Friday, May 31, 2013

Asteroid 1998 QE2 Flyby 5-31-13 With a Companion Moon

Hey Space Placers!

Today the 1.7-mile wide space rock 1998 QE2 will harmlessly fly by Earth at a distance of 3.6 million miles at 4:59 p.m. EDT. It is much larger than the 150-foot asteroid 2012 DA 14. It was also discovered on May 29th during radar observations of the space rock that 1998 QE2 has a moon. 16% of observed near Earth asteroids have moons. 1998 QE2’s moon is about 2,000 feet across, or many times the size of 2012 DA 14.

Asteroid Moon (splash)

The flyby will not be visible in the night sky to the unaided eye but amateur astronomers with backyard telescopes may catch a glimpse of the asteroid next week. NASA has been observing the asteroid using radar and will continue to do so for the next few days. Observations show dark surface features on 1998 QE2 and it is known to have a dark composition as it reflects only 6% of sunlight, making it darker than coal.

NASA recently announced its’ asteroid plans and at 2-3 p.m. EDT, NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver will participate in a White House "We the Geeks" Google+ Hangout. Participants will discuss asteroid identification, characterization, resource utilization, and hazard mitigation. The hangout can be viewed at the White House website at: 
You can also tune in on the Internet to watch live coverage of the flyby starting a 4:30 p.m. at
This is the closest pass of 1998 QE2 for the next two centuries. Get more information about 1998 QE2 here:
Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Another Asteroid to Pass Earth 1998 QE2

Hey Space Placers!

Another asteroid is due to pass by Earth May 30-31 - 1998 QE2, a 1.7-mile wide space rock.

NASA has TV and telescope coverage planned for the event starting May 30th - see details here

NASA has also scheduled events during this flyby to discuss the Agency's asteroid mission initiative.

The asteroid will safely pass Earth by almost 4 million miles and will be tracked by optical and radar telescopes.

Tune in and enjoy!

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Mega Galaxy Merger

Hey Space Placers!

Here is something that you do not see every day - a merger of two massive galaxies at a time when the Universe was only 3 billion years old. This is definitely something astronomers do not see every day!

The Making of a Giant Galaxy

The two galaxies contain about 400 billion stars and the collision is producing an astounding 2,000 new stars a year due to the massive amounts of gas and dust available as raw material for new stars. By comparison our galaxy produces about 3 new stars a year.

Galaxy mergers are fairly common in the Universe but one so prolific in new star formation at such an early age in the Universe is very rare.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, May 27, 2013

Most Detailed View Ever of the Ring Nebula

Hey Space Placers!

To follow up on my recent blog on the Ring Nebula, NASA has just released the most detailed view EVER of this beautiful planetary nebula. Hubble Space Telescope (HST) zeroed in for a close-up view and the resulting pics are simply stunning.

Be sure to open the large view as it is as close to being there as we can get:

Happy Memorial Day to Space Placers in the U.S. May you and your family have a safe and wonderful holiday. Remember to look at the planetary trio in the west after sunset - see my blog for details.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, May 24, 2013

UPDATED Sky Guy Viewing ALERT Planetary Trio 5-24 to 5-28

Hey Space Placers!

UPDATE: I saw the three planets last night but the key is to have a clear view of the horizon and wait for it to get dark enough for Mercury to shine through. I saw all three planets with the unaided eye but binoculars did help to bring out the colors of each planet. It is definitely worth looking each night to see how the alignment of the planetary trio changes. I hope to get some pics tonight. Sky Guy in VA

The sky show begins in earnest tonight as the three planets - Mercury, Venus and Jupiter, will form a compact trio and move each night.

They will be easy to see low in the west northwest 30-45 minutes after sunset. Find a view of the horizon that is free of trees, building and lights. They will be visible to the naked eye but binoculars will  greatly enhance the view.

See my segment on Fox 5 here:

See more about it here:

Be sure to get out and see this trio as we will not have such a tight grouping of naked eye planets until 2026. Also try and envision looking across the solar system as these planets are on the opposite side of the solar system, each orbiting the Sun as does Earth. This is why we see them move night to night.

3-planet dance on May 24, 2013
Sky & Telescope magazine

3-planet dance on May 28, 2013
Sky & Telescope magazine

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Real Shape of the Ring Nebula

Hey Space Placers!

An icon of astronomy for years, the famous Ring Nebula was recently photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and a ground based large ground based telescope in Arizona. The series of images, HST in visible light and the ground based telescope in infrared, were combined. The subsequent study of them shows more of a football shape than a true ring.

The Ring Nebula is a planetary nebula, a star with the mass of the Sun that ended its' life as a Red Giant star, blowing off shells of gas to reveal its' core where fusion took place for billions of years - a white dwarf star. The white dwarf is visible in the center of the Ring Nebula and is what causes the outer layers to be visible.

The layers were processed to reveal their composition with oxygen being green, hydrogen is red and helium is blue. The intense ultraviolet radiation makes them glow. The surface temperature of the white dwarf is at least 50,000 degrees F.

The Ring Nebula is visible in backyard telescopes and is located in the summer constellation of Lyra.

Sky Guy in Cicadas are calling VA

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Mars Impacts

Hey Space Placers!

A follow up to yesterday's Curiosity/Mars blog.

Planetary scientists have been able to monitor the surface of Mars over the years and have found a number of new impacts each year.

Fresh Cluster of Impact Craters on Mars

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has imaged at least 248 new crater impacts which has allowed scientists to estimate that Mars is hit on average 200 times a year with bits of comets and/or asteroids which create a new crater at least 13 feet across.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Curiosity's 2nd Drill Site

Hey Space Placers!

Check out Curiosity's second drill site:

Rock Target 'Esperance' Altered by Wet History (False Color)

Results will be forthcoming in the future but the results are expected to be very similar to the first drill site.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, May 20, 2013

Tune In For Lunar Crater Hunt

Hey Space Placers!

To follow up on my blog on the 18th regarding the recorded lunar impact, on May 22 SLOOH will try and find the new crater.

In a live broadcast, the SLOOH team will broadcast live an attempt to search Mare Imbrium for the newly created crater. Viewers can tune in at 9 p.m. EDT to watch the search for the estimated 200-foot wide crater.

Get details here:

It will be a challenge to see the crater from Earth. I do not know if Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) has been programmed to fly over the area and photograph the lunar surface to find the crater although I hope this has been done. It would be very useful to get high definition/resolution images of the new crater.

I'll keep you posted.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Asteroid Mission Moves Ahead to Development

Hey Space Placers!

Quick blog today as family is here for a college graduation......

NASA is moving ahead to develop an asteroid mission - read all about it here:

Sky Guy with relatives in VA

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Bright Explosion on the Moon

Hey Space Placers!

On March 17th the Moon was hit by the largest impactor yet recorded. NASA and amateur astronomers have been watching the Moon for these impacts from small space rocks and/or small comet bits. 100's have been recorded in video records.

The hit on March 17th was from a small boulder traveling at an estimated 57,000 mph. The impact formed a small crater about 20 meters across and released about 5 tons of energy. This event was recorded as well.

See the recording and read more about it here:

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Kepler in Trouble

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's exoplanet hunting spacecraft, Kepler, is in deep, deep trouble. The spacecraft has lost a second  reaction wheel, which makes two out of four are operating. The only problem is Kepler needs 3 to obtain the pointing precision needed to hunt exoplanets.

NASA held a news conference yesterday to provide details which can be seen here:

It is not known if the extended mission of Kepler, which began in November 2012 will continue. It will take some time to sort out what can be done if anything to salvage additional data collection.

I'll keep you posted.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Biggest Solar Blast of the Year With More to Follow

Hey SPace Placers!

The Sun has come alive with a series of X-ray flare events 5/12-13, which included an X3.2 event that is the most intense flare of the year so far. The sunspot group that caused this event remains active and is rotating on the Sun. It will eventual point towards Earth so if a flare happens then, solar material and radiation could be blasted towards Earth.

The Sun is still going through solar maximum which is expected to peak this year so events like this are expected. The Sun has been relatively free of these events for some time now.

NASA's fleet of solar spacecraft monitor the Sun 24 hours a day so we will have plenty of warning if an event occurs. Spaceweather forecasters will issue any alerts.

Read More About It and see videos of the events here:

UPDATE: The Sun released another X-flare today, May 15:


Read More ABout It:

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, May 13, 2013

Exoplanets Project 1640

Hey Space Placers!

   We live in an age when exoplanet candidates are being discovered almost daily - we now have over 800 exoplanets confirmed with thousands more awaiting analysis and confirmation.

  Astronomers and their techniques involving the discovery and analysis of exoplanets are getting better all the time. Astronomers now have the ability to DIRECTLY image some exoplanets. In fact, they are even able to take the light from the exoplanet and learn about the planet itself.

Planetary Family PortraitThis image shows the HR 8799 planets with starlight optically suppressed and data processing conducted to remove residual starlight. The star is at the center of the blackened circle in the image. The four spots indicated with the letters b through e are the planets. This is a composite image using 30 wavelengths of light and was obtained over a period of 1.25 hours on June 14 and 15, 2012. Image courtesy of Project 1640

We are learning more and more about these other worlds and will gain more knowledge as the techniques and instruments get better.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Curiosity Gets Set To Drill Again

Hey Space Placers!

    Haven't heard much about Curiosity lately, have you? There is a good reason for that as Mars has been in line with Sun as seen from Earth so Mars spacecraft operations have been on hold. This is done to make sure that any no radio signals from Earth to Mars are affected by passing so close to the Sun that they may become compromised and cause errors.

   The spacecraft on Mars and in orbit have been in a hibernation mode awaiting Mars to clear the line of sight of the Sun which has now occurred. All spacecraft are healthy and ready to resume operations.

Curiosity is preparing for her second drilling target called Cumberland. Located nine feet from the previous drilling site the objective is to confirm the first site's results.

'Cumberland' Selected as Curiosity's Second Drilling Target
'Cumberland' Selected as Curiosity's Second Drilling Target
This map shows the location of "Cumberland," the second rock-drilling target for NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, in relation to the rover's first drilling target, "John Klein," within the southwestern lobe of a shallow depression called "Yellowknife Bay."

'Cumberland' Target for Drilling by Curiosity Mars Rover
'Cumberland' Target for Drilling by Curiosity Mars Rover
This patch of bedrock, called "Cumberland," has been selected as the second target for drilling by NASA's Mars rover Curiosity.

Read More ABout It:

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Emergency Spacewalk Underway on ISS UPDATE

Hey Space Placers!

UPDATE: The crew has successfully swapped out the original ammonia coolant pump and replaced it with a spare. NASA expects to hold a news conference at 4:30 p.m. EDT

Today, May 11, the astronauts aboard the International Space Station are conducting an emergency spacewalk to repair an ammonia coolant leak that was discovered on Thursday.

You can tune in to watch and get further details here

I'll have more on this as the situation develops.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 5/10-12 Venus-Moon-Jupiter

Hey Space Placers!

   The western sky at dusk offers a real viewing treat this Friday through Sunday.

    Venus, the "Evening Star" begins her return to visibility on Friday accompanied by a one-day old Moon with Jupiter above. Binoculars will help with finding the very young Moon but the key is having a clear view of the western horizon.

   Each night the Moon and planets will move with respect to one another offering an excellent photo opportunity as well as gaining an appreciation for their real movement (as well as Earth's) in the sky.

Enjoy the sky show as it is going to get better as the month progresses as Jupiter and Venus will get closer and be joined by Mercury.

Sky Guy in VA

View in bright twilight
Catch the waxing crescent Moon of May passing low Venus, then higher Jupiter. The visibility of the fainter objects in bright twilight is exaggerated here. (These scenes are drawn for the middle of North America. European observers: move each Moon symbol a quarter of the way toward the one for the previous date. For clarity, the Moon is shown three times actual size.)

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Sky Guy Internet Viewing ALERT - Annular Eclipse of the Sun 5-9-13

Hey Space Placers!

  There will be an annular eclipse of the Sun tomorrow, 5-9-13, covering Australia and the South Pacific. Viewers around the world can tune in via the Internet at 2:30 p.m. PDT or 21:30 UTC to see the live and free feed courtesy of Slooh.

  In an annular eclipse the Moon does not totally eclipse the Sun so there is a ring of sunlight or annulus that is visible. If you are in a location where the eclipse is visible be sure to heed the safety warnings provided in the press release below - NEVER LOOK AT THE SUN without the proper and safe equipment as blindness can result.

Get details on how to view on the Internet here as well as a link for International times:

You can a preview of the eclipse here;

The U.S. gets a total solar eclipse in August 2017 - I already have my viwing spot along the centerline picked out!

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

NASA- Humans to Mars?

Hey Space Placers!

A conference was held in Washington D.C. yesterday, May 6th, about getting humans to Mars.

NASA's Administrator, Charles Bolden, had a lot to say. One of my favorite reporters, Joel Achenbach of the Washington Post, has a great write up here:

The price tag is steep and the world's governments are in no shape to singularly fund this interplanetary goal. Perhaps, just perhaps, the right combination of private enterprise and government involvement, mixed in with a healthy dose of international cooperation, might get humanity there eventually.

The human species has to colonize other worlds to insure its long term survival, plain and simple. Humans on Mars would be a big step in doing that but any plans need to be for colonization, not a "one and done, been there and done that" like the U.S. did with the Moon in 1969-1972.

We'll see if a change in presidents in 2016 will lead to a change in space priorities as has been the case all too frequently. Let's hope that Orion and SLS survive to be built, flown, and SENT to someplace beyond Low Earth Orbit......that will be the key for anything humans and space related, at least for the U.S. I have little doubt that China will land Taikonauts on the Moon in the coming decade or so.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, May 5, 2013

A BIG Boom

Hey Space Placers!

  On April 27, 2013 at 3:47 a.m. EDT, NASA's Swift spacecraft recorded a huge outburst of energy. The Gamma Ray Burst (GRB) event was the most energetic ever recorded and lasted long enough that space and ground based telescopes were able to observe it.

 GRB's are thought to form when a massive star collapses in a supernova and becomes a black hole (see my blog of 5-4-13). Huge amounts of energy are released and in this GRB it is estimated to have had 95 billion electron volts (a unit of energy used in high energy physics) or 35 billion times the energy of visible light.

This GRB was also close as these events go as it was about 3.6 billion light years away. That is close enough for astronomers to search for the emerging supernova and they are doing so. It is expected that by mid-month a visible light supernova should be at the location in Leo the Lion.

I'll let you know what happens.

Read more about it and see the actual GRB images from the event:

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Birth of a Black Hole

Hey Space Placers!

   Here is an excellent news release that discusses black holes - how they form and how we may be able to actually see a light signature at the moment of their birth.

Courtesy Cal Tech

The search for these events is underway and should improve as new telescopes and better instrumentation give astronomers a better chance to see them.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, May 3, 2013

Adopt An Exoplanet

Hey Space Placers!

   Want to adopt an exoplanet?????

   Well, now you can. This is NOT like some of the enterprises where you can purchase real estate on the Moon, name a star, etc.

   Uwingu is conducting the campaign to help raise funds for research. You can learn more about it here

   One must understand however that only the International Astronomical Union (IAU) has the authority to officially name all objects in the solar system and observable Universe. IAU recently sent out a press release to explain the procedure

   Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Send Your Name to Mars

Hey Space Placers!

   Just the other day (4/29/13) I blogged about how to send your name on a JAXA spacecraft to an asteroid.

   NASA has just begun to accept submissions for its' next mission to Mars.

  Learn about how to get your name to Mars AND the MAVEN mission:

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Hurricane on Saturn

Hey Space Placers!

   Check out the hurricane on Saturn that is over 20 (!) times as large as those that happen on our planet:

This amazing storm is at the north pole of the ringed planet and is quite a sight to see when you look

Saturn Hurricane (backoff, 200px)

at the stunning full size pic here: Be sure to see it at full size in the dark!

Sky Guy in VA