Monday, December 31, 2012

Last Day of 2012

Hey Space Placers!

Thank you for being with me during 2012 and I look forward to what the Universe has to offer us in 2013.

I will be on top of what happens here on Earth and out there in space for you.

Let me know if you have any special topics or interests that you would like me to cover for you.

For you and yours, have a safe last day in 2012 - the calendar will start anew on1/1/13!

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, December 30, 2012

NASA Year in Review

Hey Space Placers!

It has been a great year for NASA and they have a compilation of 2012 stories here:

And what about NASA in 2013??? Check it out here:

For the $18 billion NASA spent in 2012, the WORLD got a good deal.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Santa Give You A New Telescope?

Hey Space Placers!

Did Santa give you a new telescope for Christmas? Are you wondering what to do with it? Or maybe you are considering buying a telescope in the near future?

Check out this great article from Sky and Telescope on what to see with your new window on the Universe:

Sky Guy in Snowy VA

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 12-28-12 - Last Full Moon of 2012

Hey Space Placers!!!

The last Full Moon of 2012 takes place at 5:21 a.m. on Friday, 12-281-12. The Moon will be very bright Friday night so hey, take a look in the morning and evening!

It is hard to believe that 2013 is right around the corner so be sure to see this last lunar milestone of 2012!

The stars near the Moon are Castor and Pollux with Orion further to the right.

Love the Moon....

Sky Guy in VA

New Horizons Update

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's mission to Pluto, New Horizons, is alive and well. In January 2015 the hardy spacecraft will start encounter operations with a July 14, 2015 flyby of Pluto that will provide a relatively close up look of the distant world and its moons. New Horizons will do a flyby as it cannot slow down and enter orbit since it does not have the fuel to do so and traveling at 30,000 mph would take a lot of fuel and a big engine to accomplish. The spacecraft will take on new targets once its primary mission at Pluto is over.

Image: Image: An artist's concept shows NASA's New Horizons spacecraft during its 2015 encounter with Pluto and its moon, Charon.

There are some possible hazards in the vicinity of Pluto that has mission managers worried - Read More About It and the mission here:

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Winter Wonderland

Hey SPace Placers!

You have to see this magical pic of winter in one of the most beautiful geological formations on Earth:

It features the stars of which I spoke of in my blog on "stars of winter" and captures the essence of winter - less a Moon filled sky-landscape.

I know Wally and he is one of the best in the business as we met on an astronomical cruise in Dec. 2010. His star/landscape pics are without compare.

I hope to do the same someday.

Skyguy in Bad WEAX Today VA

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 12-25-12 Moon and Jupiter

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays Space Placers!

Tonight at sunset look at the Moon and Jupiter in the East, they are very close together for a gorgeous sight.

The two will keep each other company but will slowly separate as the night wears on due to the motion of the Moon towards the East.

Enjoy the view and if you have a new telescope from Santa be sure to take a peek at Jupiter to see the Great Red Spot and craters on the Moon

If Santa bought you a new camera, try taking your first sky shot using a tripod and a time exposure.

Read More About It:

On Christmas I always pause and reflect on how the sky was the same for Jesus in His time as it is for us today. It is a connection through the ages that we all can enjoy.

Peace and joy to you and yours.......

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, December 24, 2012

The Stars of Winter

Hey Space Placers!

As I am watching "spittin' snow" come down here in Central VA, I extend Christmas and Holiday Season good wishes to you all. My blog has reached many countries and thousands of people worldwide. Let us be united in our connection to the sky and the wonders it contains.

If your skies are clear tonight and/or tomorrow night - enjoy the stars of winter this special time of year. Jupiter is the brightest object in the sky after the glorious Moon. If you have snow on the ground the Moon will provide a special view of the world at night.

Orion the Hunter rises an hour after sunset and the brightest star in the night sky, Sirius, joins Orion in the southeast between 7 and 8 p.m. Sirius is a treat to watch as it blazes away in all its glory. When low in the sky Sirius becomes a celestial diamond sparkling with fiery colors and the view in binoculars or a telescope is mesmerizing.

Take time to ponder the sky and its singular beauty this holiday season. The unique quiet and solitude, enjoyed with family and friends is beyond compare.

Christmas Night will have a special treat for all of us to see - more on that tomorrow. Until then, enjoy this spectacular Hubble Space Telescope picture of a dying star that is reseeding the Universe with its created elements that will go on to seed new stars and planets.

Hubble picture of nebula NGC 5189

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Real World Asteroid Worry Eliminated

Hey Space Placers!


With all of the non-sensical hoopla over yesterday's end of the world, our planet has dodged a real space bullet in the form of a 140-meter wide asteroid named 2011 AG5. This asteroid was of significant concern to astronomers as when discovered in 2011 there was a real chance of it impacting our planet in 2040. Such an impact would have released 100 megatons of energy - a large city killer.

Gemini Multi-Object Spectrograph image of 2011 AG5. The asteroid is the point at the center of the image (circled) with background stars trailing because the telescope tracked on 2011 AG5. This single 300 second exposure is oriented with north up and east left - each background star streak is about 15 arcseconds in length. 2011 AG5 is highly variable in brightness and other Gemini observations on October 27th required longer exposures than the one shown here.

Follow up observations with the 8-meter Gemini Telescope in Hawaii has allowed astronomers to conclusively state that this space rock has zero chance of impacting our planet. Statistically, our planet suffers such an impact once every 10,000 years, so such an impact, and others like the one that killed the dinosaurs, WILL happen again in Earth's lifetime.

We have to prepare to defend ourselves from such events and the only way to do that is with a space program. We cannot allow our pressing problems here on Earth to cause the withering away of a robust and capable space program. To do so is to seal our REAL doom someday from an inbound space rock or comet.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, December 21, 2012

The World Did Not End - Happy Winter Solstice

Hey Space Placers!

The world did not and will not end today. NASA has a video prepared for tomorrow, Dec. 22 and all of our bills and calories will still be due and count.

I have blooged about this in the past and it is just another instance of people falling prey to hogwash.

The Sun will start to climb higher in the sky as we head towards spring and humanity will continue its path.

I'll have more later.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, December 20, 2012


Hey Space Placers!

Read all about NASA's newest mission to the Moon, LADEE:

The launch will be on 1/15/13 and the mission length is about 160 days.

Why another mission to the Moon? I'll discuss that tomorrow

Sky Guy in VA

Image of the Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) spacecraft

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Saturn Pic - WOW

Hey Space Placers!

I'll get to the Moon story tomorrow but I HAD to share this incredible and beautiful pic of Saturn with you:
A Splendor Seldom Seen

Go to these links for more info AND pics:
Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

GRAIL Impact Follow Up

Hey Space Placers!

GRAIL A & B impacted a lunar mountain just around 5:28 p.m. EDT yesterday. I watched the stream from NASA live and the predicted flight path and impact were confirmed by Doppler readings.

The impact site has been given a name and you can read about it here:

Thanks Ebb and Flow for all of the lunar data you returned to us.

NASA's new Moon mission and returning to the Moon tomorrow.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, December 17, 2012

Ebb and Flow To Impact the Moon Today

Hey Space Placers!

The twin spacecraft of NASA's GRAIL mission are orbiting lower and lower around the Moon as I write this. Ebb and Flow will impact an unnamed lunar mountain at 2:28p.m. PST today. Read More About It here:

Lunar Impact (grid, 2000px)

You can tune in to NASA for a briefing today starting at 2 p.m. PST to follow events

Apollo 17 left the Moon 40 years ago - it is time to go back to the Moon. More on that tomorrow.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Latest Moon News

Hey Space Placers!

 There have been some new findings about our Moon released recently.

The results have come from NASA's GRAIL mission that flew two identical spacecraft, named Ebb and Flow, in perfect tandem for the past year to study the interior composition of the Moon.

GRAIL has gathered data that has been used to make the most detailed gravity maps of the Moon which in turn allow scientists to discern what the interior of the Moon is like. See more at

GRAIL's Ebb and Flow are set to fly into a lunar mountain on December 17. I'll have more on that tomorrow. 

Sky Guy in VA

GRAIL's Gravity Tour of the Moon

Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Week From Today......We'll All Be Here

Hey Space Placers!

A week from today is December 22 - the day after what some segments of people say will be the end of the world.

Rest assured, the planet and humanity will be around on the 22nd, and NASA says so in the following video:

So do your shopping and make your plans for 2013 - we'll all be here.

Tomorrow, Moon stuff.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, December 14, 2012

Try The Geminids Friday Night

Hey Space Placers!

It was a COLD and CLEAR night last night and the Geminids were WONDERFUL!!!!

I observed them from a suburban location that has light pollution but still saw dozens per hour including a brilliant meteor that had a luminous train and was almost as bright as Jupiter! It covered about 40-50 degrees of the of the best meteors I have ever seen in my life.

I so enjoy the Geminids as you can feel and see winter due to the cold and the leafless trees. I was on my back deck looking up at the sky through my 100 foot tall oak tree with its branches sprawled across part of the sky. Jupiter, the Seven Sisters and Orion with is hunting dogs were on grand display.

The quiet and cold air calms one's soul and the stars beckon you to think of their realm and all it contains. Nights like this are rare and I cherish them so.

Reports indicate that this was a splendid and active peak for the Geminids.

I am going to go outside again tonight and see if there are a few more that I can see.

I also saw some sporadic (non-Geminid) meteors and I think I saw one that could have been a Piscid from the new possible meteor shower.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 12-13-12 Here Come the Geminids

Hey Space Placers

UPDATE: Tune in live to NASA to watch the shower live

Tonight (12-13-12), starting at 9 pm, from a dark sky site out in the countryside, you should be able to see 100-120 “shooting stars” or meteors, per hour. Even from the ‘burbs, skywatchers should see a few dozen meteors per hour, the key being finding an area free of bright lights to watch this annual sky show.

The Geminid Meteor Shower is a reliable performer that comes along at this time each year and with the Moon out of the night sky tonight, promises to be quite a sight to see from a dark sky location. The peak of the shower is tonight and tomorrow morning with a lesser number of meteors visible over the next few nights.

The Geminids are caused by dust that comes from what astronomers think may be an extinct comet, or maybe even a new category of solar system object - a “rock comet” 09dec_rockcomet/ . All other meteor showers are caused by comets and each year our planet in its orbit around the Sun encounters about a dozen of the these debris streams to create the meteor showers we see.

3200 Phaethon is the actual name of this meteor shower maker and it has perplexed astronomers since it was discovered in 1983. The Geminid Meteor Shower was first observed during the Civil War but it took the space age to solve the mystery of where the shower originated.

You do not need any equipment or training to watch the shower. Just find a good spot free of lights and trees and lie down or sit in a reclining chair so you can look up. The key is to stay warm and comfortable as the night goes on. 182385861.html

The point in the sky where the shower seems to radiate from is the constellation of Gemini the Twins and is visible in the East at 9 pm and will rise higher in the sky and migrate towards the West as the shower progresses. The greatest number of meteors per hour is expected after midnight into Friday morning just before dawn.

An unexpected bonus for this year’s Geminids is the possibility of a totally new meteor shower occurring at the same time. Astronomers think that a new cometary debris stream may have formed from a relatively new comet called Comet Wirtanen. Attempts will be made to confirm if there really is a new meteor shower but it is possible that there will be even more meteors in the sky
during the Geminids.

Enjoy this sky show with friends and family. Just make sure you stay warm and comfortable during the shower.
Geminid Meteor Shower 2012
The Geminids will radiate from the constellation Gemini, shown here at its highest point above the southwestern sky around 2am on December 14th. (The top of the diagram is zenith, the point of the sky directly overhead.) Click the image for a larger version.
Sky & Telescope

Sky Guy in VA

More on Toutatis

Hey Space Placers!

Here is more info on asteroid Toutatis which flies by today.

Toutatis (splash)

Tomorrow: The Geminids and perhaps a new meteor shower.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Two Asteroids Whizzing By Today

Hey SPace Placers!

"Duck and cover" drills will not be necessary BUT there are two asteroids who are whizzing by the home world today.

One was just discovered this past weekend and highlights how these space rocks can pop up very quickly on our detection methods and pass very close by. Named 2012 XE54 it is 28 meters wide and already passed within 141,000 miles of Earth earlier today - that is well within the orbit of the Moon. There is NO danger of impact but the orbit of this asteroid will be calculated and monitored to make sure it poses no threat.

The other asteroid, Toutatis, is well known and closely monitored as it comes close to Earth about every four years and is about 3 miles across. This space rock will pass 18 lunar distances away. A live view of the close approach will be visible for free to the public starting at 12:00 p.m. PST/3:00 p.m. EST. Details on how to tune in are here:

Astronomers keep watching the skies for these space rocks and comets so we can spot them, track them, and earn about them.

As a reminder the Geminid Meteor Shower is on the night of the 13th-14th. I'll have more into on that later this week.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, December 10, 2012

Light Pollution Info

Hey Space Placers!

As a follow up to yesterday's blog (12/9/12), please read in greater depth about the problem of light pollution -

It may not seem like a big deal but it really is.

Also, don't forget that this week is the Geminid Meteor Shower. I will have lots more on that later this week - the peak is the night of 12 13-14, but they can be seen a day or two before and after the peak date.

Have a good week.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Our Planet At Night

Hey Space Placers!

Check out Earth at night as seen from a new NASA-NOAA satellite:

Earth at Night (splash)

The manmade light that we see means that it is wasted energy as light should illuminate the surrounding  area, not be directed into the night sky.

Perhaps there will come a day (or night!!!) when we see far less light directed into the sky as a result of better illuminating technology and design.

We can ill afford wasted energy and light pollution.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, December 8, 2012


Hey Space Placers!

Sorry I missed you the last two days as I was out and about without full 'net access.

NASA has announced that it wants to send another Curiosity class rover/lab to Mars in 2020. This will be a continuation of the Mars exploration missions already in place with a goal of human mission in the 2030's.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Want to Do Astronomical Research?

Hey Space Placers!

Want to do astronomical research that will help astronomers with their study of the Andromeda Galaxy?

No previous experience required, apply herein

This is a wonderful trend in astronomy - combining the 'net and astronomical images available to the public in order to participate in real research and scientific contributions.

I hope you give it a try.

Tomorrow - MSL 2.0

Sky Guy

PS here is the link to the segment on Fox 5

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Links to Today's Stories on Fox 5

Hey Space Placers and Fox 5'ers!

Another GREAT segment with Sarah, Wisdom and Tucker at Fox 5. When the link to the sgement is up I will share it with you.

For those who could not tune in, our live segment today covered NASA's Curiosity News Conference of 12/3/12; The Geminid Meteor Shower on 12/13-14/12 and the Mayan Calendar "End of the World" nonesense that is slated for 12/21/12 - the world is NOT ending that day, so as Curiosity says, "Chill Everyone".

Here are the links:

I'll have more on the Geminids and the Mayan Calendar as the dates get nearer as well as continued updates on Curiosity.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, December 3, 2012

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT -- Fox 5 12-4-12 6:30 am

Hey Space Placers!

Tune in tomorrow on WTTG Fox 5 at 6:30 a.m. or thereabouts as I join Tony Perkins and Tucker Barnes live in studio.

We will be talking about Curiosity, the Gemindi Meteor Shower and the Mayan Calendar end of the world nonsense - THE WORLD WILL NOT END ON 12-21-12!!!!!!

For those of you in the Washington D.C. area check your local listings for WTTG - probably channel 5. For those on the 'Net check out

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 12-2-12 Jupiter at Opposition

Hey Space Placers!

Make sure you vote for Curiosity - see my blog

Now that you have voted ;-), check out a live broadcast of Jupiter reaching opposition tonight at 8:15 EST When a planet is at opposition it is directly opposite the Sun and at its closest point to Earth.

Be sure to look for yourself in the east after sunset. But don't worry, Jupiter will be bright and in our night sky for months to come. But it won't be this close to Earth again until summer 2021.

Sky Guy in VA

Vote For Curiosity

Hey Space Placers!

Place a vote for Curiosity to be TIME Magazine's Person of the Year. She is currently 5th (!!!!!) out of 40 nominees.

Place your vote here -,28804,2128881_2128882_2129215,00.html

Curiosity Rover on Mars

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, December 1, 2012

NO Earth Shaking News on 12-3 From Curiosity

Hey Space Placers!

In my blog on 11-23-12 I told you about one of the Curiosity scientists had told NPR that there was some "earth shaking" and "one for the history books" announcement that would be forthcoming from NASA about a find by Curiosity.

Well, the hub-bub has been officially squashed by none other than Curiosity herself in a tweet on Friday:

Everybody, chill. After careful analysis, there are no Martian organics in recent samples. Update Dec 3 

And from JPL, here is part of their news release:

Rumors and speculation that there are major new findings from the mission at this early stage are incorrect. The news conference will be an update about first use of the rover's full array of analytical instruments to investigate a drift of sandy soil. One class of substances Curiosity is checking for is organic compounds -- carbon-containing chemicals that can be ingredients for life. At this point in the mission, the instruments on the rover have not detected any definitive evidence of Martian organics.

The full release is here:

There will still be an update on December 3, but I am sure it will be a "routine" update on Curiosity's ongoing mission of discovery.

We may someday know what REALLY happened in this episode. But it does highlight the perils that face scientists in dealing with the 24/7/365 news cycle - especially with social media outlets like Twitter where the word goes out almost instantaneously to possible the whole connected world.

We may still have an earth shaking, one for the history books announcement from Curiosity someday, but I am quite happy with all of the "routine" (NOT) findings being made by Curiosity, Opportunity and Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Sky Guy in VA