Monday, March 31, 2014

HST Sees Mars Bound Comet

Hey Space Placers!

Enjoy this great view of Comet Siding Spring as seen by Hubble Space Telescope (HST) and released by NASA on 3/27/14:



NASA is VERY interested in this comet as on 10/109/14 it will pass only 84,000 miles from Mars! Man, that is CLOSE!

NASA and the European Space Agency (ESA) have spacecraft orbiting Mars and there is concern that the dust and ice particles coming off of the comet could impact, literally, them.

The pictures above show the comet as first seen on the left and then after processing on the right designed to try and see details in the coma or gaseous envelope that surrounds the nucleus or solid core of the comet. The processed image shows two jets coming off of the nucleus which will allow for tracking to determine a great deal about the nucleus.

Stay tuned as Comet Siding Spring gets closer and closer to Mars!

Sky Guy in Finally Sunny VA

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 3-30-14 Mars & Spica

Hey Space Placers!


Tonight make sure you go outside at 9:30 p.m. local and face east. Grabbing your eye's attention will be the rust red-orange of bright Mars and the cool blue of the star Spica as they will be in a few degrees of one another. The two will provide a gorgeous color contrast and a bit of astronomical contrast as well - planet and star.

Mars and Earth are moving closer to one another by the minute, literally, by about 200 miles. This will continue, along with Mars getting brighter in the sky until April 14th when Mars will make its closest approach to Earth for this orbital cycle. Mars will be 57,406,300 miles away at closest approach.

When the outer planets - those beyond Earth - line up directly opposite the Sun and Earth they are said to be in opposition.  Opposition for Mars occurs on a roughly 26 month cycle and occurs on April 8th. On that dat the Red Planet will rise in the east at sunset and be visible in the sky all night.

Tonight Mars will be a little over 5 light minutes away which means that when you look at Mars the light you are seeing left the planet a little over 5 minutes earlier and has travelled at 186,000 miles per second, the speed of light, to reach us.

NASA launches missions to Mars based on this 26 month cycle to take advantage of the closer distance between the two planets. The latest mission to the Red Planet, MAVEN, was launched last November and will arrive in September 2014.

By contrast, Spica, the 15th brightest star in the night sky is 250 light years distant, so its light left in 1764. Spica is 2,300 times brighter than our Sun. Spica is the brightest star in the constellation Virgo.

The orangish-rust color of Mars and blue of Spica will be pretty to see. You will also be able to gain an appreciation for the distances involved when looking at the night sky.

Be sure to watch Mars brighten and move in the sky over the next few weeks.

Sky Guy in CLOUDY, COLD AND WET VA

Friday, March 28, 2014

2-For-1: Moon & Mars

Hey Space Placers!

With it is looking like winter is FINALLY dead and gone I want you to circle April's calendar on the 14th and 15th.

That is when Mars will be at its closest approach to Earth for this opposition season and the Moon will be totally eclipsed.

Here are two great links for your reading pleasure:

http://phys.org/news/2014-03-opposition-mars.html

 http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2014/27mar_tetrad/

I will be at sea in the Atlantic for both of these events on board Oceania's ms Riviera and look forward to seeing them in the dark that only the sea can provide. Here is our itinerary - maybe you can join us!

I saw the December 2010 Total Lunar Eclipse and the Geminids aboard Holland America's Zuiderdam and it was wonderful.

If you haven't been on a cruise you owe it to yourself to take one and the transatlantic crossings are great if you like being at sea.

Enjoy Spring!

Sky Guy in Finally Warming Up VA

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Solar System Surprises

Hey Space Placers!

We got two solar system surprises yesterday with the announcement that an asteroid has a dual ring system and the discovery of a far flung dwarf planet.

Pretty amazing that an asteroid could develop a dual ring system as we previously only knew of  the planets Saturn, Jupiter, Uranus  and Neptune having ring systems.  Chariklo is a 250 km wide asteroid that orbits between Saturn and Uranus and is part of a group of asteroids known as Centaurs.

Ring system of Chariklo - ESA
Centaurs are intriguing as there are an estimated 44,000 of them and they have been observed to behave  as comets as well as asteroids. The ring system around Chariklo was discovered when the asteroid passed in front of a star and astronomers observed multiple instances of the star being blocked (occulted) by not only the body of the asteroid but a ring system as well. This was the same way that the ring system of Uranus was discovered.

The other big announcement was about a new dwarf planet called 2012 VP113 being discovered by ground based telescopes. The discovers are calling this dwarf planet Biden because of the "VP" in the original designation of their find but the true name will have to await official designation.

This 280 mile-wide dwarf planet is twice as far from the Sun as Pluto and beyond Sedna - the previously known farthest dwarf planet. It is pinkish in color covered with frozen methane and water. The discovers think there is a possibility that even larger objects could be "out there", perhaps even the size of Earth or MArs.

These images show the discovery of 2012 VP113 taken about 2 hours apart on Nov. 5, 2012. The motion of 2012 VP113 stands out compared to the steady state background of stars and galaxies.

Image Credit: 
Scott Sheppard/Carnegie Institution for Science
Read More About It.

The bottom line is that we are continuing to discover that our solar system is a VERY busy place with untold numbers of comets, asteroids and dwarf planets.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

SKY GUY VIEWING ALERT 3-27-14 5:45AM: Crescent MOON & VENUS

Hey Space Placers!

 Tomorrow morning there will be a beautiful waning crescent Moon at perigee so strong Earthshine will be present. Venus will be close by so this will be an excellent photo opportunity. Mount your camera on a tripod if you can and use a shutter release or timer to reduce vibration. Try ISO 400 to start.

While you are out look for Mars in the SW and get a pic of the Red Planet.

Here's to clear skies and good shots!

Sky Guy in WINTER-LOCKED VA

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Solar System Announcement Tomorrow

Hey Space Placers!

Tomorrow several institutions will be holding a press conference to announce a discovery involving the solar system.

The solar system astronomers may be borrowing a page from the cosmologists who did a similar type announcement last week about gravitational waves.

We'll see what they have to say and share it with you.

If you have clear skies be sure to look at Mars in the SE at about 9:30 pm.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, March 24, 2014

NASA's Newest Manned Spacecraft - Orion

Hey Space Placers!

Read my story about Orion, NASA's newest manned spacecraft here and tune in live at 3:50 p.m. today at WTOP  as we talk about it.

Sky Guy in COLD VA

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Some Pics From Langley

Hey Space Placers!

Enjoy these pics of the Orion Ground Test Article and Langley. Story will be posted soon.






Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Great Day at NASA Langley

Hey Space Placers!

I had a GREAT day at NASA's Langley Research Center in Virginia. I got to see the Orion Ground Test Article (GTA) up close and personal and learned what Langley does - which is very, very impressive. The GTA is used to check design, manufacturing and TESTING of the Orion manned spacecraft.

I took a lot of pics and got much information which will take a bit to put together. I will post a detailed blog tomorrow - I PROMISE. I got back late yesterday and had to watch my University of Virginia Cavaliers survive a March Madness scare from Coastal Carolina which meant a late night.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring Has Sprung!!!!

Hey Space Placers!

Today, March 20, 2014 at 12:57 p.m. EDT Spring (or astronomically speaking the Vernal Equinox) OFFICIALLY and FINALLY arrives for the Northern Hemisphere! Hip, Hip, HORRRRAAAAAYYYYY! For my readers down under it is the Autumnal Equinox or beginning of Fall.

It has been a tough winter for Virginia not used to 4+ feet of snow AND the Polar Vortex plunging temps to being colder than parts of Alaska.

We get our seasons due to the 23.5 degree tilt of the Earth's axis combined with our orbiting the Sun. See this APOD to get a great view of the four seasons from space.

I am hoping for some clear and warmer weather so I can get my 'scope and camera out.

Tomorrow I head to NASA to see Orion!!!!

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Check Out The Moon's North Pole

Hey Space Placers!

You have to check out NASA's just released interactive mosaic of the Moon's North Pole.  It took over four years to make from 10,000+ images from NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO).

You can really zoom in anywhere on the mosaic and see incredible detail within individual craters. I will be looking at this for quite awhile, especially when preparing to observe the northern area of the Moon with my telescope. It will help provide perspective on what I am seeing.

Enjoy!

Sky Guy in CLOUDY AGAIN VA

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT: Moon and Mars 3-18-14

Hey Space Placers!

If it is clear tonight make sure you go outside at about 11 p.m. local time and face the southeast. You will see the waning gibbous Moon keeping close company with a bright reddish-orange "star" just above it.

That "star" dear Space Placers is really the planet Mars. Mars is getting closer day by day to our planet heading for closest approach next month. Mars will continue to get brighter as well so it is worth watching Mars for the next few weeks.

Mars has been in the news lately on several fronts:

Mars Meteorite Contain Evidence of Life?

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter Suffers Glitch

Mars Rover Curiosity Approaches Mount Sharp

And let's not forget this upcoming amazing Mars event:

October 2014 Martian Meteor Shower

Finally, here is a teaser that I will be blogging about soon - "Name a Crater on Mars".

Enjoy the Moon and Mars tonight and if you have binoculars or a small telescope look at the Red Planet. It will enhance the planet's color and brightness. Amateur size telescopes are capable of showing surface detail on Mars and changes that occur night to night. I have yet to get a good night to see Mars with  my own telescope but I am hopeful I will do so soon.

Sky Guy in Snow Covered and COLD VA

Monday, March 17, 2014

First Tremors of the Big Bang Announced

Hey Space Placers!

It is not often that one experiences a large St. Patrick's Day snowstorm of 8", my favorite college basketball team - the University of Virginia Cavaliers - win the ACC Championship and earn a 1 Seed in March Madness AND a monumental announcement about the creation of the Universe all occur in 24 hours!

Hours ago I finished watching the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) press conference online and I have to say that their announcement of the first direct evidence of Inflation and gravitational waves is monumental in our understanding of the creation of the Universe. It has taken me the whole day to digest their discovery and attempt, successfully I hope, to share it with you.

Let’s do a little cosmological background first in order to work our way up to today’s announcement. 

Astronomers believe that the Universe was created in an event called the http://www.nasa.gov/pdf/457651main_PI2_COBE_lauretta.pdf “Big Bang’ that took place 13.8 billion years ago. We do not know what caused the Big Bang and the resulting creation of our Universe to happen, or what, if anything, might have preceded it. Today’s announcement did not shed any light on those questions.

Evidence for the Big Bang has been accumulating for decades and is strongly supported by observations of the residual light from the very early Universe called the http://aether.lbl.gov/www/science/cmb.html Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB). The CMB is visible across the entire sky with specially designed instruments and detectors. The CMB is the echo of when light first appeared in the Universe 380,000 years after the Big Bang and reveals the subtle fluctuations in the temperature and density of the very early Universe that would ultimately lead to the creation of galaxies, stars, planets and us.

The http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/spaceimages/details.php?id=PIA16873 best map to date of the CMB was made a year ago using the European Space Agency’s http://planck.caltech.edu Planck spacecraft. 

But another ‘Holy Grail’ was still missing in our understanding of the Big Bang and what followed in those earliest moments of our Universe. This is what today’s announcement was all about.

A theory called http://wmap.gsfc.nasa.gov/universe/bb_cosmo_infl.html Inflation happened upon the cosmological scene about 34 years ago to help explain some problems with the Big Bang Theory. Inflation Theory states that the newly created Universe, just the size of an atom, underwent a tremendous and space ripping expansion to the size of a football in an instant of time. Or as described today in a http://www.caltech.edu/content/first-direct-evidence-inflation-and-primordial-gravitational-waves  press release by the California Institute of Technology, “the Universe expanded 100 trillion trillion times in less than the blink of an eye”.

The telltale signs of this period of inflation were predicted to be revealed as http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/docs/features/topics/gwaves/gwaves.html “gravitational waves” buried in the CMB. Researchers needed to develop new instruments and detectors to find so called “B-mode patterns” in the CMB caused by gravitational waves. As explained in the http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2014-05 CfA press release, "Our team hunted for a special type of polarization called 'B-modes,' which represents a twisting or 'curl' pattern in the polarized orientations of the ancient light," said co-leader Jamie Bock (Caltech/JPL).
Gravitational waves squeeze space as they travel, and this squeezing produces a distinct pattern in the cosmic microwave background. Gravitational waves have a "handedness," much like light waves, and can have left- and right-handed polarizations.
"The swirly B-mode pattern is a unique signature of gravitational waves because of their handedness. This is the first direct image of gravitational waves across the primordial sky," said co-leader Chao-Lin Kuo (Stanford/SLAC).

B-Mode Patterns in CMB
CfA
The strength of the B-mode polarization signal was considerably stronger than had been expected which is an indicator of how strong the inflation process was. As one team member put it, “we were looking for a needle in a haystack and found a crowbar.”

A small optical refractor telescope at the South Pole called http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/CMB/bicep2/ BICEP-2 brought it all together for astronomers and researchers from 11 different institutions from around the world. The observations were made at the South Pole because it is the closest place to space on Earth in terms of dryness and clear skies, necessary requirements to observe the CMB. Using http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2014-082 detector technology developed by NASA this team gathered multi-year observations during the six-month night at the South Pole and in 2014 began three years of analysis and verification of results which culminated in today’s announcement. 


Although this team is sure of their results there must be independent verification and confirmation of their work by others. This is how science works and as the late Carl Sagan stated, “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof.” Today’s announcement certainly meets Carl’s criteria and if their work is confirmed, we may have witnessed future Nobel Prize winners.

Sky Guy in Snow Covered VA

Sunday, March 16, 2014

UPDATE: Major Discovery Mystery

Hey Space Placers!

We now know what the announcement will be about due to this updated press release:

"The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) will host a press conference at 12:00 noon EDT (16:00 UTC) today to present the first results from the BICEP2 experiment, which measures B-mode polarization of the cosmic microwave background. This finding has major implications for our understanding of the first moments of the universe".

I'll be watching the conference and update you as soon as possible. I do think this is going to be a MAJOR announcement.

Sky Guy in Shut Down Due to MAJOR SNOW VA 

Check this out:


CFA HOSTS MARCH 17 PRESS CONFERENCE

The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) will host a press conference at 12:00 noon EDT (16:00 UTC) on Monday, March 17th, to announce a major discovery.

Video of the press conference will be streamed live beginning at 11:55 a.m. EDT from the link at http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/news_conferences.html

Reporters watching remotely can ask questions of the participants by sending an e-mail to pubaffairs@cfa.harvard.edu. The e-mail should include the reporter’s name and affiliation.

The press conference will take place at Phillips Auditorium, 60 Garden Street, Cambridge, Mass. Reporters who want to attend in person should contact Christine Pulliam at cpulliam@cfa.harvard.edu or +1 617-495-7463. If you will need a parking pass, please include your license plate number.

The related press release will be available here:
http://www.cfa.harvard.edu/news/2014-05


I have no idea what this will be about. But for CfA to use the words "major discovery" is pretty bold. Those in the astronomical community as well as journalists will be expecting just that - a major discovery announcement.

Stay tuned and tune in tomorrow…..I will be.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, March 15, 2014

EFT-1 Launch Moved to December

Hey Space Placers!

I truly enjoyed "Live From Space" last night - I hope you saw it. 1st class hobby NASA, the astronauts on ISS, Mission Control in Houston and CNN.

It was interesting to hear the often repeated phrase of "What we learn on ISS will help us to get to Mars". This is true of course as ISS is the only means we have to learn about the effects of space and microgravity on the human body AND spacecraft for long periods of time.

But to get to Mars we need a spacecraft and rocket that can get us there. That is what NASA is developing in the Orion spacecraft and the Space Launch System (SLS). I have blogged extensively about Orion, SLS and the Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) mission that will test Orion.

NASA announced yesterday, March 14th, that it is moving EFT-1 from the original launch timeframe of September-October back to early December. This is being done according to NASA " to support allowing more opportunities for launches this year.  Completing the spacecraft according to the original schedule will allow many engineers and technicians to continue transitioning to work on the Orion spacecraft that will fly atop the agency's Space Launch System. It will also ensure that NASA's partners are fully ready for the launch of EFT-1 at the earliest opportunity on the manifest."

NASA further stated that Orion and EFT-1 preparations are proceeding.


EFT-1 will be a milestone in NASA's return to manned spaceflight operations.


I can hardly wait.


Sky Guy in VA



NASA 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Watch "Live From ISS" Tonight

Hey Space Placers!

Tune in tonight, 3-14-14 at 8 p.m. EDT to the National Geographic Channel (NGC) for a two-hour history making segment - "Live From ISS".

NGC and NASA have teamed up to broadcast LIVE from the International Space Station (ISS) and Mission Control in Houston, Texas. We will get to see the ISS go through one full orbit around Earth LIVE and from their unique perspectives which has never been done for a live TV audience before.

I am truly looking forward to seeing this and you can to. Get all the background here.

Remember, you can see the ISS with your own eyes by going to this website and finding your city/location. You can photograph ISS by mounting your camera on a tripod and taking a time exposure as the ISS passes.

Enjoy the show!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT Pre-Dawn Summer Sky UPDATED

Hey Space Placers!

Move that body outside before dawn to enjoy a planetary parade and the SUMMER, yes, SUMMER constellations.

With Daylight Saving Time making dawn later it is pretty easy to get up in the predawn hours and step outside to see the sky treasures awaiting you.

Face south and you will see brilliant and beautiful Venus on the left in the East and reddish-orange (and  getting brighter!) Mars on the right in the West. Right in the middle of the two is yellowish-white Saturn.

UPDATE:  I decided to add in Mercury for your viewing pleasure although it will be a bit of a challenge as it always is. Go out about 30 minutes before sunrise and look about two fist-widths to the lower left of Venus you should be able to see Mercury hugging the eastern horizon looking yellowish-white and fairly bright. If you have binoculars it will help. A clear view of the horizon is required as Mercury is low in the sky.

If you have dark skies you will see the summer Milky Way in the South flowing through the constellations of Scorpius and Sagittarius - very beautiful.

Now face the east and look for the Summer Triangle high in the sky. You will see three bright stars forming a triangle - Vega is the brightest at the top with Deneb to the lower left and Altair to the right.

With Spring 7 days away and the cold still gripping much of the Northern Hemisphere, get an early preview of the stars of summer currently graced by the 4of the 5 visible planets.

Bundle up, grab your coffee and enjoy!

Sky Guy in Single Digit Wind Chill VA

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Travel In 3D Through All The Known Galaxies

Hey Space Placers!

Let's take a giant galactic leap from my blog yesterday. Let's travel far beyond our Local Group of galaxies by flying through all of the the known galaxies of the Universe just like the Starship Enterprise would do!

This incredible 3D video shows the actual positions and images of all the known (to date) galaxies in the Universe and was compiled from the 'Galaxy and Mass Assembly' (GAMA) Catalogue. To get the full effect view the video in a darkened room on the biggest screen you have.

Additional research has shown that some areas of the "Cosmic Web" (see my blog from yesterday) that were thought to be void or empty, are in fact populated by small galaxies aligned in 'tendrils' - structure that has never been observed before.

With this discovery astronomers will probably revisit the voids of the Cosmic Web and see what else, if anything they find. It is amazing to me that the structure of the Universe in all of its vastness is so delicate in its form - a web of billions upon billions of galaxies aligned along filaments and tendrils perhaps guided by dark matter and dark energy.

Sky Guy in Crazy Weather VA

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

New Research On Our Local Neighborhood of Galaxies

Hey Space Placers!

New research has given us a good idea of what the galactic neighborhood looks like out to about 34 million light years:

Credit: Marshall McCall/York University
Our Milky Way Galaxy of 300 billion plus stars and at least that many planets plus the larger Andromeda Galaxy are the main spiral galaxies of the neighborhood called the Local Group which extends to about 3 million light years. You may recall that the Milky Way and Andromeda are moving towards one another at a million miles per hour with a merger/collision to occur in about 5 billion years.

The 20 or so galaxies beyond our Local Group are in a narrow 1.5 million light year thick band extending out to 34 million light years across that forms our local cosmic filament structure - The Local Sheet. There are a dozen large galaxies called "Council of Giants" that may have constrained how our Local Group evolved.

The farther out you go from our galaxy the more galaxies we see and the more complex the structure of the Cosmic Web.

Sky Guy in VA


Monday, March 10, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing Alert 3-10-14 Moon Winks Out A Star

Hey SPace Placers!

Tonight, 3-10-14, the Moon get close to a bright star in Gemini and if you are in the right location you will see the Moon cover or occult the star.

Check here to see if you will see the occultation. This can be seen with the unaided eye to an extent but binoculars and a small telescope will give you a much better view.

I was on the road all day so sorry this is late….

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 3-9-14 Moon & Jupiter

Hey Space Placers!

Before and after watching Cosmos tonight at 9 p.m. EDT, Sunday, 3-9-14 (see yesterday's blog), make sure you take in the sky. Taking center stage tonight is the dance of the waxing gibbous Moon - one day past First Quarter - and bright Jupiter.



The best time to see this lovely duo is at 8 p.m. as the two will be at their highest elevation about the horizon. A pair of 7x50 binoculars held steady will show the four main moons of Jupiter and a wealth of detail on the Moon. A small telescope is even better.

When looking at the Moon imagine the Chinese lunar rover Yutu hibernating in the night and NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter flying low over the Moon. Jupiter will have company from Earth once again when NASA's Juno spacecraft arrives in July 2016.

Sky Guy in Warming VA

P.S. Space Placers…….
If you have a BluRay DVD make sure you watch 'Gravity' in a darkened room….you'll be glad you did.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

New Cosmos Series Premieres Sunday in the US

Hey Space Placers!

Mark your calendar for Sunday 9 p.m. EDT - that's right, we will be on Daylight Saving Time in the U.S. - for the premier of the new Cosmos series.

I wanted to get this out a day early so my international readers get a heads up to determine what channel will carry Cosmos in the myriad of countries that visit.

The original Cosmos was seen by over 800 million people following its debut September 28, 1980 on Public Broadcasting and starred Dr. Carl Sagan. He became a cultural icon and the 1st, I believe, mainstream astronomer to connect with the public. National Geographic Channel is broadcasting the original Cosmos starting today, Saturday so check your local listings.

The new Cosmos is 13 parts as was the original and has astrophysicist Neil DeGrasse Tyson as the host. He is easily the Carl Sagan of our time or this generation. I can attest that he has "rock star' status among the young - astronomers and non-astronomers alike.

I thoroughly enjoyed the original Cosmos series and look forward to seeing the portrayal of things we did not know of 34 years ago using today's media productions tools of the trade.

I hope you tune in to the original so you can appreciate it before seeing the remake.

Sky Guy in Finally Warming VA

Thursday, March 6, 2014

UPDATE: Asteroid Disintegration Observed by HST Is A 1st

Hey Space Placers!

UPDATE: Ron Baalke of NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), an expert in all things asteroids and comets, advised via Twitter that ASTEROID 2013 R3 was reclassified as a comet - P/2013 R3 on Sept. 27, 2013. Once again the line between what are comets and asteroids merges; they are probably one in the same in some instances only requiring a change in their environment to change over.

---------------------------------------
Asteroids ruled my blog yesterday and they do today. Asteroid 2014 EC is flying by a bit closer at 36,000 miles at about 4:29 pm EST and newly designated 2014 EF flew by earlier today at about 104,000 miles. You can hear my interview about asteroids on WTOP here.

Hubble Space Telescope (HST) has photographed for the first time an asteroid, P/2013 R3, in the process of disintegrating.


Comet nuclei have been observed to break up approaching the Sun and Jupiter. But astronomers have never seen this happen to an asteroid in the asteroid belt before so it is getting quite a bit of attention.
There are about 10 pieces that have been observed so far.

The asteroid was unusual since its discovery late last year and follow up observations have chronicled the ongoing disintegration. Astronomers have ruled out a collision and some other possibilities. The likely cause is due to the effect of sunlight on the crumbly space rock.

You can read more about it here.

Sky Guy in Soon to be warmer VA


Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Metro Bus SIzed Asteroid to Flyby at 38,500 Miles - Asteroids, Asteroids, Asteroids

Hey Space Placers!

Asteroids are getting more headlines today - 3-5-14 - as 2014 DX110 (don't you love these designations???!!!!!) will pass about 217,000 miles from Earth at about 4:06 p.m. EST. There was another asteroid that flew by at over 2.5 million miles from us today. Both of these asteroids are about the same size or a little larger than Chelyabinsk and have been discovered in the past few days.

You can tune in to watch this flyby here at 4:00 p.m. EST.

What will really get people's attention is the official announcement that just came out as I am writing this blog about the newly discovered asteroid 2014 EC that is due to flyby Earth tomorrow at 38,500 miles - that's very close - at 4:29 p.m. EST. Depending on its composition our atmosphere would likely break it up and possibly meteorites would be produced. It would be one heck of a bright fireball but it will safely pass.

Another asteroid, VE1E9BE is due to flyby later tonight at 100,000 miles although there has not been an official announcement on that yet. This information is coming to me via Twitter and Listserv emails.

I will be on WTOP today at 5:10 p.m. EST discussing these asteroid flybys.

I think people are getting the idea that asteroids flyby all the time and the media is picking up on it. There are still sensational and WRONG articles on asteroids as I spotted 3 major errors in one major news organization's website - used comet instead of asteroid for one error. Another described 2014 DX110 as "Huge" - hardly at only 80-90 feet across. But such headline adjectives sell.

I might have more on this regarding the two close flybys depending on what if any news coverage develops.

Sky Guy in Thawing Out VA



Tuesday, March 4, 2014

NASA Budget Brief 3-4-14 @ 2 P.M. EST

Hey Space Placers!

From NASA:

March 3, 2014
MEDIA ADVISORY M14-039
NASA Fiscal Year 2015 Budget Briefing Now a Teleconference
Because of inclement weather in the Washington area, NASA's Fiscal Year 2015 budget media briefing on Tuesday, March 4 now will be a teleconference. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and NASA Chief Financial Officer Elizabeth Robinson will brief reporters starting at 2 p.m. EST.
Media can participate by dialing into a phone bridge instead of having to be in person at a NASA center.
Audio and visuals from the media teleconference will be carried live on NASA's Internet homepage and on Ustream.
Media who want to participate in the teleconference should contact Sonja Alexander in the NASA Headquarters newsroom at 202-358-1761 or sonja.r.alexander@nasa.gov by 1 p.m. Tuesday.
During the budget briefing, NASA also will take as many questions as possible submitted via Twitter using the hashtag#askNASA.
To listen to the media briefing online or hear the teleconference with visuals on Ustream, visit:
NASA's fiscal year 2015 budget proposal and supporting material will be posted online at 1 p.m. Tuesday at:

Will be interesting to see funding allocations by NASA.

Sky Guy in Frozen & Snow Covered VA

Monday, March 3, 2014

NASA, 'Gravity' & the Twitterverse

Hey Space Placers!

I was launched into the Twitterverse (@SkyGuyInVA) last night during the Oscars and saw1st hand the power of Social Media.

The Oscar show last night was not the best for many reasons BUT Twitter was something to see. The two main threads were the star studded selfie taken at the Oscars that was reported to have beaten President Obama's all time Twitter Tweet and Tweets about 'Gravity'.

'Gravity' nabbed 7 Oscars which is an all time high for a space themed (or any) scifi movie. 1969's '2001: A Space Odyssey' was the last true ground breaker in space related story telling and Gravity was a worthy heir.

In a move of pure social media genius NASA shared with the Twitterverse "#RealGravity" Tweets that showed Low Earth Orbit (LEO) as it really is. The images were remarkable and beautiful beyond description - you felt them as you viewed them.

Each time Gravity won an Oscar NASA would release another Tweet. Astronauts on the International Space Station (ISS) as well as on the ground Tweeted congratulatory messages to Gravity.

When the star studded selfie from the Oscars went out I wanted to send out what I consider to be the best selfie EVER as it was taken over the world:


Astronaut Clay Anderson took the selfie and you could say that the Earth Photobombed (appeared in) his selfie. The response from Twitterverse was gratifying last night but upon sending it out to today (3-3-14) in response to a HuffPost Tweet about the Oscar selfie it really took off with dozens of Tweeters responding by "favoriting" and "retweeting" the image.

Once again this shows me that many people on this planet are space oriented and care about humans in space. 'The movie 'Gravity' brought that out as people could see, experience and identify with space and humans in it through the images of LEO and the superb performances by Sandra Bullock and George Clooney.

NASA using the Twitterverse took people to the real deal or #RealGravity of humans in LEO in a way that only someone who has been there can do. Astronauts Tweeting from space in real time was surreal as were the images.

In 6 months NASA takes a giant leap forward with the launch of an unmanned test Orion spacecraft atop a Delta IV heavy for the Exploration Flight Test-1 mission. Orion will go out to 3.600 miles, a distance designed to test the re-entry capabilities of Orion, orbit Earth twice and re-enter at over 20,000 miles per hour, a speed not seen since Apollo astronauts returning from the Moon.

NASA is building the Space Launch System (SLS) which when combined with Orion can send astronauts to LEO, the Moon, Mars and asteroids. There are a lot of critics that say private industry can do it better than NASA, that we don't need to send humans out in space - let robots do it - that NASA is a dinosaur and is broken.

To all of them I say NASA is the only organization that currently exists that can stave off the extinction of humanity due to a space-related calamity and propel us into a space-based future. NASA is funding private sector space and developing new technology through R&D. ISS is learning about the effect of space on the human body. NASA has sent probes to very planet and is enroute to Pluto. It is not perfect by any means but nothing involving humans is.

I hope you see Gravity or view it again. It is not perfect in its science but it is perfect in its imagery and portrayals. Be sure to look at the real deal NASA LEO images afterwards and make it a point to wave at ISS when it flies over you.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Real Deal Gravity

Hey Space Placers!

As I recuperate from screaming my vocal chords into hoarseness at John Paul Jones Area last night (3/1/14) watching my beloved University of Virginia Cavaliers' Men's Basketball Team clinch their 1st ACC Regular Season Championship in 33 years I am preparing to watch "Gravity".

I know it will not win at the Academy Awards tonight as SciFi NEVER wins at the Oscars - 2001 anyone? As much as I loved the movie I want you to take a look at NASA Goddard's "Real Gravity" photos page to get a sense of the real deal in space…...http://www.flickr.com/photos/gsfc/sets/72157641720644305

Follow me on Twitter @SkyGuyinVA to get all my instant Tweets and info.

Sky Guy in StormWarning Expecting 10-14" SNOW VA

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT! Mars Is Approaching

Hey Space Placers!

In between the unending line of winter storms (another one this Sunday-Monday) and bone chilling polar vortexes we in Virginia have had this hard winter, I had a chance to see Mars last night - 2/28/14 - with my unaided eye.

Mars is fast approaching for its closest approach to Earth which will be in mid-April (I will have more details in a future blog). The Red Planet is easy to see in the south eastern sky after 11 p.m. as it is the brightest "star" in that region of the sky.

What caught my attention last night however was that Mars, a reddish-orange orb in the sky has a similarly colored star, Arcturus, to its far left. Arcturus is known as the "star of spring" as when it becomes visible in the night sky it means spring is not far behind.

Arcturus is the second brightest star in Northern Hemisphere skies, second only to brilliant Sirius which dominates the southern skyline in winter. Overall it is the 4th brightest star in the night sky and is located in the constellation of Bootes.

Try going out at about 11 p.m in the next few nights before the Moon begins to light the sky up and see brightening Mars in the southeast and bright Arcturus on the east. Look to the southwest and you will see the retreating stars and constellations of winter, and that to me is a good thing after this year's winter!

Sky Guy in Another Winter Storm is a'comin' To VA