Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Plants Aboard ISS

Hey Space Placers!

We are getting really socked by rain here in VA. Weather has been deadly and awful in the mid-SE-Atlantic region.

Plants are getting LOTS of water here in VA but how do they grow and thrive on the International Space Station (ISS). You have to read the fascinating tale of plant growing on ISS.


Monday, April 28, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

Tune in on the Internet at Slooh to view the first solar eclipse of the year taking place down under. Coverage begins 4/28/14 at 11 pm PDT/2 am EDT.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Hey Space Placers!

NASA just announced a new addition to the Sun''s neighborhood:

"NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) and Spitzer Space Telescope have discovered a dim, star-like body that surprisingly is as frosty as Earth's North Pole. This "brown dwarf" is only 7.2 light years away, making it one of the sun's nearest neighbors."

As you can see in the diagram WISE 0855-0714 joins other known systems and is the fourth-closest to our Sun at 7.2 light years. 

Because it is a brown dwarf, this newest addition is a failed star. That is it lacks the necessary mass to sustain nuclear fusion as stars do. In fact this brown dwarf is a rather chilly place ranging in a temperature  of -54 to 9 degrees F. Weighing in at 3 to 10 times the mass of Jupiter astronomers think it is one of the lowest mass brown dwarfs known.

I have little doubt that more surprises and discoveries await us in our neighborhood, especially when James Webb Space Telescope is launched in 2018.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, April 25, 2014

HST Celebrates 24th Year in Orbit

Hey Space Placers!

The Hubble Space Telescope (HST) celebrated 24 years in orbit yesterday, April 24th. Hard to believe it has been that long but 700,000+ images takes years to acquire.

A new HST photo that shows a cross section of the Universe in terms of galaxies was released on April 17 and it is amazing. You have to go the link to see the larger picture and view it in a dark room to get a sense of what you are seeing. The background article is necessary to read if you want to learn some of the fascinating science behind the pic but the image is an inspiring view of our Universe.

If you are ever in Washington DC you have to see the full scale mockup of HST and two of its instruments on display in the Air and Space museum. The addition of the instruments was to commemorate HST's anniversary.

Only then can you gain a true appreciation of the size of HST and what it took - the space shuttle - to put it in orbit and also repair/upgrade HST through these past 24 years.

HST has a few more years left before it reenters the Earth's atmosphere. It will be replaced by the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) scheduled for launch in 2018. I will be visiting Goddard Space Flight Center in June to see JWST and interview the people putting the telescope together. I'll have much more on JWST after that.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Sky Guy VIEWING ALERT!! Pre-dawn 4-25-14 Moon & Venus

Hey Space Placers!

The waning crescent Moon will join Venus in the predawn south-eastern sky for a pretty match up 4-25-14.

Venus with the Moon at dawn

The Moon will have Earthshine - the dark of the Moon illuminated by the reflection of sunlight off of Earth's oceans and clouds.

This is a good photo op - use a tripod to take a time exposure.

Wishing you clear skies!

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, April 23, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

Check out my 4-22-14 WBAL radio interview regarding the B612 Foundation press conference. Make sure you see the video as well.

I'll have more this weekend on B612 Foundation and asteroids as I will be doing a column on the subject.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, April 22, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

I'm BAAAACCCCCCKKKK! Just got back from an amazing 4,520nautical mile transatlantic crossing aboard the beautiful Oceania Cruises' M/S Riviera. I will be getting back to daily blogs and want to say hello to new viewers from the Riviera!

Today is Earth Day. To me nothing makes you appreciate the Earth more than being at sea which of course covers over 70% of our planet.

Seeing the ocean and the sky meet at the horizon with either a Full Moon or Sun rising is mesmerizing as you can see in these pics.

This pic shows the Full Moon rising in the Atlantic 12 hours before it was totally eclipsed by our planet's shadow which you can see as the dark band above the horizon. The pinkish colored band above it is called the 'Belt of Venus'. Both are caused by the setting of the Sun directly opposite from this view.

This pic was of Easter sunrise in the Mediterranean Sea.

Ours is a beautiful and glorious planet that we have to take care of. The health of the planet directly impacts ours.

Sky Guy Back in VA

Friday, April 18, 2014

Kepler Discovers First Earth-Size Planet In The 'Habitable Zone' of Another Star

Hey Space Placers!

Big News From NASA:
NASA Science News for April 17, 2014Using NASA's Kepler Space Telescope, astronomers have discovered the first Earth-size planet orbiting a star in the "habitable zone" -- the range of distance from a star where liquid water might pool on the surface of an orbiting planet.

Sky Guy Enroute to Morocco

Tuesday, April 15, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

From NASA:

Text & Images:

NASA’s Cassini spacecraft has documented the formation of a small icy object within the rings of Saturn that may be a new moon, and may also provide clues to the formation of the planet’s known moons.

Images taken with Cassini’s narrow angle camera on April 15, 2013, show disturbances at the very edge of Saturn’s A ring -- the outermost of the planet’s large, bright rings. One of these disturbances is an arc about 20 percent brighter than its surroundings, 750 miles (1,200 kilometers) long and 6 miles (10 kilometers) wide. Scientists also found unusual protuberances in the usually smooth profile at the ring’s edge. Scientists believe the arc and protuberances are caused by the gravitational effects of a nearby object. Details of the observations were published online today by the journal Icarus [].

Will post eclipse pic from sea tomorrow!

Sky Guy Headed to Funchal, Portugal

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing Alert: Red Planet, Red Moon

Hey Space Placers!

Read my story on Mars and the Total Lunar Eclipse on Mon-Tues of next week:

Sky Guy in the Atlantic Headed for Funchal, Portugal

Friday, April 11, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

A new and powerful technique for measuring the distance to a key “standard candle” called Cepheid variable stars was just announced:

“Using NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope, astronomers now can precisely measure the distance of stars up to 10,000 light-years away -- 10 times farther than previously possible.”

“Astronomers have developed yet another novel way to use the 24-year-old space telescope by employing a technique called spatial scanning, which dramatically improves Hubble’s accuracy for making angular measurements. The technique, when applied to the age-old method for gauging distances called astronomical parallax, extends Hubble’s tape measure 10 times farther into space.”

This capability will help astronomers further refine the rate at which the Universe is expanding. This in turn will help in the search for Dark Energy, the force that is causing the expansion to accelerate.

Read More About It Here:

Sky Guy Getting Underway From Bermuda

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Evidence for HUGE Ancient Impact

Hey Space Placers!

Take a look at this just released info on a HUGE ancient impact.


Sky Guy in Bermuda

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Sky Guy VIEWING ALERT!!!! 4-8-14 Mars at Opposition

Hey Space Placers!

Mars is at opposition tonight, 4-8-14. See details at

Get out and see bright Mars in the SE as it gets dark.  The bright blue star Spica keeps the Red Planet company.

Sky Guy in the Bermuda Triangle

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!!! Moon & Jupiter 4-6-14

Hey Space Placers!

Be sure to check out the Moon and Jupiter tonight.

Mars will be rising in the SE after it gets dark.

Sky Guy In VA

NASA LADEE Mission To End

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's latest mission to the Moon, LADEE - Lunar Atmosphere and Dust Environment Explorer - is coming to an end. See my previous blogs in September 2013 for background on the mission and the actual launch.

NASA has a contest you can enter to try and guess the actual date and time that LADEE will impact the Moon.

The spacecraft will continue to make observations up until impact and will endure 4 hours of cold during the upcoming total lunar eclipse on April 15.

LADEE has been very successful with gathering a wealth of data that should tell us a lot about the Moon's atmosphere and dust environment.

I will be leaving tomorrow on my cruise aboard Oceania Cruises' ms Riviera for 14 days of giving astronomy/space exploration lectures and hosting star parties. I will try my best to blog daily so keep checking.

Sky Guy Heading To Sea

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT - Mars

Hey Space Placers!

Sorry I missed you yesterday but it was a full day of moving as I am relocating in Virginia. I will be heading out to sea on Monday, April 7 from Miami to Barcelona, Spain aboard Oceania Cruises'
ms Riviera.


Photo Oceania Cruises

You have to get out and see Mars as it is the brightest we have seen the Red Planet in 6 1/2 years - December 2007. Simply stated, Mars dominates the sky in the southeast (mid-latitudes Northern Hemisphere) right after sunset starting on the 8th when the Sun, Earth and Mars are in a single line as seen from the Sun. This is called opposition.

Mars will get brighter until April 14th when it will be closest to our planet. After that Mars will still remain at about the same brightness for the rest of April as it retreats from us. If you have a telescope of any size now is the time to get it out and look at the Red Planet. In 4 inches or larger Mars will reveal some detail of its surface and polar cap.

Mars as photographed in 2012 by S&T imaging editor Sean Walker with a 12.5-inch Newtonian telescope. Click image for higher resolution.
© Sky & Telescope: Sean Walker

Weather and schedule have prevented me from seeing Mars in my telescope. BUT, I have never seen Mars at sea when at opposition so I am really hoping for clear skies in Bermuda as Mars peeks above the horizon to get a possible once in a lifetime picture that I can share with you.

Sky Guy in Sunny VA

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Saturn Moon Has Deep Ocean

Hey Space Placers!

Based on observations by NASA's Cassini spacecraft at Saturn and some excellent science it is now becoming clear that Saturn's moon Enceladus has a deep underground ocean.

This diagram illustrates the possible interior of Saturn's moon Enceladus based on a gravity investigation by NASA's Cassini spacecraft and NASA's Deep Space Network, reported in April 2014. More

Sky Guy Going To Sea in 4 Days

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

Here's some not so good news. You may not have known that NASA is a big contributor to our knowledge of climate, the conditions at the poles and worldwide weather.

NASA just released a study done with the National Snow and Ice Data Center that states that the Arctic Melt Season is growing by several days each decade. The last four decades have seen a sharp decline in Arctic ice and scientists stated that is possible we could see an ice free Arctic Ocean in the summer sometime this century.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A GREAT Article Behind the Discovery of Gravitational Waves

Hey Space Placers!

Take some time to read this GREAT article about the background and scientific personalities involved in the recently announced gravitational waves discovery - see my blogs of March 16 & 17.

The behind the scenes story makes the science aspects all the better.

Sky Guy in VA