Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Losing the Dark

Hey Space Placers!

My dear friends Carolyn and Mark Petersen of Loch Ness Productions, have produced a free planetarium show and Public Service Announcement about light pollution. The 6.5 minute video is on You Tube as well as Loch Ness Productions

The production is a wonderful and informative program about light pollution. Viewers will learn about the growing problem of light pollution and what they can do about it all while watching a beautifully done video.

Please take a few minutes to watch this informative show and do what you can to reduce light pollution within your own sphere of influence.

Wishing all of us Dark Skies....

Sky Guy in VA

NASA's Latest Take on the Russian Meteor

Hey Space Placers!

Visit this website and read the latest from NASA about the Russian meteor that exploded February 15, 2013:

ALso, here is a pic of the biggest meteorite (2.2 pounds) found yet:

Fragment of the meteorite at the laboratory of the Research and Educational Center of Nanomaterials and Nanotechnologies of Ural Federal University. (RIA Novosti / Pavel Lysizin)
Fragment of the meteorite at the laboratory of the Research and Educational Center of Nanomaterials and Nanotechnologies of Ural Federal University. (RIA Novosti / Pavel Lysizin)

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Chelyabinsk Impactor Orbit

Hey SPace Placers!

If you are interested, here is a link to a paper just published that provides a preliminary orbit for the asteroid that hit Russia on February 15 -

Be sure to look at the attachments and You Tube videos. In one You Tube you can see snow coming off of a roof from the shock wave that hits. It is also fascinating to watch the orbit replay which goes back years and shows the impact point of Earth and the asteroid.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, February 25, 2013

See the Newest Meteorite Fall on Earth

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the newest meteorite fall (an event that is witnessed which produces meteorites that are found AND attributed to the witnessed event) on Earth at the Russian Laboratory of Meteoritics This web page is devoted to the impact event at Chelyabinsk that occurred on 2-15-13 and has some great information/photos.

This beuatiful specimen photo from the Lab shows fusion crust (the black line around the circumference of the specimen, shock veins (the black lines) and chondrules (the round structures. When I saw it I thought it would be very possibly an L or LL stony chondrite (a scientific classification of the type of meteorite) based on my own similar type meteorite specimens.

The final classification and naming of this fall event will be made by the Meteoritical Society in a bulletin once all tests and classifications results are finished. It will take several months until we know for sure.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, February 24, 2013

New Findings About Our Galaxy

Hey Space Placers!

Astronomers using the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) have found evidence for a shell made up of stars that is embedded in the halo of our Milky Way Galaxy.

By analyzing the motion of a small sample of stars the astronomers detected a higher sideways motion that would be expected. One possible explanation is that billions of years ago our galaxy shredded a small satellite galaxy that caused its stars to be absorbed yet they maintained some of their original orbital characteristics. These stars were then found to form a shell in the outer reaches of the galaxy.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Magma Ocean in Mercury's Past

Hey Space Placers!

 Colors of the Innermost Planet

Hey Space Placers!

Here is a very interesting article on results from NASA's MESSENGER mission at Mercury that indicate the innermost planet may have had a magma ocean very shortly after forming.

What I found most interesting was that the research team from MIT took results on the composition of Mercury's surface and actually recreated the mineral composition of two types of rock. They essentially created the same mineral compositions in the lab and then melted them to compare results from the spacecraft.

When pondering what process could create two types of surface composition covering the planet they proposed that an ancient magma ocean, erupting very shortly after Mercury formed, could cause such an occurrence. Because Mercury's surface is 4.1 billion years old, the magma ocean would have had to erupt only a million years after Mercury formed.

Sky Guy in VA

 Colors of the Innermost Planet

Friday, February 22, 2013

Curiosity Ready to Test Drill Sample

Hey Space Placers!

Curiosity took a picture of herself showing the recently obtained drilling sample positioned in her scoop.
Click here for larger version of PIA16729
The sample will go through several steps in preparation for analysis but the picture is confirmation that the first drilling has gone well.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Smallest Yet Exoplanet Found

Hey SPace Placers!

NASA's exoplanet finding Kepler mission has found the smallest yet detected exoplanet. The size of our Moon and smaller than Mercury this was quite a technological feat to pull off.

Tiny Planets (moonlike, 200px)

Known as Kepler-37b the small world is located in Lyra at 210 light years distance and has several other exoplanets in the Kepler 37 system, complete with a star that is similar to our Sun.

Sky Guy in VA

Chelyabinsk Event on APOD

Hey SPace Placers!

Check out the videos and listen to the Chelyabinsk event on Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD)

The videos are stunning and the audio still takes my breath away. It is eerily like a reconstructed audio that was made of the June 30, 1908 Tunguska event based on the known timeline and witness reports -

What do you the shock waves sound similar? I think so.

Preliminary reports from the area indicate that chondrite (stony) meteorites have been recovered. These recovered samples still have to undergo scientific classification to be confirmed as meteorites AND attributed to the 2-14-13 fall.

I am sure that eBay and other Internet sales claiming to be from the event will be forthcoming if not already happening. All I can say is buyer beware and know your source. As I said, nothing is official until scientifically examined, classified and directly attributed to the Chelyabinsk fall/impact event.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Watch Video of 2012 DA 14 (UPDATED With Radar)

Hey Space Placers!

Here is a link about some observations of last Friday's close flyby of 2012 DA 14.

Read about  and see video of it

There will be more in the coming weeks about this historic flyby as well as the meteorite impact in Chelyabinsk. We will have a very complete look at 2012 DA 14 from all of the optical and radio observations. And if meteorites are found in Russia from  last Friday's impact, it will help add to our knowledge and planetary defense.

UPDATED: Here are the first radar images  

It is obvious that the asteroid is spinning and is irregular is shape. More data and clean up of it will give us a better view in the near future.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 2-17 and 18 - 13 Moon and Jupiter

Hey Space Placers!!!

Tonight and tomorrow night will be a good time to watch the Moon and Jupiter waltzing in the night sky. They will not be as close as they were last month but still worth seeing amongst the stars of Taurus the Bull.

If you have binoculars or a small telescope check out the four main moons of Jupiter and the craters along the terminator of the Moon.


Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Historic Day Yesterday 2-15-13

Hey Space Placers!

Yesterday was one for the history books, make no mistake about it. The Russian impact event - NASA states it is the largest impact since the June 30, 1908 Tunguska Event - happens on the same day that asteroid 2012 DA 14 makes its own historic close approach.

I have studied asteroids and meteorites for over four decades and I have never seen anything like yesterday, period. Here are my two appearances on WTTG Fox 5:  


Meteorites have been found along the strewnfield of this impact event which will determine the type of impactor involved and because of all the video available scientists will be able to calculate the orbit of as well. This will become a very documented impact event as well as it should for the historic number of people injured.

Space Placers we have been warned.....we need a planetary defense system to protect ourselves against impact events. Because the Russian impactor cam in during daylight optical detection was out of the question. I doubt if we would have the radar capability to have been able to detect it as well - the sky is an awfully big area. 

But none the less, the Russian impactor was a 1/3 of the size of 2012 DA 14 and packed a wallop estimated at 300-500 kilotons of TNT - a large nuclear weapon equivalent. If the impactor had been lower and closer at terminal burst (detonation), people could have been killed and the damage to the city much, much worse.

Perhaps world governments will be stirred to action on a cooperative basis to protect the planet. Let's hope so.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, February 15, 2013

Russian Meteor

Hey Space Placers!

WOW!!!! check out the video and audio on this air burst meteor that happened earlier today; photo is from AP and here is the link

meteor (AP)

This IS NOT related to Asteroid 2012 DA 14, and 2012 DA 14 WILL NOT hit Earth today.

What an amazing astronomical coincidence!

More later!

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, February 14, 2013

2012 DA14 Flies By 2-15-13

Hey Space Placers!!

The historic day is here! You can read my earlier blogs on 2012 DA 14 for background.

Asteroid 2012 DA14 will fly by our planet, going from south to north, and passing within 17,150 miles of our planet's surface. That Space Placers is a record for the largest space rock discovered passing closest to our planet since we started looking for these solar system interlopers in the 1990's. This baby will be BELOW our geosynchronous satellites that we use for communications and earth observation!

There is a slight risk to satellites but none are expected to be in the way of this cosmic zinger.

It will be difficult enough for professional astronomers to track the asteroid because it is so close and therefore moving rapidly across the sky but they are geared up to do so using optical and radio telescopes. WIth the observations made we should get a pretty good idea as to the size, shape, spin, brightness, and orbit of this asteroid. We might also get an idea as to the composition of the space rock when all is said and done.

Closest approach will be at 2:25 p.m., EST. NASA will start providing commentary starting at 2:00 p.m. EST and live or near live views of 2012 DA14 at noon EST. NASA will also stream telescopic images of the space rock starting at 9 p.m EST for about three hours. You can get more information and the web links here

This flyby is once again giving us a reminder that we and our civilization are at risk from an impact involving one of these asteroids or comets. We have proof of the damage that can be caused by such impacts from Meteor Crater in Arizona which hit about 50,000 years ago and the
Tunguska Event which took place on June 30, 1908 over Siberia. Tunguska lost 80 million trees over a 2,000 square kilometer area due to an airburst of 2-20 megatons caused by an exploding asteroid the size of 2012 DA 14 -

see caption

We as a species have to come up with a planetary defense plan - this is not science fiction, it is the long term survival of us! I'll have more on this Saturday.

I hope you will follow the day's events. I will be on Fox 5 WTTG at 6:45am EST and will have radio interviews at 8:40 am EST on WBAL and 9:20 am EST on WTOP. I will try and get links of these segments available when they are up.

It will be cloudy here in VA Friday night but I plan on tuning in to NASA and watch history as it flies by. I hope you will too as history zips on by.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Space Weather and the UN

Hey Space Placers!

Read the following story about how the United Nations is concerned about the worldwide effects of space weather.

Just like the weather here on Earth can have profound influences on humans and the environment, so too can the weather  that takes place in space.

Read More ABout It:

Tomorrow I will have info on the close pass of asteroid 2012 DA 14. I will also be making an appearance on Fox 5, WTTG here in D.C. on Friday, 6:45 a.m.

Sky Guy in VA

Asteroid 2012 DA 14 Could Be Worth $195 Billion

Hey Space Placers!

Friday's record setting asteroid 2012 DA 14 is estimated to be worth $195 billion. That figure was released by the up and coming Deep Space Industries company and is based on how much the resources within the space rock would be worth. The amount is based on estimates of how much water and nickel-iron might be in the asteroid.

We'll learn a lot more about 2012 DA 14 when it passes by Earth on Friday as the radar and optical observations are made. We will also get necessary information to refine its orbit and see the effect our planet has on its' future orbit.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, February 11, 2013

Help Name Pluto's Moons

Hey Space Placers!

Maybe you can be part of astronomical history by helping to name moons of Pluto.

Name the moons of Pluto

Go to the website below, read the background information and then cast your vote at the provided website.

Read More About It:

Enjoy learning about Pluto and the dwarf planet's moons.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Curiosity Drills and Makes Martian History

Hey Space Placers!

Curiosity made history by being the first to ever drill into the rock of Mars:

Curiosity Drills into Mars (splash)

The hole on the right was a test hole and the one on the left was the sample hole, both were drilled on February 8, 2013. Pictures to confirm the drilling and to view the resulting rock sample were beamed to Earth on February 9.

The fine powder will be placed into the analytical instrument package of Curiosity to see what secrets can be devined from the rock powder. The area where the drilling took place is in an area that water is thought to have once flowed and sedimentary rock  (layered rock deposited by flowing water) formed.

The testing and analysis of the rock will take place in the near future and the results will be provided when ready.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT - Mercury At Its' Best

Hey Space Placers!

The elusive and speedy planet closest to the Sun, Mercury, is starting to put on its' best appearance for the whole year as it is near the planet Mars.We will have another good showing in the evening sky from Mercury in May and June if you miss this one but Mars will be out of view.

It has been said that only 1% of the ENTIRE human population throughout all time has seen AND recognized Mercury as a planet. Once you know where and when to look and find a viewing spot that affords a clear view of the horizon, Mercury is surprisingly bright and fairly easy to see. Using binoculars helps in the hunt for Mercury and seeing Mars which is much dimmer than Mercury.

For February, Mercury is starting an excellent appearance in the western sky that will last for several weeks, but it is best to see the planet in the next few days while it is still fairly close to Mars. The thin crescent Moon joins in the sky show on the 10th and Mercury will be at its highest point in the sky on the 117th.

Mercury and Mars, February 2013

Friday, February 8, 2013

Comet Pan-STARRS

Hey Space Placers!

2013 is shaping up to be the "Year of the Comets" as we have THREE comets that MAY become real crowd pleasers this year.

Next month Come Pan-STARRS may become a naked eye object easily visible in the northern sky. Comets are notoriously hard to predict what they will do but this comet is on its first pass ever through the inner solar system and the Sun so it may put on a show for sky watchers.

Only time and the comet itself will tell.

Check out all the details here

I'll have much more on this comet as well as the other two but I am REALLY excited about the possibilities!

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT-Mercury and Mars on 2-7-13

Hey Space Placers!

Here is a rare two-fer day on blogs!

At dusk February 7, be sure to go out and look for Mars andMercury close together in the western sky. You will need a pair of binoculars and a clear view of the horizon to spot the close pair but it will be worth your effort.

See more details here:

If you see the two smallest planets in the solar system, think about the following. Curiosity and Opportunity rovers are at work on Mars while Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter is high overhead. Mercury has MESSENGER in orbit gaining daily data on the planet closest to the Sun.

Sky Guy in VA

Asteroid 2012 DA 14 Teleconference on 2-7-13

Hey Space Placers!

NASA will hold a teleconference on asteroid 2012 DA 14  on 2-7-13 at 11 a.m. PST. See my January 28, 2013 blog regarding this record setting space rock.Details on the teleconference and how to listen on are here:


Sky Guy in VA

Tune In on Exoplanet News Conference 2-6-13

Hey SPace Placers!

On 2-6-13 there will be a live teleconference on exoplanets starting at 10:55 a.m. EST.

Get all the details here:


Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Are super-Earths really mini-Neptunes?

Hey Space Placers!

Here is an interesting article about how Super Earths, exoplanets that are a few times larger than Earth, could be Neptune type planets. That is, Earth sized rocky cores that are surrounded by an gaseous atmosphere like we think makes up our Neptune or also Uranus.

Check it out:

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Help Fight Light Pollution

Hey SPace Placers!

Have you ever had the experience of seeing a REALLY dark sky free of light pollution? It is a sky that has literally thousands upon thousands of stars and the Milky Way pops out at you.

I have been lucky to see such skies while at sea a thousand miles from any light source. One night in the Indian Ocean the sky and sea blended into one and I was at the bow of the ship and it was like being surrounded by stars. That is what a glass smooth sea and gorgeous sky can give you.

My other great night sight was of all places in West Virginia at a place that boasts the "darkest skies east of the Mississippi" - and they are right. That particular night in the summer the Milky Way was bright, almost in a galactic was stunning.

Light pollution - night time light that washes out the sky as it is directed up into the sky instead of on the ground - is a waste of energy, money and a robbery in progress of our night skies. There have been studies done on light pollution and the numbers in terms of kilowatts and dollars and cents wasted is staggering.

Bad lighting also makes for dangerous driving and pedestrian conditions. Ever seen the shadows produced by bad lighting when walking late at night of the glare in your eyes when driving because of an errant lamp? There may also be an effect on nocturnal animals in their cycles as well as people.

You can help the cause against light pollution by participating in making observations of the night sky in your own backyard. "Globe at Night" is a multi-year program to collect star counts from around the world to get data on what the light pollution situation is. The directions are simple and you can submit your observations now through February 9th as we are in the second window of five different observing periods -  January 31st to February 9th, March 3rd to 12th, March 31st to April 9th, and April 29th to May 8th.

Get more details here and make an observation......

I will be doing so when the clouds clear here in Virginia. It is snowing and we have had quite a swing in weather here - 20's to 70's, rain and thunderstorms to snow showers.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mercury Meteorite NWA 7325?

Hey Space Placers!

Check out this VERY alien looking space rock:

A meteorite from Mercury?
Weighing just a bit more than 100 g, this is the largest fragment of the meteorite NWA 7325. Note the amazing light-green color of its fusion crust — one of many characteristics hinting that it might be from the planet Mercury. The cube at right is 1 cm square. Click here for a larger view.
Stefan Ralew /

Recently studied and classified as NWA 7325 this meteorite is unlike any other in the world's 
inventory. I have never seen such a strange looking specimen and it is clear why - it is the first 
meteorite to be studied that has a near perfect match to the composition of the planet Mercury as 
observed by NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft in orbit around Mercury.

One of MESSENGER's primary mission objectives was to determine the composition of the surface of 
Mercury. NWA 7325 is the closest match we have so far but there are still differences. Those may be 
explained if NWA 7325 was formed deep below the surface of Mercury and then blasted off the 
planet due to a large impact - certainly plausible.

More studies need to be done but 100% confirmation may be elusive until if and when we ever get a 
return sample from Mercury. We had samples of the Moon and Mars in our meteorite inventory but we
couldn't confirm their origin conclusively until we landed on the Moon and Mars, and got lunar 
samples as well.

NWA 7325 may remain in origin-limbo for awhile but scientists are hopeful that further studies 
with MESSENGER data applied to the space rock will provide an answer.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, February 1, 2013

Apollo 1, Challenger, Columbia Day of Remembrance 2013

Hey Space Placers!

Today, February 1 is NASA's Day of Remembrance for the crews of Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia. Visit NASA to read about the missions and their crews.

Pause and remember today their collective sacrifices that in turn led to changes in hardware and protocols to make manned spaceflight safer.

Day of Remembrance 2013

Sky Guy in VA