Sunday, September 30, 2012

Black Hole Event Horizon Measured For 1st Time

Hey Space Placers!

For the first time ever scientists have been able to measure the the edge of a black hole - an object that allows nothing, not even light to escape, once past a certain boundary called the vent horizon.

Using the Event Horizon Telescope - a continent wide network of combined telescopes - astronomers were able to


They accomplished this feat by observing the six billion solar mass black hole that resides in M-87, a galaxy that is 50 million light years away.

They hope to make the Event Horizon Telescope even larger by adding more telescopes to the network and getting even more refined observations.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Curiosity Video Update and Harvest Moon Tonight

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the latest news on Curiosity's findings on the stream bed by watching this video:

Also be sure to watch the Harvest Full Moon tonight at sunset. You can tune in for a free live broadcast  of the Full Moon and Uranus tonight - check for the details here

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, September 28, 2012

Curiosity Finds Martian Streambed

Hey Space Placers!

Curiosity has found an ancient Martian streambed that indicates a high volume of liquid water once flowed through the now dry channel.

Remnants of Ancient Streambed on Mars

Preliminary findings are that the stream of water would have been ankle to hip deep and flowed at about three feet per second. Study of the gravel bed and the rocks will provide further information.

The biggest point is that this would have been a habitable environment for life as we know it although long ago.

Read More ABout It: and

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, September 27, 2012

New Sungrazer Comet

Hey Space Placers!

A new comet has been discovered way out in the solar system that is due to pass 800,000 miles from the surface of the Sun on or about November 28, 2013.

You may remember the last sungrazer last year that swung around the Sun and survived to the amazement of the whole world.

Comet ISON is already causing a buzz in the astronomical community due to speculation over how bright it will become getting that close to the Sun. It is POSSIBLE that the comet could get as bright or brighter than the Full Moon which menas it would be visible in the daytime.

Comest are notorious for their behavior - they can fizzle as a dud disappointing the world or flare into aw-inspiring brightness with as tail that sweeps across the sky.

Only time will tell but I guarantee you I will be following Comet ISON closely!

You can see a sample of the media hype already starting over Comet ISON here:

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Hubble's DEEPEST EVER View of the Universe

Hey SPace Placers!

Hubble SPace Telescope (HST) has just released a new deepest ever view of the Universe - a non-descript patch of sky that HST has monitored for over a decade. With an exposure time of over two million seconds (!) the combined 2,000+ images reveal a tapestry unlike anything we have ever seen.....everywhere you look there are galaxies - and all kinds of them.

The link allows you to zoom in on the frame and see in detail the incedible sights:

Make sure to turn down the lights and use the best won't be sorry!

Sky Guy in VA

PS Tomorrow the scoop on Comet ISON!!

Monday, September 24, 2012

New Dark Energy Camera

Hey Space Placers!

Read all about the world's most powerful camera dedicated to the hunt for dark energy:

Dark energy is the force believed to be accelerating the expansion of the Universe, causing galaxy clsuters and the very galaxies themselves to move ever faster apart.

We do not know what dark energy is but we DO know that it exists due to the gravitational influence it has on matter.

The Dark Energy Camera will operate in the southern hemisphere on a 13 foot diameter telescope and take sky surveys to map the sky and study it. The 570 megapixel camera will cover a wide area of sky and allow astronomers to do unprecedented analysis due to the wide area covered - to include whole galaxy clusters.

I look forward to reporting the results in the years to come.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT - Spot Uranus

Hey SPace Placers!

Got a pair of binoculars or a small telescope? Or maybe a pair of good eyes? I have a fairly easy way for you to spot the planet Uranus tonight - 9/23/12 - and a few days after.

Find a viewing area that is free of street lights or other glaring lights. Reading the article and use the accompanying chart at this link to spot Uranus:


This is a GREAT opportunity to see Uranus with your own eyes.

If you have a camera that can take time exposures and be mounted on a tripod, try taking a couple of pics. You can use the chart to identify Uranus in your pic. I would try ISO 400 and about 5-10 seconds with at least a 55mm lens.

Good hunting and let me know if you are successful!

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, September 21, 2012

DAWN Finds on Vesta

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the latest findings on Vesta as determined by NASA's DAWN spacecraft:

Pretty amazing pics and discoveries.

It's on to Ceres and I can hardly wait to see the largest asteroid in the solar system up close and personal.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Most Distant Galaxy Yet

Hey Space Placers!

The most distant galaxy yet observed has been found to be 13.7 BILLION light years away - or when the universe was 500 million years old.

A Glimmer From a Dark Cosmic Era

The faint red blob is not much to look at but when you consider how far away it is, it is truly impressive  that we can see it at all.

The small and compact galaxy, only about 1% of the size of our Milky Way Galaxy, is estimated to have been 200 million years old, very young and probably one of the first galaxies to form after the Bg Bang.

NASA's Hubble Space Telescope and Spitzer Telescope found the galaxy and will be studying it further as it is visible in 5 visible wavelength bands.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Moon and Mars Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 9-19-12

Hey Space Placers!

Use the crescent Moon in the west tonight after sunset to find Mars. While looking at the Red Planet say hello to Curiosity and Opportunity.

Wink at the Moon and remember Neil, too.

Scene in bright twilight

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Curiosity Photographs Partial Solar Eclipse

Hey Space Placers!

Last Thursday Curiosity took photographs of one of its two moons, Phobos  partially eclipsing the Sun. The photos have not been completely sent back or processed yet but the ones that have been released are pretty cool.

The mast camera had to take precautions to make sure that a neutral density filter cut down the glare from the Sun.

Thsi was a planned event by mission controllers and better photos will be forthcoming......but still an amazing feat.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Planets Everywhere

Hey Space Placers!

With hundreds of known exoplanets it is pretty obvious that planets are a natural byproduct of star formation. Researchers are finding out that planets can form in very extreme environments.

Weird Planets (splash)

Astronomers have discovered planets orbiting a double star system as depicted above -

What's more, planets have been discovered for the first time in a star cluster

I have no doubt that there are BILLIONS if not TRILLIONS of planets in our Milky Way Galaxy. Every star could have multiple planets....look at our own Sun and the solar system it spawned.

The follow on to this plethora of planets is that life has plenty of places to start and evolve. This too I believe - life, including intelligent life, abounds in the Milky Way and Universe. 

Remember, there are BILLIONS of galaxies out there and they all are teeming with planets and life as well.

I think that Einstein is right about the speed of light and if so, it will be very, very difficult to soar amongst the stars and visit these planets as we see in Star Trek.

Perhaps we will one day intercept the radio calling card of an alien civilization and know conclusively that we are not alone.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Opportunity Finds A Mystery

Hey Space Placers!

With all of the deserved attention on Curiosity, our other operating Martian Rover, Opportunity, is preparing for another round of science due to the ever increasing levels of solar power available.

Opportunity has been in Endeavour Crater in the southern hemisphere of Mars for an incredible 8 1/2 years! Solar powered she depends on sunlight levels to be high enough to charge her batteries via solar panels. The Sun is getting higher each day so her power levels are increasing accordingly.

While venturing about Opportunity has discovered a mysterious outcropping that contain a high number of spherules. First thought to be like the famous "blueberries" discovered years ago, scientists are pretty sure this is something entirely different and therefore a new discovery.

Mystery Spheres on Mars (splash)

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, September 14, 2012

Latest on Curiosity

Hey SPace Placers!

Curiosity is alive and well on Mars and is preparing for science.

Check out the latest and greatest on Curiosity here:

Portrait of APXS on Mars

I ccan hardly wait for the sampling science to begin.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Neil's National Memorial and JFK's Moon Speech

Hey Space Placers!

Yesterday, September 12, 2012, marked the 50th anniversary of President Kennedy's "We choose to go the Moon" speech at Rice University -

It seems appropriate that the very next day the Nation pays tribute to the 1st man who set foot on the Moon, Neil Armstrong - coverage begins at 10 a.m. EDT

Neil will be buried at sea on Friday which is fitting for a naval avaiator who roamed the ocean of space.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Tune In For Curiosity Update 9-12-12

Hey Space Placers!

Tune in today at 11 a.m. (PDT) to hear NASA JPL's latest update on Curiosity.

As provided by NASA:

Audio and visuals from the telecon will be streamed live to one of JPL’s channels, at

Visuals only will be available at the start of the telecon:

Also this week, Mars Science Laboratory Project Manager Richard Cook will speak Thursday, Sept. 13 in JPL’s von Karman Auditorium. The lecture, which begins at 7 p.m. PDT (10 p.m. EDT), is open to the public and will be broadcast live with moderated chat, on JPL’s Ustream channel.

Additional options to view live streaming video of Thursday’s talk:

More information about NASA’s Curiosity mission:


Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!!! Venus and Moon Before Dawn 9-12-12

Hey Space Placers!

Don't miss the waning crescent Moon complete with Earthshine and brilliant Venus aligning in the eastern sky an hour before dawn tomorrow.

This will be very pretty and the highlight of the week. Try your hand at taking a pic with your digital camera. It would be best mounted on a tripod and a time exposure of 1-2 seconds at ISO 200 should get you in the ball park. I hope to have one myself to share.

Dawn view

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!!!!!! 9-10 to 9-14

Hey Space Placers!

I got up early this morning - around 5 a.m. and looked at a finally clear sky (it has been cloudy for about a week or more) and it was breathtaking. The coming week will be worth getting up before sunrise to glance in the east to see a beautiful tapestry of Moon, planets and bright stars.

The constellations of winter - Taurus the Bull with the Pleiades Star Cluster, Orion the Hunter, Canis Major and Canis Minor - with the brilliant and beautiful stars Sirius and Procyon - were all up.

And the waning crescent Moon was near Jupiter with Venus ablaze to the lower left towards the horizon.

Dawn view; the Moon is waning

Dawn view
Watch the waning crescent Moon descend past Venus from morning to morning. The blue 10° scale is about the apparent width of your fist held at arm's length.
Sky & Telescope diagram

Don't miss out on this wonderful way to start your day.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Latest HST Gem

Hey Space Placers!

Here is the most recent Hubble Space Telescope (HST) release and it is a gem. It shows a huge trillion solar mass elliptical galaxy with a Milky Way size spiral galaxy. The two may be starting to gravitationally interact. By the way, the huge elliptical is home to a 4.5 BILLION solar mass black hole - one of the largest known!

Make sure you click on the full image to view the myriad of galaxies that can be seen in the image - this is what caught my attention after studying the two galaxies in the image. You see all sorts of interesting galaxies - spiral, elliptical, irregular. It shows us how large the Universe is and how it is teeming with billions of galaxies.

These two galaxies are visible in amateur telescopes and are located in the constellation of Virgo, which is swarming with galaxies.


Here is the link:

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, September 7, 2012

NASA Crawler Update

Hey Space Placers!

The huge crawlers that have transported every Apollo rocket and Space Shuttle stack are getting an impressive upgrade so that they can handle NASA next generation of rockets - the Space Launch System (SLS).

The two crawlers that have a top speed of 2 mph have traveled an equivalent distance from the US east coast to the west coast. They will be able to handle an 18 million pound load - that is impresssive.

I have seen these beasts up close and they are something to behold.

Read more about the upgrade to these giants:

And NASA's SLS program:

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Curiosity Teleconference Update 9/6/12

Hey Space Placers!

 NASA will host a media teleconference at 10 a.m. PDT (1 p.m. EDT) today, Sept. 6, to provide a status update on the Curiosity rover's mission to Mars' Gale Crater.

Go to this link for details on how to tune in:
Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Voyager 1 35 Years Old Today

Hey Space Placers!

Some people think they are "over the hill" when they turn 30.

How about a spacecraft that is 35 today and 11 BILLION miles distant with their identical twin already past 35 by a couple of weeks and "only" 9 BILLION miles distant?

Voyager 1 is the former and Voyager 2 is the latter of which I write.

What they have acomplished, and are still accomplishing, is simply incredible when you consider thier age and onboard 1970's technology.

Both spacecraft are preparing to enter true interstellar space at some point and will roam the Milky Way Galaxy essentially forever.

Read More About these space twins and see a cool video:

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Tune in on Voyager

Hey Space Placers!

From NASA and  JPL:

The twin Voyager spacecraft were launched 35 years ago this fall.  After their historic Grand Tour of the giant planets of our solar system, they are now about to enter interstellar space.

Two events at JPL will be streamed on the internet at

Tuesday, September 4        7 p.m. PDT
Voyager project scientist and former JPL director Dr. Ed Stone will lead a panel discussion with four of the mission’s principal investigators.

Wednesday, September 5,   11 a.m. PDT
“35 Years in Space: What Hasn’t Been Told Before About the Voyager Mission By Those Who Made it Possible”

Panelists include:

• Charley Kohlhase: 10,000 Ways to Visit the Gas Giants
• Chris Jones: Fault protection design and Voyager's post-launch anxiety attack
• Bob Cesarone: Navigating Uncharted Space: Voyager 2 at Neptune
• Ann Druyan: The Terrestrial Impact of the Voyager Interstellar Record 


Sky Guy in VA

Monday, September 3, 2012

On To Ceres

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's DAWN spacecraft is preparing to leave orbit around Vesta and head towards its' next world, Ceres, the largest asteroid in the solar system. The spacecraft will start spiraling away from Vesta on September 4th and get on course for Ceres.

The ion engine will allow DAWN to gain speed but it will still take years to get to Ceres. If all goes well we will see another world up close and personal in early 2015. That is the same year New Horizons gets to Pluto so we have a bonanza of solar system exploration ahead of us.

Read More ABout It:

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Stunning Saturn

Hey SPace Placers!

Look at the latest image from NASA's Cassini spacecraft at Saturn:

A giant of a moon appears before a giant of a planet undergoing seasonal changes in this natural color view of Titan and Saturn from NASA's Cassini spacecraft.

See the full image and details at

Just stunning!

Sky  Guy in VA

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Moon Lovers You HAVE TO SEE THIS

Hey Space Placers,

Neil Armstrong was given a private service yesterday with a public one to follow in Washington D.C. later this month.

With last night's gorgeous Blue Full Moon and this new video made from images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) our Moon has had the spotlight. I have no doubt that Neil would have enjoyed seeing this video as it gets right down to an up close and personal view of Aristarchus and Tycho craters as well as others.

If you are a lunatic - a devout lover, student and observer of our Moon - this video will take your breath away as it did mine.

Even if you like all things You Tube - a good video with wonderful music - this is for you as well.

Excellent job done by David Kring of the  Center for Lunar Science and Exploration, NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center and of course LRO herself.

See it here in a darkened room with the largest screen and resolution you have and enjoy:

Sky Guy Loving the Moon