Sunday, June 29, 2014

6-30-14 Fox 5 WTTG SEGMENT

Hey Space Placers!


Here is my segment on Fox 5 "Good Day DC" 6-30-14

Make sure you get out and see the Milky Way Galaxy this summer!

Here are my Milky Way pics from the show"

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, June 28, 2014

NASA's Flying Saucer Flew Today

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's test vehicle for a new way to land heavier payloads on Mars, the
Low-Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) - see for background - flew today, June 28.

The test was a success in many ways but the parachute did not fully deploy as planned.  The test vehicle landed in the Pacific Ocean.

Embedded image permalink

NASA will hold a live telecon on the test Sunday, June 29 at 1 p.m.EDT.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, June 27, 2014

A GREAT Day with the Teachers

Hey Space Placers!

Summer Milky Way & Lightning Hot Spot
G. Redfern
Spent a wonderful day yesterday with 22 science teachers from various Virginia school districts. They are taking a two week astronomy course hosted by the University of Virginia (UVA) Astronomy Department with Dr. Edward Murphy and Dr. Jennifer Maeng as the primary instructors..

The Blue Ridge Earth Science Collaborative, in conjunction with UVA offered ASTR 6340, "Astronomy Concepts in the Classroom" to science teachers who applied and were accepted.

The course objective is to give teachers a broad overview of astronomy and a basic understanding of the universe that we live in, with an emphasis on topics covered in the Virginia Standards of Learning for grades 4-9.

The group was energetic, interactive and asked really good questions. I gave them my lectures on space rocks and the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater (CBIC). I brought real meteorites for them to see as well as samples from inside the 53-mile wide crater. 

Next week I will give presentations on the future of U.S. Manned spaceflight and the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST). We will also be visiting UVA's Fan Mountain Observatory which I am really looking forward to seeing.

Teachers and parents have such a critical role in children's exposure to science and nature. I have discussed at times in my blog about what it takes to become a professional astronomer. Being with these teachers and the kids last week from the ExxonMobil Bernard Harris Summer Science Camp that visited UVA's McCormick Observatory  was such a joy as they were enjoying learning about their Universe.

One of my primary motivations in my outreach is to provide people of all ages and backgrounds the opportunity to discover that they can understand the Universe they live in. Once they understand that they CAN understand, they are off and running on their personal voyage of discovery.

Read this article and think about anyone you might be able to help along their way. Providing learning and discovery opportunities, a relevant birthday or Christmas gift coupled with words of encouragement can go along way in getting a child started on their way to a STEM-related career.

Once the spark is ignited the results are a joy to see and be a part of……

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

NASA To Launch Orbiting Carbon Observatory Two July 1, 2014

Hey Space Placers!

As I have said in the past NASA is in the weather and climate business.

On July 1, 2014 NASA is scheduled to launch another of its Earth Science satellites, Orbiting Carbon Observatory Two or OCO-2. The first OCO failed to reach orbit so this is the second in the series and that is why it is designated as OCO-2.

OCO-2 will orbit Earth and monitor carbon dioxide levels from manmade and natural sources. This of course has major impact on the planet in terms of climate and heating.

The launch will be from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California.

Read All About Here.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

WTG Curiosity - 1st Martian Year

Hey Space Placers!

Our nuclear powered lab/rover on Mars, Curiosity, is marking her 1st full Martian Year today, June 24, 2014.

What a year it has been for the rover. You can read about it here.

Also check out the cool video.

And what a selfie:

Here's to many more Martian Anniversaries Curiosity! 

On to Mount Sharp…….

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, June 23, 2014

UPDATED Sky Guy Viewing ALERT Predawn 6-24-14 Moon & Venus

Hey SPace Placers!


If you are an early riser be SURE to look at the waning crescent Moon and Venus in the eastern sky before dawn on 6-24-14.

Sky Safari Plus Graphic

This will be an especially beautiful view because the Moon will exhibit Earthshine - the pale light that reveals the darkened Moon and is caused by the reflection of sunlight off our planet's clouds and oceans - and will feature the Pleiades or Seven Sisters star cluster.

Try to take a look at 5 am or a bit earlier. The brightening sky will wash out the view as it gets later.

I will be trying for a pic and you can too by mounting your camera - a digital model is best - on a tripod and taking multiple exposures. You can try your cell phone and tablet too.

Here's to clear skies for us all…..

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Out of this World (Mostly) Apps

Hey Space Placers!

Any space-smartphone/tablet geeks out there?

If so, this is your lucky day. Did you know that NASA has dozens of space related Apps that literally are out of this world (mostly)? I say mostly because some involve planet Earth.

Just about anything space related cane found in NASA catalog of apps posted here.

I have not tried any of them as I do not own a smartphone yet - waiting for the upgrade through my carrier. My bride has the family iPad so I haven't been able to load any of them. But NASA has set the standard for Social Media so I doubt you will be disappointed.

Drop me a line and let me know which one is your have.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Happy Summer Solstice Northern Hemisphere

Hey Space Placers!

Well the longest amount of sunlight for the year has passed and we are now working our way towards winter in six months.

Here is a great write up on today, the first day of summer for the Northern Hemisphere. It is also the shortest night of the year.

Here is a great photo that explains the seasons:

The summer Milky Way is visible when it gets dark and passes from the south up towards the north and is a sight to see in dark skies.

I hope you are able to enjoy summer and get out under the sky.

Wear your sunscreen and watch out for ticks!

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, June 20, 2014

Latest On NASA's Asteroid Mission

Hey Space Placers!

NASA held a live teleconference yesterday on efforts to find an asteroid suitable for the Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and an update on ARM as well.

ARM is due to launch in 2019 and fly to a selected asteroid. NASA is looking at two options in the ARM mission:  Either capture an entire asteroid or remove rubble off of an asteroid,  which will then be placed in lunar orbit for later exploration by astronauts. An asteroid will be selected about 1 year before the launch of ARM.

A leading contender for ARM is the orange spot you see in the picture supplied by NASA. Known as 2011 MD it is about 20 feet across and may be a rubble pile instead of a solid rock. The picture was obtained with NASA's infrared seeing Spitzer Space Telescope over a period of 20 hours of observation. Currently there are 9 asteroid candidates.

This is a good mission that will enable astronauts flying the new Orion spacecraft to rendezvous with and explore the captured asteroid.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Dwarf Galaxies - Champion At Star Formation

Hey Space Placers!

The Universe is ALWAYS throwing us curves.

You would think that the biggest galaxies would be the best at forming new stars. But a new study using the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) shows that dwarf galaxies formed a large portion of new stars early in the Universe.

The decade long study shows that dwarf galaxies doubled their entire mass of stars in as "little" as 150 million years - a mere eye blink of time in astronomical terms. Normal size galaxies would take 1-3 BILLION years to do so.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Happy 5th Anniversary LRO!

Hey Space Placers!

5 years ago today NASA's Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and Lunar Crater Observation and Sensing Satellite (LCROSS) were launched for the Moon.

LRO remains in lunar orbit and is the most data prolific planetary mission in NASA's history having returned over 500 TB of data and still climbing.

LRO has rewritten the books on the Moon and LRO managers have applied to NASA for another mission extension of 2 years. We will know in a few weeks if their request is granted. I hope it is as LRO is healthy and can last for another 8-10 years according to Deputy Project Scientist Dr. Noah Petro.

I was very fortunate to see LRO and LCROSS as they were being built and my pic taken with them is among my most treasured photos. I wrote the feature story on their missions for Sky & Telescope Magazine which appeared in the June 2009 issue.

Remember the Moon Art contest? Well, my selection and prediction as to the winner cam true - the peak of Tycho Crater. To me this is the best Moon pic ever taken and the close-ups and resulting videos were simply breathtaking.

Happy 5th! MT The votes are in, and the winner is… Hint:

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 6-17-14 - 3 Planets At Dusk

Hey Space Placers!

You can see 3 planets in the sky right after dusk tonight at about 9:30 p.m..

Bright Jupiter is sinking into the west and will soon be gone in the Sun's glare.

Mars is dimming but still somewhat bright in the Southwest.

Saturn is in the South sky.

Use my Sky Safari Plus chart to zero in on the planetary trio:

Enjoy the view!

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, June 16, 2014

UPDATED HST To Look For Post Pluto Target

Hey Space Placers!


Here's the first raw Hubble image from our KBO search. We should have our first clean stacks by the end of the day.

Alex Parker HST
That DID NOT take long to get the 1st pic!
NASA's New Horizons spacecraft that is enroute to Pluto was just brought out of hibernation last week and all systems are go for a July 2015 flyby of the last planet of the known solar system (Pluto was a main planet when New Horizons was launched on 2006 - it is now classified as a dwarf planet. It was also the only planet not visited by a spacecraft).

Pluto Flyby of KBO
Because it takes so long to get out to Pluto and budgets are tight for new planetary missions, the Hubble Space Telescope (HST) Time Allocation Committee has decided to conduct a test to see if it is feasible to find a post-Pluto flyby target in an area of the solar system known as the Kuiper Belt. Kuiper Belt Objects, or KBO's, abound in the outer solar system and have never been seen up close.

New Horizons provides the perfect opportunity for a flyby of a KBO and would allow us to learn much about these enigmatic remnants left over from the formation of our solar system 4.6 billion years ago. But in order to accomplish this a KBO target must be found that would permit New Horizons to flyby - and this is no easy feat.

The first step in this post Pluto goal is for HST to look at a section of the sky in Sagittarius. HST will try to find KBOs and if at least two are found in the search area, the Committee will allocate more time for HST to look for a New Horizons KBO target.

This search is no easy task as HST will be literally looking for a dark needle in the proverbial solar system haystack during its search. KBOs are very dim and very dark. A KBO will be spotted in the photographic exposures made by HST and will reveal itself as a stationary pinpoint against the background stars that will be slewed.

Observing time on HST is very precious and astronomers worldwide compete for time. Having HST devoted to this search shows the commitment to solar system research by the Committee.

Here's to good hunting HST! Read More About It here.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Long Read But Worth It

Hey Space Placers!

This is an article from the 6/9/14 issue of TIME Magazine that gives you the inside scoop on Don Yeomans, the head of NASA-JPL's Near Earth Object (NEO) Program. It is worth your time reading about the "Guardian of the Planet".

NEO News (06/13/14) The Man Who Guards the Planet

Don Yeomans and his team at the NASA NEO Program Office at JPL received some great publicity in the form of a special article in Time Magazine for June 9. The full-page photo of Don is also outstanding.

Space is full of potential killer asteroids. Meet the astronomer who stands between you and them.              
by Jeffrey Kluger

You don't want Don Yeomans' job, no matter how appealing it seems. He's an astronomer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, Calif., which is awfully cool. And he's one of the lab's top guys, which is even better. The problem with Yeomans' job is the pressure. He is never really off duty, and his work is very straightforward: he guards the planet. Really. If morning dawns in your part of the world and all is still well, it's on Yeomans' watch. If your city or entire country is wiped out tomorrow, well, there's a case to be made that it's on Yeomans' head.

Yeomans leads JPL's prosaically named Near Earth Object Program Office, charged with the mission of watching the skies for errant asteroids that are always out there, always moving at dive-bombing speed and always capable -- depending on the vagaries of gravity, physics and simple bad luck -- of putting Earth in their crosshairs. After decades of being dismissed as apocalyptic nonsense, the threat from incoming space rubble is at last being taken seriously. Funding is up -- way up -- telescopes and satellites are being assigned to the hunt, and real progress is being made in a cosmic census taking like none before. It's high time.

The dinosaurs could tell you how a serious asteroid hit turns out -- except they can't because they're all dead, thanks to a 6-mile asteroid that crashed off the Yucat√°n Peninsula 65 million years ago, throwing up a globe-cooling shroud of dust and debris that made Earth uninhabitable, at least for them. It's the same kind of event that flattened 830 sq. mi. of trees across the Tunguska region of Russia in 1908 and the same kind that on the morning of Feb. 15, 2013, clobbered Russia again, this time near the city of Chelyabinsk, injuring 1,600 people and damaging 7,300 buildings.

The enormous destructive power of space rocks is due to the enormous speed at which they travel -- and thus the enormous energy they're packing. The Chelyabinsk meteor was 66 ft. wide and exploded with the power of 33 Hiroshima bombs; the only thing that prevented 33 times the Hiroshima damage from being done was that the airburst took place so high in the atmosphere. The Tunguska meteor unleashed 330 Hiroshimas.

Someone has to keep an eye on all that cosmic ordnance, and Yeomans, 72, got the job. What air-raid wardens were in the days of the Cold War, he is in the modern era, except that air-raid wardens never had to shoot down enemy bombers. Yeomans does. He is responsible for figuring out ways to deflect rocks that are headed our way. Despite the deadly seriousness of the work, he treats it with as much sangfroid as he can.

"It's our job to make sure the solar system is well behaved," he says. "Asteroid strikes are what we call low-probability, high-consequence events. If we're not investing in some kind of insurance, one of them, one day, could take us all out."

Keeping Track: 11,000 Asteroids

The world got its most recent taste of what that might be like with the 2013 Chelyabinsk strike -- and a taste too of the hubris of thinking we're too smart to get blindsided that way. On the very day that Russia got rocked, NASA was tracking another asteroid, known as 2012 DA14, which had been getting a lot of press. Part of the coverage was driven by how big the thing was -- about the size of a small office building. But mostly it was the asteroid's altitude. It was supposed to pass Earth at a distance of just 17,200 miles, several thousand miles below the altitude of some of our highest-flying satellites.

That, however, didn't matter. Thanks to its sophisticated sky-watching capabilities, NASA knew where 2012 DA14 was going and knew it would miss, and the agency was using that fact as a kind of case study of how sharp-eyed it had become. "We had the asteroid in the bag," says Yeomans. "I was in Vienna at a conference and was going to talk about it at the end of my presentation. I had a nice graphic to go with it."

But even before Yeomans took the stage, Chelyabinsk was hit. The asteroid sneaked through the same way that fighter pilots can get the jump on the enemy: by flying in from the direction of the sun. Just in case NASA and JPL needed any reminder of how completely they had been sandbagged, they learned about Chelyabinsk in the most proletarian way possible, via Twitter. "That was humbling," Yeomans says, "and instructive."

Yeomans and his team of six other astronomers are currently tracking over 600,000 asteroids, and something new is added to the tote board daily. Every day, we get hit by 100 tons of pebbly debris -- all of which incinerates in the atmosphere -- including at least one basketball-size object. Every eight months something comes in that's as big as a small car.

Most of the objects the Near Earth Object (NEO) office is tracking are detected by one of three telescopes, which are in Arizona, New Mexico and Hawaii. From there, the data is sent to the Minor Planets Center in Cambridge, Mass., where the orbit and size of the objects are estimated. Those findings are then sent to both JPL and a team of astronomers working at the University of Pisa, in Italy, who refine the orbit predictions and estimate the odds of future collisions.

For all the devastation the crack-ups can cause, Yeomans has developed something of a fondness for space rocks. There are no plants on his office windowsill, but there are two large potato-like objects -- both scale models of asteroids. One of them, Eros, which in real life measures 21 miles by 7.7 miles, is a place NASA knows well. In 2001 the agency's NEAR Shoemaker spacecraft landed on Eros, where it remains today. Yeomans turns the model over and over in his hand, then points to a dimple on its side. "It's right about there," he says.

He came to his fascination with rogue cosmic bodies partly as a result of a big win early in his career. In 1986, Halley's Comet was due to reappear, which it had done once every 76 years or so since its first reliably recorded appearance in 240 B.C. But the "or so" part presented a puzzle, and the comet could actually reappear anytime within a five-year window from 1984 to 1989. Predicting exactly when it would show itself and at exactly what point in the sky would not only be worth global astronomical bragging rights -- a little like getting an NCAA bracket entirely right -- but would also help validate modern orbital-prediction methods. By the early 1980s, astronomers around the world were at work on the puzzle. Yeomans, who had come to JPL in 1976 after a stint at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, was part of the scrum. As it turned out, he was the one who called the shot correctly, telling the astronomers running Caltech's Palomar Observatory where they should point their telescopes if they wanted the first look at Halley -- and there the comet was. "That was gratifying," Yeomans says. "That was fun."

But what's gratifying can also be terrifying, a point that asteroid scholars had been trying to make for a long time. Finally, in 1998, Congress agreed to begin allocating funds -- just $4 million per year -- to the business of searching for dangerous asteroids. In 2012 the figure was bumped to $20 million, and since then -- post-Chelyabinsk -- it's been doubled to $40 million, a lot of which will go to upgrading ground-based telescopes and maintaining the NEO Wise satellite, which also searches for asteroids. But already we're a lot safer than we once were.

JPL astronomers have now found and plotted the trajectories of nearly 11,000 so-called near Earth asteroids, defined as those that come within 1.3 astronomical units of the sun. A single astronomical unit is the distance from the sun to Earth--93 million miles. So 1.3 AUs means close, but with a 30 million-mile margin of error. To qualify as what's known as a potentially hazardous asteroid, the object must measure 460 ft. and come within 0.05 AU of Earth -- or 4.65 million miles. Currently NASA knows of slightly fewer than 1,500 of these bruisers. The objective is to project orbital cycles at least a century into the future.

"NASA's plan from the start has been to find the largest of these bodies first -- those 1 km or more," says Yeomans, "and we've found 95% of those." But they've found less than 40% of the 460-ft. class. With the new bump in funding, Congress expects JPL to get that number up to 90%. "By finding them," Yeomans says, "we will have addressed 90% of the remaining overall risk."

A Good Hard Shove?

Of course, the point of the work isn't just to watch all the near misses fly by but also to do something about the ones that are heading our way. Paul Chodas, an astronomer who specializes in asteroid motion and impact probabilities, works both with Yeomans and with NASA's manned space program developing a method to steer an asteroid to the vicinity of the moon and use it as a research base for astronauts. The same system that could be used to move a rock to a spot where we want it to be could also be used to deflect it from a path we very much want it to avoid. Chodas is cheekily aware of those dual purposes. "Asteroids," he says, "are nature's way of asking, 'How's that space program going?'"

The problem is that the engine system he's using in his work is solar electric propulsion, which relies on an exceedingly gentle thrust to accelerate an object gradually. It's a perfectly nice way to go when you have the luxury of time and must be very precise with your steering, but asteroids threatening Earth don't need such tender handling. There has long been talk about using a spacecraft carrying explosives -- either conventional or nuclear -- to simply blow the thing out of the sky. But nobody much likes the idea of launching nukes, and an imprecise blast could merely reduce one very large object to several smaller but still dangerous ones -- turning a bomb into a cluster bomb.

A better solution, Yeomans and others say, is just to give the asteroid a good, hard shove, changing its trajectory a little when it's far away from Earth so that by the time it reaches us, it flies wide -- the way a fractional change in heading when you're setting out to sail east across the Atlantic could determine whether you wind up in Europe or Africa. "Depending on distance," says Yeomans, "you might have to change an asteroid's velocity by only 1 cm per sec."

Such a course correction could be achieved by hitting the rock with a cannonball-like projectile or even a spacecraft. NASA has already accomplished something similar, firing an 816-lb. impactor into comet Tempel 1 in 2005 to gouge out a crater that permitted the Deep Impact spacecraft to observe the interior. The impactor did not affect Tempel 1's trajectory much, but a larger collider -- say, a few tons -- could do it.

The hard fact remains, however, that no asteroid-deflecting spacecraft exists, and it takes time to design one, build it and send it out on its mission. At the moment, Yeomans estimates we'd need a 10-year window between the discovery of a killer rock and deflection if we wanted to avoid disaster.

For now, JPL is working on boosting its observational game and is getting yet more help from Washington. Government surveillance satellites that typically look down rather than up are being reprogrammed to scan for atmospheric flashes that suggest a meteor incinerating itself. Tallying those airbursts will provide a better estimate of how often Earth gets hit and of the odds of more-serious strikes.

Washington has geopolitical interests at stake too. In 2008, JPL spotted an asteroid that had a fair chance of striking northern Sudan and alerted the White House that it should notify the Sudanese -- fast. "They needed to know that this was a natural phenomenon and not something coming from a neighbor," Yeomans says.

In May, JPL conducted a pair of tabletop exercises, or simulations, with both FEMA and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, war-gaming what would happen if an asteroid were discovered this year that was on track to hit us in 2021. A range of experts from spacecraft designers to civil-defense experts to social psychologists worked on problems of deflection and evacuation -- and did so under exceedingly high pressure, with the entire seven-year cycle playing out in a single day. There are more such drills to come, and the U.S. hopes to press other countries to get more involved as well. Yeomans estimates that with the exception of the University of Pisa group, 98% of all detection and tracking work is being done by the U.S. "This is an international problem," he says. "It calls for an international solution."

Actually, it's a bigger problem than that -- a potentially existential one. Not all forms of life succumbed to the dino-killing event 65 million years ago, but the dominant one on the planet did. We have long since become heir to that position. The goal is to avoid falling to that fate.

© TIME  9 June 2014


New Book: The Asteroid Threat by William E. Burrows

Burrows, professor emeritus of journalism at New York University, is the author of several previous books about space from the military angle, includingDeep Black (1988) and This New Ocean (2010). His new book on “Defending our Planet from Deadly Near Earth Objects” begins with Chelyabinsk, and then reviews what we have learned about NEAs and the impact hazard. He is an advocate for planetary defense and urges NASA and astronomers to work with the military planners in DoD and DoE, to create what he calls “the ultimate Strategic Defense Initiative”.

NEO News is an informal compilation of news and opinion dealing with Near Earth Objects (NEOs) and their impacts. These opinions are the responsibility of the individual authors and do not represent the positions of NASA, Ames Research Center, the International Astronomical Union, or any other organization. For additional information, please see the website If anyone wishes to copy or redistribute original material from these notes, fully or in part, please include this disclaimer.

Sky Guy BACK in VA

Friday, June 13, 2014

The Day the Sun ALMOST Blasted Earth

Hey Space Placers!

Happy Full Honey Moon - the Full Moon of June - AND Friday the 13th. A relatively rare occurrence.

In a previous blog I explained solar storms, space weather and their effect on our planet. Just the other day I told you about the Sun's Mini-Maximum that is ongoing. Even though the cycle is weak by historical standards the Sun had three X-Class events bam-bam-bam. The Earth may have a minor geomagnetic storm today as the result of these eruptions.

Here is a story worthy of Friday the 13th and the best apocalypse movies. NASA announced recently that the Sun underwent a solar storm event in 2012 that would have had enormous consequences for us IF it had hit us.

Fortunately we did not suffer this Carrington-level solar event. because of our position relative to the Sun at the time.  We have a fleet of spacecraft watching the Sun so we will have a warning of solar events and hopefully can prepare accordingly.

Enjoy the Moon and warm weather tonight….

Sky Guy Headed Back to VA

Thursday, June 12, 2014

See Pics of 2014 HQ124

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the radar images of the big space rock 2014 HQ124 taken after it flew by at just 3 lunar diameters distance on June 8, 2014 - see my blog for more info.

Check out more pics and a movie on the 1,300 foot space rock here.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Mini-Solar Max

Hey Space Placers!

I am on travel with sporadic Internet - sorry!

Read the latest assessment on our star, the Sun, and how its latest Solar Maximum is really a MINI-Maximum.

This solar cycle we are seeing has the solar astronomers scratching their heads.

Sky Guy On The Road

Monday, June 9, 2014

Lunar Dark Side Mystery Solved?

Hey Space Placers!

Some very interesting lunar news was reported today,  June 9. It concerns the formation of the Moon and how the far side - the "dark side" (so called due to its mystery and not the lack of sunlight) looks so different than the near side.

Pretty interesting reading.

SKy Guy in VA

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Big Space Rock Fly By Today

Hey Space Placers!

A BIG space rock, 800-1300 feet across flies by today at 3 times the distance to the Moon or about 770,000 miles.

The big news to me is that this big boy was just discovered by the NEOWISE spacecraft on 4-23-14. If an asteroid-space rock that big were to hit the Earth it would be large enough to destroy a city.

2014 HQ124 has ZERO chance of impact on this pass. More observations will be made to get better precision of the asteroid's orbit which is now known out to the year 2200.

Efforts will be made to try and observe the asteroid using radar since it is passing relatively close. These observations should show us surface detail and how the asteroid is rotating if it is.

Read more about it here.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, June 6, 2014

See the Latest On Orion - NASA's New Manned Spacecraft

Hey Space Placers!

It has been a busy couple of days with Friday being chock full as well.

Tonight is Astronomy Festival on the National Mall so if you are in the area try to attend.

Tonight I will be at University of Virginia's McCormick Observatory for Public Night.

In the meantime take a look at this latest video from NASA on the progress of building the Orion spacecraft. Simply amazing and inspiring.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

I Am At NASA Goddard Today

Hey Space Placers!

I am at NASA Goddard today for a behind the scenes look at the successor to the Hubble Space Telescope - the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

I will be seeing JWST which is being built at Goddard and meet some of the people involved.

Much more to follow.

Sky Guy at Goddard

Monday, June 2, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

Heard about NASA's "Flying Saucer"? It is a SUPER COOL technology that will allow NASA to land heavier payloads, including humans, on the surface of Mars.

NASA needs a new way to land payloads heavier than its Curiosity Rover, weighing in at 1-ton. You do not want to haul heavy rocket fuel which really won't work by itself in landing on Mars and you cannot rely completely on a parachute so you have to come up with an Entry-Descent-Landing (EDL) system that combines both.

Enter NASA's Low Density Supersonic Decelerator (LDSD) - a design that "puffs up" a large decelerator that helps slow a spacecraft from supersonic speeds which in turn will allow for the deployment of a parachute. Both of these techniques will allow for EDL of heavier spacecraft, including those with humans, onto the surface of Mars.

LDSD is entering into active testing with a launch window that opens on 6/3 (the flight has been cancelled for 6/3 due to weather and will be resked to 6/5) and continues for several days. The mission profile is to take the LDSD "Flying Saucer" up to 120,000 feet via a balloon, fire a rocket to take it up to 180,000 feet, deploy the decelerator to reduce speed and then a newly designed parachute.

In this test our thin upper atmosphere acts like the atmosphere of Mars and allows for a flight test under Mars-like conditions.

Follow along and get more details here.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing Alert 6/1/14 Mercury, Moon & Jupiter

Hey Space Placers!

I plan on getting the 'scope out tonight. You should get outside in deep twilight and look for Mercury in the NW and admire Jupiter and the Moon too.

Mars is still bright in the South with Saturn in the SE as it gets dark.

Wish me luck as I try for some pics tonight.

Sky Guy in CLEAR VA