardly wait.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

President Obama Calls JPL Curiosity Team

Hey Space Placers!

President Obama called the Curiosity team at Jet Propulsion Lab in Pasadena, CA on Moday to offer his congratulations on the landing.

See more details here

President Barack Obama talks on the phone with NASA's Curiosity Mars rover team

The President also commented about "Mohawk Guy" who has essentiallly gone viral on the Internet to include received marriage proposals and thousands of followers.

Curiosity is gearing up to make her first drive in the weeks to come and all systems remain "GO".

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, August 13, 2012

Destination: Mount Sharp

Hey Space Placers!

This photo in "real Mars" color shows the destination of Curiosity - Mount Sharp and its sedimentary layers.

Destination Mount Sharp

This photo shows the same scene but has been "white balanced" to show Earth-like colors which helps to understand the terrain and its composition:

 The layered rock in the distance is where Curiosity will be heading as it will be there that the best digging will be.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Curiosity's First High Resolution Color Photo

Hey Space Placers!

Curiosity has provided a high resolution color image of her surroundings that can be seen here:

Make sure that you click on the "Full Size" and then click again to enlarge the image again.

What strikes me the most if how flat the terrain is and the color. It has been described as appearing like California's Mojave Desert. I have spent lots of time in Mojave and I have to agree with the comparison. The image also shows where the rocket exhaust plume scoured the surface and you can see a closeup of the area where underlying features have been exposed.

There will be much more coming from Curiosity in the Sols (Martian days) to come and I eagerly await each return.

Sky Guy in VA

Was a bit cloudy - OK, a lot of clouds last night in my location here in Central VA, but I did see a half dozen bright and beautiful Perseids.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Weekend Sky Guy Viewing ALERT - Mars and Perseid Meteors

Hey Space Placers!

We get a dual viewing ALERT this weekend as Mars beckons in the southwest after dusk and the Perseid meteor shower peaks.

Look for Mars this weekend as it starts to get dark and say hello to Curiosity. Remember Saturn has Cassini still working her mission too.

Mars is closing in on Saturn and Spica....
Sky & Telescope diagram

The annual Perseid meteor shower peaks Saturday-Sunday night and should be a good shower this year as the Moon is past Last Quarter. Read More About It: and

You actually won't see several at once!

Sky Guy in VA

Curiosity 360 View

Hey Space Placers!

Enjoy the 360 degree view of Curiosity in Gale Crater:

These are the first two full-resolution images of the Martian surface from the Navigation cameras on NASA's Curiosity rover, which are located on the rover's 'head' or mast. The rim of Gale Crater can be seen in the distance beyond the pebbly ground.

Tomorrow I will have a DUAL Sky Guy ALERT so tune in!

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Monday, August 6, 2012

Touchdown Confirmed Revisited

Hey Space Placers!

It has been a long and wonderful day! Curiosity is safely on Mars.

I watched the EDL proceedings by monitoring in real time the "Eye on the Solar System" Curiosity software and the live broadcast from JPL all on the same computer screen. The computer simulation of the landing was running about 30 seconds ahead of real time coming from the radio calls at JPL.

Here is a real video gem from JPL that captures the moments and events that led to "Touchdown Confirmed". Watch it several times as I did to relive the goosebumps and raw emotions I felt when Curiosity was on the surface of Mars.

As of late we have been relentlessly subjected on an almost daily basis as to the horrible things that humans can do....Curiosity shows what wonders humans are capable of  and that wasn't in her mission objectives. This may be her legacy to humanity while her scientific accomplishments that are sure to come will fulfill the science objectives.

Thank you Curiosity for that cherished moment of unbridled raw and pure emotion of joy and relief when you touched down. It will be with me always.

Sky Guy in VA

MRO Sees Curiosity

Hey SPace Placers!

NASA just released the following pic that was captured by Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) that shows the backshell and parachute. MRO got over a 100 pics and there will be more in the coming days.

Read More ABout It:


Sky Guy in VA

hello from Fox 5 Studios

Hey Space Placers!

I am in Fox 5 studios doing live segments on Curiosity. It is Mars Monday here and better resolution
Pics have come in and can be seen at

The pics will get better over the coming days and we may even see pics from Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter that captured Curiosity's descent.

Mission controllers at Jet Propulsion Laboratory and team scientists will check out Curiosity over the coming weeks and prepare her for her first drive to a point to be determined.

The best is yet to come and we will have a ring side seat over the next two years.

Sky Guy in Fox 5 

She's Down Safe and SOUND!!!!!!

Hey Space Placers!

At 1:33am EDT Curiosity was on Mars safe and SOUND with the first pics coming in from the surface of MARS!!!

WoW!!! I have goosebumps and will be pumped for Fox 5 in a few hours.

Sky Guy with Goosebumps in VA

Sunday, August 5, 2012

For Curiosity It is Mars or Bust

Hey SPace Placers!

Curiosity is flying at 8,124 mph and is 105,000 miles from touchdown!

Read all about it here:

Please tune in to Fox 5 WTTG tomorrow morning - Mars Monday -  starting at 6:30 a.m. for the very latest.

Sky Guy with fingers crossed in VA

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Fly With Curiosity

Hey Space Placers!

Less than two days to go until we know if Curiosity made a successful touchdown at Gale Crater. Here is a great computer simulation set up by NASA called "Eyes on the Solar System" that gives us a fly along view of Curiosity while showing her speed and distance to go in real time.

You can also go through EDL - Entry-Descent-Landing - and see what the changes are to the spacecraft as she goes through the "7 Minutes of Terror".

Here is the web link

Enjoy the ride and the view!

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, August 3, 2012

"The Colbert Report" Does Curosity With John Grunsfeld

Hey Space Placers!


Let's enjoy some fun with Stephen Colbert and NASA's John Grunsfeld as Curiosity makes the big time:

Also tune in to Fox 5 WTTG on Monday as I and the Weather Guys - Tony and Tucker talk Curiosity - for better or worse.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Curiosity is Doing RAD

Hey Space Placers!

Curiosity is doing RAD - an instrument called Radiation Assessment Detector - while enroute to Mars. The purpose of RAD is to measure the amount of radiation that Cusiosity encounters in space and on Mars. Curiosity is the first rover to be so equipped and the data returned so far has been very valuable in seeing the radiation threat posed to astronauts in the new Orion crew vehicle.

RAD was originally planned to be turned on when on the surface but the Sun's activity made it worthwhile to gather the data while in interplanetary cruise mode. There have been five solar flare events that Curiosity has recorded data on.

Sky Guy in VA Counting the Days to Mars Monday