Thursday, October 31, 2013

Milky Way Galaxy Pic Taken In Middle of the Atlantic

Hey Space Placers!

This is a picture of the center of the Milky Way Galaxy (MWG) in Sagittarius taken in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean from the Liberty of the Seas steaming at 18 knots. 

You can see the stars in the Sagittarius Arm of the MWG and dust clouds. You can also see on the right the MWG Arm that comes down from Cygnus the Swan.

If we get a REALLY clear night I will take some more pics of the MWG to share.
Sky Guy In The Atlantic 

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

NASA's Orion Spacecraft Powers Up For The First Time

Hey SPace Placers!

NASA's new manned spacecraft, Orion powered up for the 1st time. Read the story from the NASA press release and check the link for pics.

NASA Press Release:

NASA's first-ever deep space craft, Orion, has been powered on for the first
time, marking a major milestone in the final year of preparations for flight.

Orion's avionics system was installed on the crew module and powered up for a
series of systems tests at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida last week.
Preliminary data indicate Orion's vehicle management computer, as well as its
innovative power and data distribution system -- which use state-of-the-art
networking capabilities -- performed as expected.

All of Orion's avionics systems will be put to the test during its first
mission, Exploration Flight Test-1(EFT-1), targeted to launch in the fall of

"Orion will take humans farther than we've ever been before, and in just
about a year we're going to send the Orion test vehicle into space," said Dan
Dumbacher, NASA's deputy associate administrator for exploration systems
development in Washington. "The work we're doing now, the momentum we're
building, is going to carry us on our first trip to an asteroid and
eventually to Mars. No other vehicle currently being built can do that, but
Orion will, and EFT-1 is the first step."

Orion provides the United States an entirely new human space exploration
capability -- a flexible system that can to launch crew and cargo missions,
extend human presence beyond low-Earth orbit, and enable new missions of
exploration throughout our solar system.

EFT-1 is a two-orbit, four-hour mission that will send Orion, uncrewed, more
than 3,600 miles above the Earth's surface --15 times farther than the
International Space Station. During the test, Orion will return to Earth,
enduring temperatures of 4,000 degrees Fahrenheit while traveling 20,000
miles per hour, faster than any current spacecraft capable of carrying
humans. The data gathered during the flight will inform design decisions,
validate existing computer models and guide new approaches to space systems
development. The information gathered from this test also will aid in
reducing the risks and costs of subsequent Orion flights.

"It's been an exciting ride so far, but we're really getting to the good
part now," said Mark Geyer, Orion program manager. "This is where we start to
see the finish line. Our team across the country has been working hard to
build the hardware that goes into Orion, and now the vehicle and all our
plans are coming to life."

Throughout the past year, custom-designed components have been arriving at
Kennedy for installation on the spacecraft -- more than 66,000 parts so far.
The crew module portion already has undergone testing to ensure it will
withstand the extremes of the space environment. Preparation also continues
on the service module and launch abort system that will be integrated next
year with the Orion crew module for the flight test.

The completed Orion spacecraft will be installed on a Delta IV heavy rocket
for EFT-1. NASA is also developing a new rocket, the Space Launch System,
which will power subsequent missions into deep space, beginning with
Exploration Mission-1 in 2017.

For information about Orion and EFT-1, visit:

Sky Guy In The Atlantic Ocean

Monday, October 28, 2013

Mediterranean Sunset

Hey Space Placers!

Been a bit rough on Internet connections - Enjoy this sunset pic of the Mediterranean Sea on 10/28/13:


Will be in the Atlantic tonight with a little weather expected.

Sky Guy in the Med

Sunday, October 27, 2013


Hey SPace Placers!

Catch NASA's teleconference 10/28/13 at 2 p.m. EDT on the upcoming MAVEN mission to Mars.

Details on MAVEN here:

Teleconference here:

Sky Guy in the Mediterranean Sea

Friday, October 25, 2013

Getting Underway for 26 Days

Hey Space Placers!

I am leaving today for two transatlantic cruises from Spain to Fl. I will be giving astronomy and space exploration presentations to passengers while at sea.


Liberty of the Seas

Azamara Quest

I will try to keep up my blog daily and in contact with all of you. Hopefully some good pics will be taken to share with you also.

Try to look at the Last Quarter Moon and Jupiter tomorrow morning before dawn, they were quite a sight this cold am in VA.

Sky Guy in VA Not For Long

Thursday, October 24, 2013

See ISS in Greater Washington DC Area

Hey Space Placers!

For those in the greater Washington D.C. area there are some sighting opportunities for the International Space Station (ISS) tonight and the next few days - the 25th and 28th are the best as ISS will be at its brightest:

DateBrightnessStartHighest pointEndPass type
24 Oct-1.419:01:5010°NNW19:04:1218°NNE19:05:5413°ENEvisible
24 Oct-0.420:37:5710°NW20:38:4917°NW20:38:4917°NWvisible
25 Oct-3.019:49:3710°NW19:52:3954°NNE19:52:3954°NNEvisible
26 Oct-2.419:01:1810°NW19:04:2334°NNE19:06:3316°Evisible
26 Oct-0.420:38:1310°WNW20:39:2918°W20:39:2918°Wvisible
27 Oct-2.419:49:2410°WNW19:52:3746°SW19:53:3035°Svisible
28 Oct-3.319:00:4410°NW19:04:0487°SW19:07:2410°SEvisible
29 Oct-0.319:49:4510°W19:51:4916°SW19:53:5210°SSWvisible
30 Oct-1.119:00:2110°WNW19:03:1528°SW19:06:0810°SSEvisible

You can photograph ISS by putting your camera on a tripod, focusing it on a distant object and taking a time exposure of several seconds. Try not to have any bright lights in the field of view. You will get a nice bright arc, especially on October 25th and 28th when ISS will be nearly as bright as Venus!

Binoculars will enhance your view as the ISS flies over, especially when it starts to enter the Earth's shadow and begins to fade - very cool. It can be seen in telescopes as well but moves pretty fast and usually requires special programming of the telescope's mount. ISS has been photographed through telescopes to reveal great detail.

Here is the website to customize your view at your own location for not only the ISS but astronomical objects and other satellites, including Hubble Space Telescope (HST) as well:

Here's to clear skies and good viewing!

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

LADEE Spaceflight First - Laser Comms

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer made spaceflight history on October 22, 2013 by sending laser based communications from the Moon.

At a distance of 239,000 miles the laser pulses achieved an amazing 622 megabits per second (ups) download rate. That is about 5x times as fast as can be done with radio frequency based comms. An error free upload rate of 20 mps was achieved also.

Read MoreAbout the future of space communications:

Way to go LADEE!!!!

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, October 21, 2013

India In Final Preps For 1st Mars Mission

Hey Space Placers!

India is doing final preps for launching a mission to Mars. The spacecraft has been mated to its rocket and is being checked out. The launch date is expected to be late October into November. This is India's first mission to Mars and is called Malgalyaan.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, October 19, 2013

A Doomsday Space Rock-Really?

Hey Space Placers!

One week ago astronomers Gennady Borisov and Timur Kryachko discovered an asteroid (a space rock) using an 8-inch astrograph (a sophisticated telescope camera) at the Crimean Astrophysical Observatory. Named 2013 TV135, it turned out to be a near-Earth asteroid that had swung by Earth on September 16th at a distance of 4.2 million miles. Many asteroids come closer than that to our planet including some that come closer to us than the Moon.

However, when the preliminary orbit was calculated for 2013 TV135, it was noticed that it was going to swing by Earth again in August 2032, and on the 26th it was going to be very, very close to us. So close in fact that there would be a 1-in-63,000 chance that it could impact Earth.  

Media outlets around the world latched on to the announcement and some headlines were “doomsday - end of the world” in nature. At an estimated size of 1,300 feet 2013 TV135 is not capable of the global wide destruction that scientists believe caused the demise of the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The estimated size of that asteroid or comet was 6 MILES across. 

An asteroid the size of 2013 TV 135 would cause destruction on the scale of a large metropolitan area and according to one unofficial estimate - -may make a crater 6-miles across and release 10,000 megatons of energy, very powerful indeed but not a global size event. 

The impactor that created Chesapeake Bay Crater, centered on Cape Charles, Virginia, and estimated to be 50-plus miles across, was about 2 miles in size and hit 35 million years ago. Its damage was wide spread affecting most if not all of the east coast

NASA responded immediately -  - now that its employees and websites are back after the government shutdown, that there was a less than 1% chance of impact - 99.998% to be exact. This percentage of impact probability is based on only a few observations of the asteroid.

Further observations over the coming months are almost certainly going to increase the odds against an impact if not altogether eliminate the possibility. 2013 TV135 swings by Earth about every four years and the more observations we obtain the better the upcoming orbital passes can be determined, including 2032. Astronomers are gathering these observations now and will be doing so for the next several months while 2013 TV135 is visible.

To me the most important part of this story, besides some of the sensational media hype, is that this space rock was discovered AFTER it had passed by us. Earthlings are finally getting it that space rocks (and comets) do matter to us and are not just figments of science fiction and Hollywood. Remember Armageddon and Deep Impact? 

Just ask the residents of Chelyabinsk, Russia, if space rocks are real and I am sure they would respond with a resounding “YES!” as the events of February 15th are still very fresh in their minds - Chelyabinsk’s impactor was estimated to be about 50-feet across and was not known before it entered our atmosphere.

Astronomers have discovered as of October 17, 2013, 10,037 Near Earth Objects (NEO’s) That’s the good news as many of these are large in size and could cause significant damage if they impacted our planet. The bad news is that NASA says there are at least ten times more NEO’s “out there”

Simply put, we have a lot more looking to do to find more NEO’s. And what if one is found that truly has our planet’s name on it? What then? That would depend on its size, how far away the NEO is and what the predicted impact area would be President Obama has made it a priority for NASA to send astronauts to the asteroids and NASA is preparing for an asteroid redirect mission 

The bottom line is that we have to keep looking for these NEOs so that we can find the Chelyabinsks and 2013 TV135s that are out there. We also need a vibrant space program to travel to and study NEOs and defend ourselves against them if need be.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, October 18, 2013

Hunter's Moon Plays WIth Moondogs

Hey Space Placers!

A slight shading was visible on the Hunter's Full Moon tonight in Charlottesville, Virginia at about 7:35 p.m. EDT. High cirrus clouds played tag with the brilliant and beautiful Hunter's Full Moon making it a bit difficult to see the eclipse, let alone photograph it.

These same clouds provided another spectacle however, "moondogs". These are patches of rainbow colored clouds that are located in a straight line on either side of the Moon. They are caused by ice crystals in the high altitude cirrus clouds that refract or bend the bright moonlight into these patches of light - see my photo.

If you look closely, you can see a hint of a "Lunar Halo" or ring of moonlight that is also caused by ice crystals in the cirrus clouds.

You can also see "sundogs" when the same cirrus cloud conditions occur during the day.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, October 17, 2013

New Comet ISON HST Photo

Hey Space Placers!

Hot off the press is a NEW photo taken of Comet ISON by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) on October 9, 2013:

It is evident that the comet appears to be intact and developing nicely as it bores in on the Sun for a close approach on November 28, 2013.

Absolutely beautiful.......

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chelyabinsk Find UPDATED

Hey Space Placers!


Here are some excellent pictures found on the Internet by Jason Utas:

Russian authorities have reported the find of a large mass of what they believe to be from the Chelyabinsk meteorite that exploded over the city on February 15, 2013.

This find weighs in at well over half-ton and was pulled from the bottom of a lake where a large hole was observed after the event.

It was unclear in the following article whether tests had confirmed the meteoric origin of the recovered rock AND confirmation that it was indeed ties to Chelyabinsk.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, October 14, 2013


Hey Space Placers!

Comet ISON has now entered the field of view (FOV) of NASA's STEREO-A spacecraft. You may recall that NASA has STEREO-A and STEREO-B that observe both hemispheres of the Sun 24 hours a day.

Comet ISON's entry into STEREO-A's FOV means that the comet will be observed continuously as it nears the Sun, especially when it gets too close to the Sun in late November for ground and space based  telescopes to monitor it.

Go to this website to Read More About It AND click on the movie to the left.

Sun is finally returning to VA - been a week of cloud cover and rain.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, October 13, 2013

A Planet Without a Star

Hey Space Placers!

We have found almost 1,000 planets outside of our solar system - exoplanets. But never before have we found an exoplanet without a star - until now.

Astronomers recently announced that they had discovered a lonely wandering exoplanet about 80 light years from Earth that is only 12 million years old. The exoplanet, PSO J318.5-22, was imaged during a search for brown dwarfs - objects that are failed stars as they are too small to initiate nuclear fusion.

PSO J318.5-22 is about 6 times more massive than Jupiter and is thought to be part of the Beta Pictoris moving group of young stars.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in Cloudy (Again) VA

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Take a Deep Space Journey Not To Be Missed

Hey Space Placers!

Isn't this a GORGEOUS picture? This is a Hubble Space Telescope (HST) picture of an elliptical galaxy that has undergone a recent merger event that has formed the beautiful petals and arms of stellar material.

You can also see dozens of other galaxies, some in very weird and contorted shapes, in the  background.

Go to the website and enjoy the pics AND the two videos. Try to view in the dark with full screen brightness as it will enhance your view just as if you were there among the stars: 

I am always amazed that each of these island universes is a galaxy unto itself that contains stars, planets, life I am sure and who knows what else. And there are so many of them. 

I wonder what their view is like of our Milky Way Galaxy and if they ponder the wonder of the Universe as you and I do.

Enjoy your journey.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, October 11, 2013

Beautiful Comet ISON

Hey Space Placers!

To follow up on yesterday's blog on Comet ISON, enjoy this beautiful pic.

Comet ISON on October 8, 2013 as seen through the Schulman 0.8 Telescope atop Mount Lemmon at the University of Arizona SkyCenter. Credit: Adam Block/UA SkyCenter.

See the larger size pic and read more about the comet here:

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Comet ISON UPDATE 10-10-13

Hey Space Placers!

Comet ISON has been the topic of conversation lately for astronomers and fringe elements as well. Of course the biggest question is what kind of show will the comet put on in the sky. The simple answer is we just do not know and all things considered, probably won't know until the comet draws "oohhs and ahhhs" or disappointment.

What we DO know is that the comet is heading for a super close rendezvous with the Sun on Thanksgiving Day at a mere 730,000 miles above the surface of our star. It will be subjected to immense gravitational forces and 5,000 degrees F. Tough for anything to survive such conditions but comets have done it in the past.

In Denver, Colorado yesterday there was a paper presented that provided details of research done on Comet ISON using the Hubble Space Telescope. The big news to me is that the nucleus of the comet - the solid body made up of ice, dust, frozen gases and other components, is presenting just one side of itself to the Sun. The researchers believe that when Comet ISON gets closer than Mercury the dark side of the nucleus may end up releasing "huge outbursts of material" which should make the comet bright.
Read More About It:

Another paper presented discussed whether Comet ISON would survive the encounter with the Sun. Using numerical simulations and past history of sun grazing comets the research team wrote "ISON appears likely to survive the combination of mass loss due to sublimation and tidal disruption for most plausible scenarios." Read More About It:

There has been other researchers saying the Comet ISON will not survive. The bottom line is that we will not know until when, and if, Comet ISON reappears. Solar observing spacecraft will be watching the comet when it is too close to the Sun for ground based observers to see it which will give us a ringside seat to the comet-Sun encounter.

Amateur astronomers are observing the comet in the pre-dawn sky using telescopes that are in the 8-inch aperture range. The comet has been photographed with a 3-inch telescope. Observers are looking for it using binoculars.

I myself hope to see it this weekend in my 10-inch if the weather clears here in Virginia. A photo session may follow as well to add to my collection of comet shots.

All of this research is vital to our study of comets AND the birth of the solar system as well because Comet ISON is a pristine primordial comet from the Oort Cloud - the vast spherical shell that contains trillions of comets -  that has never been exposed to the Sun before. Such a rare opportunity must be taken advantage of and astronomers are doing so.

We'll see what happens as it happens. I'm looking forward to it.

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Juno To Jupiter Earth Flyby 10/9/13

Hey Space Placers!

Fortunately for the fate of the Universe and NASA's Juno spacecraft bound for Jupiter in particular, the stupid U.S. Congress can't shut down gravity.

On October 9, 2013, at 3:21 p.m., Juno will flyby Earth a distance of only 350 miles above South Africa to get a gravity boost of about 9,000 miles per hour to propel the spacecraft towards Jupiter.

Due to arrive at Jupiter July 4, 2016, the spacecraft designed to study Jupiter up close and personal was launched August 5, 2011. A gravity boost from Earth is necessary as NASA does not have a rocket big enough to launch Juno directly to the gas giant.

As an added bonus Juno is coming in from the Sun so it will see the Earth-Moon system from a perspective that has never been seen before. Researchers plan on making a unique movie that shows our double planet system as never seen before....I can hardly wait to see our Earth and Moon from this vantage point. I will post the movie as soon as it is available.

If we are lucky some intrepid astronomer will photograph Juno as she flies by.

Read More About It and see the accompanying movie here:

Farewell Juno!

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, October 7, 2013

'60 Minutes' Segment on Asteroids

Hey Space Placers!

Did you see the segment on asteroids last night on CBS '60 Minutes'?

This was an excellent segment and I recommend you watch it as the good folks from NASA's Near Earth Objects (NEO) describe the threat we face from space rocks and comets. There is also comment from the B612 Foundation that is trying to use private funding to speed up the detection process.


Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, October 6, 2013

UPDATED LADEE in Lunar Orbit

Hey Space Placers!

UPDATE: More information here:

I was able to find a Tweet from a trusted source on Twitter that LADEE fired her main engine today at approximately 7 a.m. EDT to put herself in lunar orbit -

This was no small feat as because of the stupid shutdown of the government there is minimal manning of LADEE's mission control. A makeshift team of probably 3 or 4 had to step up and fill in to keep LADEE on course for the Moon. Hopefully we will be able to find out how the burn went and follow on corrections.

Way to go Team LADEE!

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, October 5, 2013

Got 24 Minutes? The VLA Story

Hey Space Placers!

Set aside 24 minutes in your day to watch a wonderful and informing video about the Very Large Array (VLA) narrated by Academy Award Winning actress Jodie Foster. The VLA is located in an ancient lakebed in New Mexico which is perfect for laying out the VLA. Jodie Foster was the star of the 1997 classic movie "Contact" which was filmed in part at the VLA.

The VLA is an array of 27 radio telescope antennas that are capable of being moved along railroad tracks to form whatever antenna configuration an astronomer needs to get their observations. Because the VLA is a radio telescope it operates 24 hours a day and only needs the object being observed to be above the local horizon.

Radio telescopes make observations that optical telescopes cannot do and represent a powerful window into the Universe. The Universe is filled with radio waves which VLA's radio telescopes capture, enhance and make available in a variety of outputs that astronomers can then analyze.

Because the VLA's radio dishes can be spread out along a 22-mile long baseline or in other configurations it is a very powerful instrument. Here is more info on the VLA - I had to use Wikipedia because all of VLA's websites are down due to the government shut down.

Grab your favorite beverage, find a nice dark room with a comfortable chair and enjoy the show

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Clouds Mapped on An Exoplanet

Hey Space Placers!

The discovery of exoplanets continues in full force - there are almost 1,000 worlds known beyond our solar system - and we have now actually mapped the clouds on a distant world called Kepler 7b.


That is a pretty nifty feat to do on a world that is about 1,000 light years away! 

Astronomers are able to do this by analyzing the light obtained by NASA's Kepler spacecraft. By looking at Kepler 7b at various points in its orbit around its parent star astronomers are able to determine temperature, reflectivity and then make maps of the cloud cover.

Kepler 7b is a "hot Jupiter' type exoplanet which means it is a gas giant about 50% larger than our own Jupiter. It is tidally locked with its star which means that just like our Moon, the same side always faces its star and go through phases. essentially one side of the planet is always cloudy while the other is clear.

Sky Guy in VA

Comet ISON Pics From Mars

Hey Space Placers!

They really aren't pretty but they are amazing - the four pics of Comet ISON obtained by NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO) HIRISE camera. The pics were taken on September 29 at a distance of  8 million miles and more were planned for October 1 and 2 when the Comet was at 8 million miles.

You have to remember that these images were obtained from Martian orbit using a moving spacecraft's high powered telescopic lens that was designed to take images pointing down and covering a large area. To even capture Comet ISON in any manner is a technological victory.

The images were posted on the University of Arizona's HIRISE website - these are not from NASA so go here to read more about it:

We'll see what a million miles difference looks like when the other images are released.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

LADEE Leaves Earth Orbit

Hey Space Placers!

With the stupid government shutdown it is hard to get spacecraft and space information due to the NASA websites being off line.

I was able to get an update on LADEE - see my 9/6/13 blogs. LADEE made a final orbital maneuver and is on a path that will lead to lunar orbit insertion on October 6th. Get more details here

NASA's next mission to Mars, MAVEN is in jeopardy due to the shutdown as the launch window that only comes along every 2+ years is getting closer and launch preps are on hold.

Sky Guy on VA

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Comet ISON Passes Mars

Hey Space Placers!

With NASA's websites shut because of the silly and shameful actions of the U.S. Congress we probably won't get a chance  to see the pictures being taken of Comet ISON today until NASA is back online.

Regardless of the inaction of politicians, gravity is still driving Comet ISON closer to the Sun each and every day. Now traveling at well over 78,000 miles per hours towards the Sun, Comet ISON will pass very close to Mars today, October 1st.

I can't refer you to a NASA website about all of this BUT I can send you to You Tube to get further information:

Sky Guy in VA Disgusted with Congress