Monday, September 30, 2013

Happy 55th NASA

Hey Space Placers!

I'm back and NASA begins its 56th year of operations on October 1, 2013. Ironically, portions of NASA will be shut on that day if the U.S. Congress fails to reach an agreement on the U.S. budget. NASA has stated that Mission Control for the International Space Station (ISS) will continue to operate. Read More About It:

ISS successfully docked the Cygnus re-supply module - congratulations Orbital Sciences for this historic first. In the NASA photo ISS astronauts have opened the Cygnus hatch to prepare for offloading of over a ton of supplies

ISS has now had two commercial companies resupply it, Space X was first with its Dragon resupply ship and Orbital was second with Cygnus. Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation are the final two commercial suppliers to ISS that are preparing their spacecraft for resupplying ISS.

Take a look at what NASA has done over the past 55 years -
and imagine what more could be possible with a stable and increased budget without political interference.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, September 27, 2013

Mars Rock Is Earth Like

Hey SPace Placers!

Found a computer here in Baton Rouge, Louisiana so I can get a quick blog to you.


Read this story about a rock on Mars that is very surprisingly like Earth:

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Want to Do Some Research Using Your Computer?

Hey Space Placers!

I will be gone for the next few days - until next Monday actually - without connectivity.

So enjoy this story abut how you can use your computer to participate in useful and timely astronomical research

I look forward to being back with you again.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Comet ISON and Amateur Astronomers

Hey Space Placers!

Here is the scoop from NASA on how amateur astronomers are doing in observing Comet ISON. I myself have not tried to find the comet yet but I hope to in October-November.

Here is the story and video

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, September 23, 2013

Comet ISON Video Update

Hey Space Placers!

Here is an excellent video that explains Comet ISON and what is to come as the comet gets closer and closer to the Sun:

Amateur astronomers are observing and photographing the comet now and its speed has increased to over 70,000+ miles per hour. Comet ISON's speed will continue to increase as it gets closer to the Sun.

The next big event is October 1 when Comet ISON passes by very close to Mars. Every spacecraft and mission will be looking to the Martian skies to catch a glimpse of ISON.

Sky Guy in VA

Orbital Cygnus Resupply to ISS Does Go Around

Hey Space Placers!

A software glitch caused a wave off of Orbital's Cygnus resupply ship to the ISS yesterday. The next approach will be attempted in about 48 hours.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Northern Hemisphere Autumnal Equinox 9-22-13

Hey Space Placers!

Happy Fall at 4:44 p.m. EDT today. The nights are getting longer and we will soon be on standard time so we will really have longer nights. The air will begin to chill at night and we start the three month march towards winter.

Here is a great article that explains the meaning of the season:


Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Deep Impact Is Dead

Hey Space Placers!

NASA officially announced on September 20, 2013, that the historic Deep Impact (DI) cometary mission has been lost after 4.7 BILLION miles and almost 9 years in space and a slew of spaceflight firsts

In June 2005 I co-authored a feature article for Sky and Telescope magazine on Deep Impact with my colleague Elizabeth Warner, University of Maryland. DI was an ambitious mission attempting to do what had never been done before - rendezvous with a comet and launch a second impactor spacecraft to intercept and hit the comet. Oh, by the way, the impactor was totally computer controlled to compute and complete the intercept which it did in spectacular fashion on July 4, 2005. What a mission spectacular that was!

DI was fully functional and had plenty of fuel so the spacecraft was sent to flyby another comet and was used to carry out observations of stars and exoplanets. DI returned about 500,000 images and a treasure trove of data. DI literally rewrote the book on cometary interiors and composition.

Read More About the Mission Highlights and Results:

DI was scheduled to take pictures of Comet ISON and the community was looking forward to seeing these but that data is lost.

Thank you DI for your service - we will miss you.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, September 20, 2013

Bright Northern Virginia Fireball September 19

Hey Space Placers!

Saw my first fireball in quite a long time last night at 7:32 p.m. EDT here in Northern Virginia.

It was still strong twilight so the brightness was diminished somewhat but I still estimated it to be about -10 or about the brightness of the First Quarter Moon. Tough to estimate real brightness when it is still pretty light out.

The fireball was very compact but was bright white. There was no sound or detonations. It went from west to east and it was nearly overhead when I saw it - I actually saw the point of it starting but could not see the end point due to trees blocking my view.

I and about 20 others made a report to the American Meteor Society -

Sky Guy - Want to See More of them in VA

Methane-less Mars

Hey Space Placers,

   The results are in from Mars and Curiosity says Mars is Methane-less - my words, not hers.

  This is a surprise and a disappointment. Surprise because previously reported data from US and International scientists had detected Methane and a disappoint as the presence of Methane could be an indicator of life. These previous data sets came from observations made from orbit and Earth.

Curiosity is capable of detecting low levels of Methane and the absence of such detection means that Mars has very little Methane. Read More About It Here:

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Inside the Milky Way Galaxy in 3D

Hey Space Placers!

Saw Antares-Cygnus from Northern Virginia and the Harvest Moon last night AND this morning. Both were great sights. Did you know that when the Moon sets in the West that it is titled nearly 90 degrees from the view we have when it rises? Fun to see the Man in the Moon, or Woman, or Rabbit, tilted - it's like they are laying down after a long night. It's caused by the rotation of the Earth away from the direct alignment with the Moon when it rises in the East. It is always most pronounced at Full Moon near the equinoxes.

Anyway, here's a cool video that shows what the interior of our Milky Way looks like. Read the background info and then marvel at what data presentation can provide as you watch the video -

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 9-18-13 Harvest Moon

Hey Space Placers!

Well, if you get to see the Antares Cygnus resupply launch tomorrow - see my previous post, why not look for the Full Harvest Moon at sunset?

This is the Full Moon that occurs nearest to the Autumnal Equinox for the Northern Hemisphere which in 2013 is September 22. In North America the Moon is Full on the night of the 18th-19th.

When you see the Full Harvest Moon rising with the shorter amount of daylight, and if you are not in a light polluted viewing location, you can see why farmers of old welcomed the extra light. They were able to bring in the harvest by the light of the Full Moon.

The effect is best experienced if you are near a field of corn or wheat and see the moon light falling upon the landscape. The smell of the air is a harbinger of fall and soon the smell of leaves and the Earth will fill your lungs.

Enjoy the view of the hopefully golden-yellow orb of the Harvest Moon. It will be in the east awaiting your gaze at sunset.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 9-18-13 Antares Launch

Hey Space Placers!

Another historic launch from NASA's Wallops Island Flight Facility in Virginia.

This time it is a day time launch of a resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch will be visible along the U.S. East Coast with launch scheduled for 10:50 a.m. EDT.

More details on the ISS Antares Cygnus resupply mission, the first for Orbital Sciences Corporation, based in Dulles, VA, is here:

Viewing details are here:

Good Viewing!

Sky Guy in VA

New Lunar 360 View Video

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the new video that shows a 360-degree view of our Moon. It was compiled using images from Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter.

Pretty awesome:

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, September 16, 2013

ISS Lightning Studies

Hey Space Placers!

Here is an interesting story, especially if you like weather, specifically lightning. NASA has sent an instrument called "Firestation" to the International Space Station (ISS) that was installed by the station's robotic arm, that will observe and gather data on lightning above the cloud tops.

Firestation - NASA

Scientists have discovered that a lot goes on above the clouds when lightning goes off. Strange red and blue light events, called sprites and elves respectively as well as Terrestrial Gamma-ray Flashes (TGFs), have been documented. In fact, during some of these TGFs the Earth mimics a supernova event by the production of powerful TGFs.

These phenomena are not well understood and Firestation is the perfect answer to get more data. ISS flies over many thunderstorms as she makes her way around the world 16 times a day. With Firestation attached to the ISS it will be able to detect and record these events.

It is pretty amazing that the most powerful events we see in the Universe are mimicked right here on Earth in our cloud tops. This should be interesting to see what Firestation finds out during the 1-year mission length.

Read More About It:

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, September 14, 2013

My Thoughts on Starship Voyager 1

Hey Space Placers!

Wanted to share my thoughts with you on Starship Voyager 1.

“Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Voyager 1. Her continuing mission is to boldly go where no human has gone before.” 

To “Star Trek” fans these words will have a familiar ring but instead of “Enterprise” it is the starship Voyager 1 we are talking about. That my dear reader is a historic substitution. 

NASA officially announced on Thursday, September 12, 2013, that the 36-year old Voyager 1 spacecraft had crossed into interstellar space on August 25, 2012. The delay in the announcement was due to the scientific process taking its time to gather, check and re-check data to make sure of the resultant findings. I have little doubt that historians of science will be studying this watershed moment of human history in great detail.

This spaceflight first takes its place right next to Apollo 11’s landing on the Moon in terms of historical significance, technical achievement and in my opinion, “Wow factor”. For Voyager 1 to operate in deep space for all of these years using 1960‘s and early 1970’s technology and for Earth to maintain two way radio communications across nearly 12-billion miles of space - it takes 17 hours for Voyager 1’s signal to reach us - is simply amazing. 

And, when you really think about it, Voyager 1 is amongst the stars of our Milky Way Galaxy having left the influence of our star, the Sun. 

Some headlines have stated that Voyager 1 has left the solar system but the NASA announcement was very precise in saying that it had entered interstellar space. Is there a difference? To me there is and obviously to NASA as well as defined here

The distinction lies in how you define the solar system. This is not unlike the controversy as to whether Pluto is still a planet or a dwarf planet. If one considers the Sun and its family of planets, dwarf planets, asteroids and the physical bubble of its influence in space called the heliosphere to define the solar system, then Voyager 1 has indeed left.

But to NASA and others there is a segment of our solar system called the Oort Cloud and it is located very far from the Sun and Voyager 1. The Oort Cloud is a vast sphere of billions if not trillions of comets surrounding our Sun that starts at about 5,000 Astronomical Units (AUs) - an AU is the mean distance from the Earth to the Sun or 93 million miles - from the Sun and is thought to extend out to 100,000 AUs. 

You can get a good sense of scale and where starship Voyager 1 is located in the solar system from looking at this NASA diagram

The debate can continue whether starship Voyager 1 has left the solar system or not - that is an earthly matter. What is absolutely clear is that our ambassador to the stars is out amongst them and will continue to be for eons to come. The nuclear fuel onboard our first starship will last until about 2020 and then instruments will have to be powered down and ultimately communications will be lost with starship Voyager 1.

Sister ship Voyager 2 will enter interstellar space at some point as well to become our second starship, perhaps in several years as she is about 9.5 billion miles from the Sun.

No matter what happens to humanity our calling cards to the Cosmos will roam amongst the stars. Perhaps, just perhaps, one of our starships will be found someday by intelligent beings who will take the golden record that is affixed to them and figure out the supplied directions on how to play it and observe the sights and sounds of the craft’s creator-beings. 

What will they think of us? I think they would have to admire our ability to send a craft, regardless of its level of sophistication as defined by their technology, out among the stars. They would likely marvel at the diversity of life and sounds of our planet and ourselves. They may wonder what became of us or if we will ever encounter each other as we may be their first proof of another civilization or be just one amongst many.

A radio message was sent to starship Voyager 1 congratulating her on a job well done

I’ll be sending this column to the stars and you can send something too. Send a video or Tweet to our starship via Twitter @NASAVoyager. 

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, September 12, 2013

UPDATED Voyager 1 Now Belongs to the Stars

Hey Space Placers!

UPDATE: Listen to interstellar space:

Voyager 1 has now been officially determined to be in interstellar space and may have been for the past year.

NASA held a news conference today to make the announcement about the 36 year-old spacecraft that is now over 12-billion miles from the Sun.

You can Read More About It Here:

This is a milestone that is singularly unique in the whole history of humanity. Voyager 1 and her sister ship Voyager 2 in possibly 3 or so years, will roam amongst the stars of the Milky Way Galaxy. Conceivably they could outlast their makers in terms of time.

The Voyagers have enough nuclear fuel to operate certain instruments and their radios to stay in contact with Earth through at least 2020. Their unique voyages of exploration will continue to expand our knowledge of, and our presence in, interstellar space.

This is the good part of what humanity can do and why we need space exploration.

Sky Guy in VA

LADEE Launch Frogonaut

Hey Space Placers!

This photo has gone viral as it shows a frog flying at launch of LADEE. I just hope our fine amphibian friend is OK.

Sky Guy Loves Frogs in VA

Rock Comet

Hey Space Placers!

A ROCK COMET?  That is what astronomers are stating they have confirmed the Sun grazing Phaethon - formerly an asteroid behaving at times like a comet  - to be using NASA's STEREO spacecraft.

Using STEREO which consists of two spacecraft that observe the Sun from different angles, including the far side of the Sun as seen from Earth, astronomers observed a tail. Previous attempts to capture Phaethon in the act of having a tail failed because until STEREO, researchers could never observe the space rock as it was too close to the Sun.

STEREO caught Phaethon's tail during a close pass to the Sun as can be seen in the photo above. Researchers think that during these close approaches to the Sun the rock on the surface literally gets too hot crumbles into dust much like desert mud flats. The pressure from the Sun then causes this loose material to form the tail that is observed.

This also helps explain what fuels the Geminid Meteor Shower each December. This material from the Rock Comet flows out into space where it intersects the Earth's orbit each December giving us the great show of "falling stars".

Phaethon is believed to definitely be a 3 mile-wide asteroid due to the shape of its' orbit. But it does behave like a comet making it another addition to our solar system zoo.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

NASA To Update Asteroid Initiative on 9-11-13

Hey Space Placers!

On Wednesday, September 11, at 3 p.m. PDT, NASA is going to provide an update on the Asteroid Initiative - the mission concept to capture and redirect an asteroid. The discussion will be streamed for the public.

NASA will also provide information on the 96 ideas accepted for further review out of the more than 400 submitted following its request for submissions.

Read More ABout It:

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, September 9, 2013

LADEE Update and New NASA Instagram

Hey Space Placers!

LADEE is A-OK. The issue with the spacecraft's reaction wheels has been resolved and the mission is proceeding as planned. Get the latest updates on Twitter - LADEE @NASALADEE - and

Speaking of social media, NASA has established an Instagram account. Here are portions of NASA's press release:

NASA is launching an official Instagram profile that will take its fans on an
out-of-this-world journey through images of Earth and beyond.

"We're constantly looking to expand our social media portfolio to include
tools that will best tell NASA's story of exploration and discovery," said
NASA Press Secretary Lauren Worley. "Instagram has a passionate following of
users who are hungry for new and exciting photos. We believe we have some of
the most engaging images on and off the planet -- and we can't wait to
engage with Instagrammers."

Aeronautics, astrophysics, Earth science, human spaceflight and more, the
NASA account will provide a comprehensive view of the agency by sharing new
and historic images and videos.

The first NASA posts will highlight the scheduled launch of the agency's
Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE)  from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va.

To follow NASA's new Instagram account, visit:

Instagram complements NASA's strong social media presence on Twitter,
Facebook, Google+, YouTube, Flickr, Foursquare, Reddit and other sites. All
are aimed at engaging and inspiring the public with NASA's unique content.
The agency's primary Twitter account, @NASA, has almost 5 million followers
-- more than any other federal agency. NASA's innovative use of social media
is recognized as one of the best in federal government.

Along with the new official NASA account, the agency's Goddard Spaceflight
Center and Ames Research Center also have profiles on Instagram. To follow,


For a comprehensive list of NASA social media websites, visit:

------------------ End Release -------------------------

Social media is a integral part of today's world of news, information and public affairs. Instagram will allow the visual side to come through as it is dedicated to Internet posting of photos. I have visited the Instagram sites and the visuals are, well, out of this world.

Check them out for yourself.

Social Media Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT - Moon and Venus 9-7-13

Hey Space Placers!

Go outside after sunset tonight and check out the thin crescent Moon and brilliant Venus in the west - it will be an eye catching pair -

The Moon should display Earthshine - that beautiful blue-gray tint that is on the unlit portion of the Moon caused by the reflection of sunlight off of the Earth's clouds and oceans. Use binoculars for a better view.

Sky &

Wave to LADEE on her way to the Moon. I hope you saw my posted video of the launch - it was spectacular and a lot of people saw LADEE on the East Coast. Americans cherish their space program. I hear it every time I speak about it. Over 400 hits and counting on my You Tube video of the launch and all of the hits on my blog about LADEE are proof positive.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, September 7, 2013

LADEE Launch Video

Hey Space Placers!

Enjoy the view!

Sky Guy in VA


Hey Space Placers!

I am operating on just 4 hours of sleep after being up 24 hrs and driving almost 600 miles to see LADEE launch last night. It was so worth it!

The turn out at Wallops Island was the largest in the facility's history according to people I interviewed. There was also a HUGE turnout of the public to Virginia's Eastern Shore to see the launch as well - unofficial rumor had it as high as 30,0000 people - absolutely wonderful. I have some pics of the steady car stream to share later.

The countdown and liftoff went like clock work and lift off was at exactly 11:27 p.m. EDT into a star lit sky. I have a video that I will share with you when I process it.

Much more later - I need some coffee right now.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, September 6, 2013


Hey SPace Placers!

Check out all the links and LADEE graphics here at WTOP

I'm off to Wallops Island and hope to blog to you from there.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

NASA Returns to the Moon

Hey Space Placers!

If all goes well NASA’s next mission to the Moon will solve a scientific puzzle left over from the days of the Apollo Moon flights in the ‘60’s and ‘70’s. Astronauts on Apollo missions 8, 10, 15 and 17 reported seeing pale, luminous lunar “twilight rays” about 10-seconds before lunar sunrise and sunset. Scientists then were at a loss as to what they could be. Read More About It:

NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) - pronounced LAD-EE - is scheduled for launch Friday at 11:27 p.m. EDT. The night time launch will be visible over a wide area with potentially millions of people throughout the Northeast states able to view the launch - see my accompanying blog on how to see the LADEE launch.

Artist's Concept of LADEE Above the Moon
You may be asking why the “atmosphere and dust” aspects of the LADEE mission - a good question indeed. Believe it or not, the Moon has an atmosphere and PLENTY of dust for LADEE to observe and accumulate data on during its 160-day mission, 100 days of which will be dedicated to science operations. 

The Moon’s atmosphere is what scientists call “a surface boundary exosphere” which means that there isn’t much to the Moon’s atmosphere. 

As stated by NASA, “while on Earth each cubic centimeter contains 10,000,000,000,000,000,000 molecules; by comparison the lunar atmosphere has less than 1,000,000 molecules in the same volume. That still sounds like a lot, but it is what we consider to be a very good vacuum on Earth. In fact, the density of the atmosphere at the moon's surface is comparable to the density of the outermost fringes of Earth's atmosphere where the International Space Station orbits.”

Additionally,”the Apollo 17 mission deployed an instrument called the Lunar Atmospheric Composition Experiment (LACE) on the Moon's surface. It detected small amounts of a number of atoms and molecules including helium, argon, and possibly neon, ammonia, methane and carbon dioxide. From here on Earth, researchers using special telescopes that block light from the Moon's surface have been able to make images of the glow from sodium and potassium atoms in the moon's atmosphere as they are energized by the sun. Still, we only have a partial list of what makes up the lunar atmosphere. Many other species are expected.”

Dust permeates everything on the lunar surface as the Apollo astronauts discovered. It is thought that interaction between lunar dust and the intense energy from the Sun may play a part in the Moon’s atmosphere and the twilight rays reported by Apollo crews.

The scientific instruments carried by LADEE should help scientists learn more about the lunar atmosphere, dust and their interactions on and around the Moon. Knowledge gained can be applied to other planets and moons in the solar system which are also thought to have exospheres.

LADEE is also carrying a lunar laser communications system which will demonstrate the use of lasers instead of radio waves for broadband speeds to communicate with Earth. This space first will mark a significant advance in space technology if it works as planned.

Another space first is that LADEE is breaking new ground by utilizing a Modular Common Spacecraft Bus, or body, instead of a customized, one time only spacecraft design. Having this capability allows for cheaper and more efficient building of spacecraft.

LADEE is poised to answer decades-old questions about our Moon using a new spacecraft building design and testing new technology. Be sure to see the launch live or on the Internet. Read More About LADEE:

Sky Guy in VA

UPDATED Sky Guy Viewing ALERT - See LADEE Launch on Friday Night

Hey Space Placers!

UPDATED: Latest schedule from NASA on LADEE public and media events:

History will be made with the first ever launch of a lunar mission from NASA’s Wallops Island, Virginia, launch facility scheduled for Friday at 11:27 p.m. The night time launch will be visible over a wide area with potentially millions of people throughout the Northeast states able to see the launch of NASA’s Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer (LADEE) - see my accompanying blog on LADEE.

A visibility map and instructions on how to see the Minotaur V rocket/LADEE spacecraft in the sky are here:  Be sure to scroll through the graphics to find a state or landmark near you that shows the flight path from that location - very nifty indeed as done by Orbital.

NASA, in partnership with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Accomack County Board of Supervisors and the Town of Chincoteague, has established two viewing sites for the general public. Visitors to the area may view the launch from Robert Reed Park on Chincoteague or Beach Road spanning the area between Chincoteague and Assateague Islands.

As a bonus, the two sites will feature the LADEE launch countdown live and NASA personnel will be on hand to discuss the LADEE mission. In addition, a live broadcast of the launch operations will be shown on a big-screen projector in Robert Reed Park beginning at 9:30 p.m. on the day of the launch. For more information visit

You can also see the launch live at  and on NASA TV at .

Updates on the countdown are available at .

I will be at the launch site and hope to get some great pics and video to share with you of the launch.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Sky Guy Internet ALERT Comet ISON Live 9-4/5

Hey Space Placers!

Amateur astronomers are viewing and photographing Comet ISON in the pre-dawn sky using large backyard telescopes in the 10-inches plus range. The comet is small and has a tail but is difficult to find under less than excellent conditions. Read More About It:

Comet ISON shows a small, compact coma and short, faint tail in this  photo made by Krisztian Sarneczky on Aug. 31, 2013. Credit: K. Sárneczky / Konkoly Observatory
Comet ISON shows a small, compact coma and short, faint tail in this photo made by Hungarian astrophotographer Krisztian Sarneczky on Aug. 31, 2013. Credit: K. Sárneczky / Konkoly Observatory courtesy of Universe Today

The good news is that the comet will improve its position in the sky as time goes on. How bright it will become is anyone's guess at this point.

The BETTER news is that you can tune in live on the Internet to see the comet via Slooh telescopes on the night of September 4-5, 10:30 p.m. PDT, 1:30 a.m  EDT(on the 5th). Here is the link for more details:

I am sure there will be more Internet viewing attempts during the upcoming month but tune in to see Comet ISON now so you can follow its anticipated changes during the upcoming months.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, September 2, 2013

Oldest Solar Twin Found

Hey Space Placers!

For those of you in the U.S. Happy Labor Day!

I tell my audiences that stars are like people. They come in all sizes and colors, they are born, they produce "offspring" in the form of planets, they live, they die.

Doctors have used twins to study human health because you can learn a lot from following the course of the lives of each of them to see how they age, what happens to them and then apply that knowledge to other humans.

Astronomers do the same thing in their study of stars. They are classified according to their masses relative to our own Sun which determines their temperature, color, longevity and manner of death. They also search for stars that are identical to our star, the Sun, so they can learn more about the Sun.

It was recently announced that a solar twin had been discovered that is 8.2 billion years old as compared to our Sun's age of 4.6 billion years. HIP 102152 is in the constellation Capricornus and is 250 light years away. The youngest solar twin is 18 Sco located in the constellation Scorpius and is 2.9 billion years old.

Having two solar twins at younger and older ages provides a backdrop to our Sun that astronomers can use to interpret what is going on in our Sun now and what will occur in the distant future. 

The Sun will continue to shine for about 5 billion more years and then will begin to end its life. It will swell to about 100 million miles - possibly engulfing the Earth but definitely ending all life as the oceans and atmosphere will boil away and the surface likely will become molten. The Sun will become a vast shell of gas and dust, called a planetary nebula, puffing away the majority of its outer layers to reveal its dead core - a white dwarf star.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, September 1, 2013

NASA Discovers Mega-Canyon Buried Under Ice

Hey Space Placers!

In my presentations to the public I often tell audiences that NASA does much that is not related to space.

The just announced discovery of a 460-mile mega-canyon buried under the ice sheet of Greenland is a case in point. Flying an Orion P-3B former anti-submarine/maritime patrol aircraft now fitted with  ice penetrating radar, NASA's Operation IceBridge that studies polar ice just announced the discovery.


The canyon is larger than the well known Grand Canyon and was discovered after decades of radar data was put together to reveal the giant structure. The canyon is thought to be similar to a river channel and predates the Greenland ice sheet.

Polar ice studies will continue and who knows what else will be discovered. 

Sky Guy in VA