Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Fall Colors From Space

Hey Space Placers!

For those of you in the Northern Hemisphere that are enjoying the Fall season, here is a really cool pic of the Earth taken by NASA:

Here is the accompanying caption by NASA that explains how we get these wonderful colors this time of year:

A few days after autumn showed up on the calendar in the Northern Hemisphere, it showed up on the landscape of North America. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this view of fall colors around the Great Lakes on Sept. 26, 2014. The changing of leaf color in temperate forests involves several causes and reactions, but the dominant factors are sunlight and heat. Since temperatures tend to drop sooner and sunlight fades faster at higher latitudes, the progression of fall color changes tends to move from north to south across North America from mid-September through mid-November. In late summer and autumn, tree and plant leaves produce less chlorophyll, the green pigment that harvests sunlight for plants to convert water and carbon dioxide into sugars. The subsidence of chlorophyll allows other chemical compounds in the leaves—particularly carotenoids and flavonoids—to emerge from the green shadow of summer. These compounds do not decay as fast as chlorophyll, so they shine through in yellows, oranges, and reds as the green fades. Another set of chemicals, anthocyanins, are associated with the storage of sugars and give the leaves of some species deep purple and red hues. > More information Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz at NASA GSFC. Caption by Mike Carlowicz

Ah, Mother Nature…

Sky Guy in Soon To Be Fall-colorful VA

Sunday, September 28, 2014

Old Water - New Molecule - Water Vapor in Exoplanet = More Potential For Life In The Universe

Hey Space Placers!

Three new research articles show that the conditions for life as we know it here on Earth exist in the Universe.

Research has shown that water is a byproduct of stellar formation.  A significant portion of the water here on Earth has been found to predate the formation of our Sun. We know how old the Sun is and the study shows that a lot of the water here on Earth is older which means that it had to come from the giant gas cloud that our Sun formed from.  We can extrapolate this to other stars and planets that form in the same manner as ours and rightfully conclude that water must be present in those star-exoplanet systems as well.

There is some thought that much of the planet's water came from the impact of asteroids and comets. Each of these left overs from the formation of the solar system were formed from the same gas cloud that made the Sun and the Solar System.

Water Through Time
Bill Saxton, NSF/AUI/NRAO
Astronomers have also found a new complex organic molecule in a gas cloud in our Milky Way Galaxy. This discovery shows that even more complex molecules are awaiting discovery and can form in interstellar space. It is thought that the molecules necessary for life here on Earth could have been deposited billions of years ago by cometary, asteroid and meteorite impacts.

The last article comes from our very own University of Maryland which has discovered water vapor in the atmosphere of an exoplanet 124 light years away in Cygnus, the Swan.

I have no doubt that life exists in the Universe beyond Earth and is plentiful. Obtaining proof however, will be difficult. Life may be found in our own solar system on Mars or on some of the moons that have oceans; robotic spacecraft will be key to such explorations.

We may someday finally encounter a radio signal that clearly has but one possible origin - intelligent life.

One thing we KNOW for certain is this - the formation of stars produces planets - lots of them. You cannot have life as we know without a stable source of energy produced by a star that falls upon the surface of a planet. We have confirmed almost 4,000 planets beyond our solar system and have calculated that each star in our galaxy has an average of 10 planets. 200 billion+ stars equals 2 trillion planets in our galaxy alone and their are 100's of billion of galaxies in the observable Universe.

Life always finds a way on Earth even after great dyings/extinctions and I have no reason to doubt life is any different in the Universe.

Food for thought when you look at the stars Space Placers.

I'll be up at Shenandoah National Park tonight at 9 pm EDT giving another presentation. Hope/Wish you can/could be there.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Mark Your Calendars For Space History

Hey Space Placers!

November 12, 2014. Mark your calendars to tune in that date for watching space history made as the European Space Agency's (ESA) Rosetta spacecraft launches its Philae lander.

The intrepid lander will attempt a landing on Comet 67/P at 'Site J' which I blogged about previously.

This will be a tricky attempt that if successful will give a great view and data on the comet as it approaches the Sun and begins to sublimate or evaporate its surface and volatiles into space. Rosetta will continue to orbit 67/P during this time.

I'll have more as we get closer.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, September 26, 2014

Go Into Space With This Video

Hey Space Placers!

Take a quick trip to space watching this video. It is quite stunning as it is 52 images taken by the astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) and then combined together by Hugh Carrick-Allan, a 3D Animator/VFX artist living in Sydney Australia to make the video.

You'll be glad you took a look ;-)

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, September 25, 2014

New Crew to ISS

Hey Space Placers!

A new crew to the International Space Station (ISS) , Expedition 41, launched safely today. They have LOTS to do in the way of scientific research which is good for all of us here in Terra Firma.

Get all of the details here.

Sky Guy in Still Cloudy VA

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

MOM Makes It To Mars!

Hey Space Placers!

Congratulations to India for their Mars Orbital Mission (MOM) spacecraft safely reaching Mars AND entering Martian orbit. This is no easy feat as the U.S. and former U.S.S.R. can tell you from the destroyed spacecraft that tried.

Here is the NASA Administrator's statement on MOM.

So we now have 4 spacecraft orbiting Mars

NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter
ESA Mars Express

and two operating on the surface

NASA Curiosity
NASA Opportunity

More unmanned missions will follow in the years to come and NASA is taking the necessary steps for a manned mission to the Red Planet with its "The Next Giant Leap" initiative.

The two biggest obstacles to getting humans to Mars are the human body and political will. We will be able to overcome the former with all of the biomedical research being done on the International Space Station (ISS) but the latter is a different story.

Perhaps a truly international collaboration of spacefaring nations will develop to share in the expense and excitement of landing humans on Mars. It is difficult to envision NASA getting the financial backing necessary over a period of a decade or more from Congress unless there is a change within that  deeply politicized body.

NASA is building Orion/SLS which will give us capability of reaching deep space but there is no money for a lander at present. It is possible that there would be a manned orbital mission to Mars to pave the way for the actual Mars landing as NASA did with Apollo 10 prior to Apollo 11. It may be that landing on either of the moons of Mars, Phobos or Deimos would be a good way point for surface operations on the Red Planet - perhaps even providing  useful resources from these captured asteroids.

Humanity must pursue efforts in space regardless of the never ending wars and conflicts that threaten to consume us. Our destiny and very survival depend on it.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

What Is the Difference Between Solar Flares & CMEs

Hey Space Placers!

Want to learn something about the Sun?

WIth the recent solar activity that we have had NASA has published a video that explains the difference between two types of solar activity - solar flares and Coronal Mass Ejections (CMEs).

You can also get more NASA info on the Sun and space weather here.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, September 22, 2014

Update on BICEP2 and Gravitational Waves

Hey Space Placers,

A GREAT night on the mountain at Shenandoah National Park talking about James Webb Space Telescope.

MAVEN made it into orbit around Mars http://www.nasa.gov/press/2014/september/nasa-s-newest-mars-mission-spacecraft-enters-orbit-around-red-planet/#.VCCAnEv3XUk       and


But the biggest space news today is the announcement about the results of the Planck spacecraft's mapping of the dust in the Milky Way Galaxy

These findings are essential to the announcement  earlier this year about the discovery of gravitational waves by the BICEP2 telescope team.

In another blog I  provided a link to a "Nature" article about the discovery.

Now Nature has provided an updated article on how the Planck data affects the BICEP2 results.  

The bottom line is that the Planck data shows that the BICEP2 team made its observations in an area of the sky that contains more interstellar dust than it thought was there. This dust can affect the strength and validity of the gravitational wave signals that the BICEP2 team reported. Their announcement has come under much scrutiny as it should - that is how science works.

The best news is that the Planck team and the BICEP2 team are working together analyzing both sets of data to see if there is still a bona fide gravitational wave signal that has been detected. The results of this analysis is expected in November 2014.

The other good news due to the Planck results is that any team searching for the gravitational wave signal will know where to observe in order to minimize signals from dust.

Be sure to read Joel Achenbach's reporting on this story as he has quotes from scientific notables that lend much to understanding this evolving chapter in our quest to understand the Universe.

More on this story when it develops.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Sky Guy Internet ALERT! MAVEN At Mars 9-21-14

Hey Space Placers!

It's not everyday you can have a live ringside seat to a spacecraft entering robot around another planet.

Tune in tonight, 9/21/14, at 9:30 p.m. EDT on the Internet to follow live coverage of NASA's MAVEN (Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution) spacecraft entering orbit around Mars.

Of course there is a time lag in the distance between Earth and Mars and the feedback to Mission Control will be shared live as it happens. The spacecraft will be on its own to perform all of the necessary actions to slow down and be captured by the gravity well of the Red Planet.

MAVEN will orbit Mars to learn about the atmosphere of the Red Planet and how it has evolved. It also hopes to answer questions about how the loss of volatiles in martian atmosphere has modified the planet.

MAVEN was launched on November 18, 2013 and is expected to explore Mars for at least one year.

God Speed MAVEN…….

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Galaxy Merger Discovery

Hey Space Placers!

Here is another discovery about galaxies and their formation.

The new research shows how galaxies like our own Milky Way Galaxy, a spiral/disk galaxy can merge with another galaxy and produce a disk galaxy in the process. Previously astronomers thought that such mergers would lead to the formation of an elliptical galaxy - that is one without spiral arms.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, September 19, 2014

SUPERMASSIVE Black Hole Found in Dwarf Galaxy

Hey Space Placers!

The Universe never ceases to amaze me.

NASA-ESA Artist's Concept

Astronomers have just announced the discovery of a SUPERMASSIVE black hole (SMBH) that is FIVE times larger than our own Milky Way Galaxy's (MWG) SMBH in a dwarf galaxy 1/500th the size of the MWG. That is impressive.

Astronomers are pretty sure that supermassive black holes (SMBH) reside at the center of larger galaxies like the MWG. Some of these SMBHs are millions or even billions of times the mass of our Sun. It is not known which comes first, the SMBH or the galaxy but it is pretty certain that the two are connected to the lives and evolution of galaxies.

But to discover a SMBH this large in such a small dwarf galaxy only 300 light years across is a major find. The SMBH in M-60 UCD-1 makes up 15% of the dwarf galaxy's mass; there are an estimated 140 million stars in the galaxy.

This discovery will help in the search for more SMBHs in the cores of other dwarf galaxies and may lead to an important understanding of galaxy formation and evolution..


Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 9/19-9/20 Jupiter & Crescent Moon Before Dawn

Hey Space Placers!

The waning crescent Moon and bright Jupiter will be visible near one another for the next few days - 9-19 to 9-20 - in the east before dawn.

The two will form a pretty pair easily visible to city and suburban dwellers alike. The motion of the Moon relative to Jupiter will be obvious over the two days and Earthshine should be present on the Moon. Earthshine is the dark portion of the Moon that is visible due to the reflection of sunlight off of our planet's clouds and oceans. This phenomena was explained by none other than Leonardo da Vinci.

If viewers have binoculars they can see the four main moons of Jupiter as small "stars" just as Galileo did when he discovered them with his crude telescope. Binoculars will also enhance the view of the Moon and Earthshine.

Let's hope it is clear!

Sky Guy in VA

Sky Guy Internet ALERT 7:30 PM, EDT, 9-1-8-14, Debate on "What Is A Planet?"

Hey Space Placers!

Still mad about Pluto's demotion to minor planet status? Want to learn more about the whole "what is a planet" debate?

Tonight at 7:30 p.m. EDT is you chance as the HARVARD-SMITHSONIAN CENTER FOR ASTROPHYSICS (CfA) hosts an Internet debate.

Here are the details from the CfA press release:


In 2006, when the International Astronomical Union (IAU) voted on the definition of a “planet” and booted Pluto out of the club, confusion resulted. Was a “dwarf planet” a small planet or something else? Was a “dwarf fruit tree” a small tree or something else? Almost eight years later, most astronomers and the public are still as uncertain about what a planet is as they were back then.

On September 18th, three different experts in planetary science will present each of their cases as to what a planet is or isn’t. Science historian Dr. Owen Gingerich, who chaired the IAU planet definition committee, will present the historical viewpoint. Dr. Gareth Williams, associate director of the Minor Planet Center, will present the IAU’s viewpoint. And Dr. Dimitar Sasselov, director of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative, will present the exoplanet scientist’s viewpoint.

After these experts have made their best case, the audience will get to vote as to what a planet is or isn’t and whether Pluto is in or out. And just like the IAU, you have to be present to cast your ballot! The results will be announced on Friday, September 19th.

Watch It Live

Date: Thursday, Sept. 18, 2014
Time: 7:30 p.m. EDT
URL: http://www.youtube.com/user/ObsNights

The talk will also be archived on the Observatory Nights YouTube channel immediately following the event.

I look forward to seeing the voting results.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How Many Stars Can We See With Our Eyes?

Hey Space Placers!

Ever looked up at the night sky and wondered how many stars you could see?

Here is a GREAT article that tells you the answer.

And remember, astronomers think there are about 10 planets on average orbiting each star!

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, September 16, 2014


Hey Space Placers!


NASA has announced it has selected Boeing and Space-X for the Commercial Crew Transportation Program.

Get details here.

This is a very important date in American spaceflight history as it sets America on the path to having its own access to space since 2011. The first manned flight for both companies is scheduled for 2017.

Tune in today, 9-16-14 at 4 pm EDT to hear who NASA will select as the winner of NASA's Commercial Crew Transportation Program.

This will be interesting to watch live from Kennedy Space Center, Florida as NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and his senior leaders make the announcement.

This is a MAJOR announcement as it will decide between Boeing, Sierra Nevada or Space-X, or a combination of these three, as to who will win the contract to deliver U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

The selection will allow the winner(s) to go full speed on developing their manned spacecraft for the transportation of U.S. astronauts to Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and ISS. This is a capability the U.S. has not had since the Space Shuttle program ended in 2011.

The U.S. (and the other ISS partners) have had to rely on and pay Russia for seats on the Soyuz spacecraft. The U.S. has been paying about $71 MILLION a seat and tensions over the Ukraine has strained U.S.-Russian ties. There has been no real affect on the operation of the ISS as a result although Russia has indicated it will cease ISS participation sooner than the U.S. desires.

Each of the competing companies has their own design:

Boeing's CST-100 spacecraft is very similar to Apollo/Orion;

Space-X will convert its very successful Dragon spacecraft that currently delivers cargo to the ISS into a manned version;

Sierra Nevada has chosen a spaceplane, the Dream Chaser for its design.

You can learn more about the CCP here.

I personally think that NASA will not put all of its manned access to LEO and ISS in just one basket, especially with this being a COMMERCIAL and not government program like Orion/SLS are. It makes sense to have two private companies available in case one goes under and/or has an accident which would ground U.S. astronauts again. We saw this happen with the Challenger and Columbia accidents and cancellation of the program altogether.

NASA cannot afford such a repeat again. The U.S. has to have its own manned access to LEO/ISS AND the ability to go deep into space which NASA's Orion/SLS will give us.

Watch this and get goose bumps like I did…..

More on this tonight.

Sky Guy with GOOSE BUMPS in VA

Monday, September 15, 2014

Site J For Philae

Hey Space Placers!

The cross marks the spot for Rosetta's Philae Lander - or Site J as ESA calls it (See yesterday's blog). This was one of five sites selected from a larger list that ESA had compiled and studied.

ESA has just announced its selection of the landing site and it will be a combination of safe landing probabilities and high science return for Philae.

The landing will take place in November 2014.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Sky Guy INTERNET VIEWING ALERT 9-15-14 ESA To Announce Comet Landing Site

Hey Space Placers!

The European Space Agency (ESA) will announce on 9-15-14 at 5 a.m. EDT where its Philae lander which is currently attached to the Rosetta spacecraft, will put down on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. ESA will chose the final landing site from 5 candidate sites. The landing will take place some time in November. You can watch the announcement here.

Comet 67/P has no visible ice/water patches on its surface and is darker than charcoal. A NASA instrument aboard Rosetta has made some observations of the comet that can be read about here.

The Rosetta spacecraft took a GREAT selfie:

This is going to be a fantastic mission to follow in the year to come. WIth the Philae lander making observations from the surface and the Rosetta spacecraft orbiting the comet while it swings around the Sun we will get data that will add greatly to our knowledge of these icy leftovers from our solar system's formation.

More to come.

SKy Guy in VA

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Space Weather/Aurora Update For 9/10-12/14

Hey Space Placers!

You may want to follow these links to get the latest on space weather-possible auroras that could be impacting our planet the next few days:



More info on the event:


Hoping for auroras (Northern Lights) in VA as I last saw them in 2004:

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Here She Is - The 1st Spaceflight Rated Orion Built

Hey Space Placers!

Isn't she a BEAUTY!!! The first space-rated Orion spacecraft built:

NASA  Photo
Go to this link to see the full hi-res version and get more information.

We are less than 90 DAYS away from the scheduled launch of Exploration FLight Test-1 (EFT-1) on December 4th.

I can hardly wait. I will be at sea when the launch is scheduled but will be watching on the Internet.

NASA is making steady progress towards getting back into the manned spaceflight business. The Space Launch System  NASA's new rocket it is building to launch Orion and other spacecraft into deep space.


Sky Guy in VA

Monday, September 8, 2014

Sky Guy INTERNET ALERT - Nicaragua Meteorite Impact

Hey Space Placers!

The Internet is lit up over a reported meteorite impact in Nicaragua that left a crater.





Some news reports are indicating that this ALLEGED impact was caused by asteroid 2014 RC (see my blog from yesterday)

IT WAS NOT. Here is the latest from NASA on 2014 RC and the alleged impact event.

The crater will have to be studied using proven scientific techniques to confirm if this was in fact a meteorite impact event. There are several factors to me that are working against this as being a meteorite impact event:

  • There should have been reports of a fireball in the day or night sky by witnesses from a population area of over 1 million people;
  • Meteorites should have been visible in the immediate area surrounding the crater as the energy released by this event WOULD NOT have vaporized the impactor.
Bottom line is that this should NOT be characterized as a meteorite impact event until proven as such, let alone associated with asteroid 2014 RC which is absolutely incorrect.

More as it develops.

Sky Guy in VA

Sky Guy Viewing Alert 9/8-9/14 Super Harvest Moon

Hey Space Placers!

Tonight - 9/8-9/14 - is a Super Harvest Moon! LOTS going on with Luna tonight as this will be the 3rd Supermoon since July and it coincides with the Harvest Moon.

Supermoon is a non-astronomical term that has become part of our cultural vocabulary. Astronomically speaking when the Full Moon occurs within 24 hours of being closest to the Earth (perigee) for the Moon's monthly orbital cycle astronomers call it a perigee Full Moon.

You may not have known that each month's Full Moon has a name associated with it that stems from different cultures. In the U.S. the Full Moon names trace back to Indian tribes and our farming heritage.

The Full Moon that occurs closest to the Autumnal Equinox in September is named the Harvest Moon. That is because in times past farmers could use the extra light provided by the Full Moon to bring in their crops.

Because tonight is a Super Harvest Moon the Full Moon will be a little bigger and brighter as it rises in the east at sunset. As a bonus the Moon will be rising just a little later each night for the next couple of days so we can continue to enjoy its splendor.

If we are lucky maybe the Harvest Moon will have some of the wonderful color that was seen in July's supermoon as seen by me from Virginia:

July 2014 Supermoon - Greg Redfern

Get outside and enjoy this viewing treat.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Space Rock Close Fly By Today

Hey Space Placers!

At 2:15 p.m. EDT today, 9/7/14, a 60-foot space rock (asteroid) named 2014 RC will make its closest approach to the Earth at a mere 25,000 miles. The space rock will safely pass below Earth and our geosynchronous satellites as can be seen in this NASA JPL graphic:

2014 RC was discovered initially on August 31 by the Catalina Sky Survey near Tucson AZ, and independently detected the next night by the Pan-STARRS 1 telescope, located on the summit of Haleakala on Maui, Hawaii.

Astronomers will study 2014 RC as it passes by to add to our knowledge of these roamers of the solar system. The orbit of the asteroid will also be refined so that it can be monitored for any future potential threat to Earth.

2014 RC will be visible to observers with telescopes in the Southern Hemisphere so we should get some pictures of this cosmic interloper.

This asteroid is about the same size as the asteroid that exploded over Chelyabinsk, Russia on 2/15/13 and caused damage and injuries. Because Chelyabinsk came in from the direction of the Sun it was not seen before it entered our atmosphere.

Our solar system has a lot of asteroids in it, probably millions, and we have discovered a good percentage of the larger ones but have barely scratched the surface when it comes to the Chelyabinsk-sized space rocks. Comets pose a potential threat to Earth that is even greater than asteroids because they can be larger and faster moving and thereby provide less reaction time.

I personally believe we need to do more as a species about discovering these Near Earth Objects (NEOs). One thing you can consider doing is making a donation to the B612 Foundation to help fund the Sentinel spacecraft and mission.

Sentinel will be a big help in looking for NEOs as it will be out by Venus and give us a different perspective in our hunt for NEOs. Sentinel will help detect incoming sunward (from Earth's view) asteroids like Chelyabinsk which could allow for evacuation of a impact zone.

Here is a widget from NASA that tracks asteroid close approaches. Pretty amazing to watch this day to day as I do. You can also track Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) daily here.

Humanity is in the process of coming up with a planetary defense plan against NEOs but it will take time and money. I always tell my audiences and have them repeat it - "The dinosaurs are dead because they did not have a space program". Like B612 Foundation co-founder and former shuttle astronaut Ed Lu says, "Asteroid impacts are the only preventable natural disaster. For the cost of a freeway overpass we can mitigate this threat".

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Sky Guy VIEWING ALERT!!!! 9/6/14 International Observe The Moon Night

Hey Space Placers!

Today, 9/6/14 is "International Observe the Moon Night".  This annual world-wide event is dedicated to getting people outside to look at the Moon. Events around the world are taking place as part of the event and be sure to check the website to see if any are in your area.

The DMV has several events taking place, especially at NASA facilities - so be sure to check.

The Moon is approaching Full phase and will be another Supermoon on the night of 9/8-9/14 as well  as the Harvest Moon. I'll have more on that next week,

But go outside tonight and look at the Moon. We did this last night at Big Meadows Shenandoah National Park as part of my "Let's Talk About Space" program. We go out and observe the sky if it is clear after my talk, which last night was on "The Sky IS Falling-Space Rocks and You".

I'd like to share with you the main points about the Moon that I gave to the 25+ people last night.

The Moon is big. It would span coast to coast in the U.S.

When you look at the Moon what colors do you see? White and gray. The white is the original lunar crust made up primarily of a mineral called Anorthosite. The gray marks impact basins - places where a comet or asteroid slammed into the Moon billions of years ago and was flooded by the flow of lava from fractures within the lunar crust. These impact basins are large and the South Pole-Aiken Basin is one of the largest in the solar system spanning 1,600 miles across and almost 10 miles deep!

We also are pretty sure that the Moon formed due to a huge impact event involving the Earth and a Mars-size planet called Theia billions of years ago. Our planet had a ring system like Saturn's for about a million years or less while all of the debris from the impact orbited Earth. The debris eventually coalesced into possibly 2 moons which then collided to form the large Moon we have today.

Our Moon was much closer to Earth after it had formed, and would have been at least 50% larger in the sky long ago. What a sight that must have been! The tides on Earth would have been amazing because of the Moon being so much closer and our planet would have rotated faster with the day being only hours long instead of our 24 hour day we enjoy.

The Earth and the Moon are described by the European Space Agency as a double planet system because of their relative sizes to one another and their gravitational influences upon each other.

Do a google search on the Moon and you will find many websites dedicated to our neighbor in space. Be sure to visit Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) and see the wonderful pics it has taken. NASA Goddard in Maryland is hosting an LRO event tonight.

Oh, and be sure to wink at the Moon tonight in remembrance of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the Moon. Neil has been gone for 2 years now and his family wanted people to do this in memory of him.

Finally, watch this video in the quiet of the night after you have looked at the Moon - its ALWAYS brings tears to my eyes because it is so beautiful.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, September 5, 2014

Become A NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador

Hey Space Placers!

Here's another GREAT opportunity from NASA:

Please share this opportunity announcement far and wide…

Solar System Ambassadors Program Accepting Applications
The NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory Solar System Ambassadors Program (SSA), a nationwide network of space enthusiast volunteers, will accept applications from September 1 through September 30, 2014.

Highly motivated individuals will be given the opportunity to represent NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory as volunteer Solar System Ambassadors to the public for a one-year, renewable term beginning January 1, 2015.

While applications will be sought nationwide, interested parties from the following states are especially encouraged to apply: Alaska, Delaware, Iowa, Mississippi, Nebraska, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, Wyoming and the District of Columbia. SSA hopes to add 100 new volunteers to the program in 2015.

To learn more about the Solar System Ambassador Program, visit http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/ambassador/.  Links to the Announcement of Opportunity and Application form are available on the website’s main page.

If you have questions about this opportunity, contact Kay Ferrari, SSA Coordinator, by email at ambassad@jpl.nasa.gov.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, September 4, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

Direct from NASA HQ:

NASA is inviting the worldwide public to submit short messages and images on social media that could be placed in a time capsule aboard a spacecraft launching to an asteroid in 2016.

Called the Origins-Spectral Interpretation-Resource Identification-Security-Regolith Explorer (OSIRIS-REx), the spacecraft will rendezvous with the asteroid Bennu in 2019, collect a sample and return the cache in a capsule to Earth in 2023 for detailed study. The robotic mission will spend more than two years at the 1,760-foot (500-meter)-wide asteroid and return a minimum of 2 ounces (60 grams) of its surface material.

Topics for submissions by the public should be about solar system exploration in 2014 and predictions for space exploration activities in 2023. The mission team will choose 50 tweets and 50 images to be placed in the capsule. Messages can be submitted Sept. 2 - 30.

"Our progress in space exploration has been nothing short of amazing," says Dante Lauretta, OSIRIS-REx principal investigator at the University of Arizona, Tucson. "I look forward to the public taking their best guess at what the next 10 years holds and then comparing their predictions with actual missions in development in 2023."

This event is the second of NASA’s efforts to engage space enthusiasts around the world in the OSIRIS-REx mission, following the agency’s January invitation to participate in Messages to Bennu, which asked the public to submit their names to be etched on a microchip aboard the spacecraft.

"It is exciting to think that some people may formulate predictions then have the chance to help make their prediction a reality over the next decade," said Jason Dworkin, OSIRIS-REx project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland.

When the sample return capsule returns to Earth in 2023 with the asteroid material, the mission team will open the time capsule to view the messages and images, at which time the selected submissions will be posted online at:

"OSIRIS-REx has to take many years to perform a complex asteroid sample return," said Bruce Betts, the director of science and technology at The Planetary Society in Pasadena, California, a public outreach partner on the asteroid mission. "A time capsule capitalizes on the long duration of the mission to engage the public in thinking about space exploration -- where are we now, and where will we be."

The OSIRIS-REx mission is focused on finding answers to basic questions about the composition of the very early solar system and the source of organic materials and water that made life possible on Earth. The mission also will contribute to NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM) and support the agency's efforts to understand the population of potentially hazardous near-Earth objects and characterize those suitable for future asteroid exploration missions.

NASA's ARM is a first-ever mission to identify, capture and redirect a near-Earth asteroid to a stable orbit around the moon, where astronauts will explore it in the 2020s, and return with samples. The mission will advance the new technologies and spaceflight experience needed for humans to explore Mars in the 2030s.

NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center will provide overall mission management, systems engineering and safety and mission assurance. The University of Arizona, Tucson, is the principal investigator institution. Lockheed Martin Space Systems of Denver will build the spacecraft. OSIRIS-REx is the third mission in NASA's New Frontiers Program. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, manages New Frontiers for NASA's Science Mission Directorate in Washington.

For details on procedures and rules for submitting a message and image, visit:

More information is available online about Messages to Bennu, at:

For more about the OSIRIS-REx mission, visit:

I hope you will enter AND send a message to Bennu.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Our Galactic Supercluster - Laniakea

Hey Space Placers!

You really have to read this press release, see the graphics and watch the video regarding our newly identified galactic supercluster - Laniakea, which means "immense heavens" in Hawaiian.

We live in the Milky Way Galaxy (MWG). It is part of a local cluster of galaxies called the Local Group

The Local Group is connected to Laniakea which comprises 100,000 galaxies spread out over 500 million light years and containing the mass of over 100 million billion Suns! Wow.

Astronomers continue to define the Universe and our place in it with new instruments, detectors and more powerful computers. But great mysteries remain such as Dark Energy and Dark Matter.

Stay tuned!

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Where Will Rosetta's Philae Land?

Hey Space Placers!

The European Space Agency (ESA) is deciding where Philae, the lander carried by the Rosetta spacecraft, will land on Comet 67/P.

ESA had narrowed the field down to 5 landing sites on the comet and today held a live session that you can see here.

ESA plans to land Philae on 67/P sometime in November 2014.

More as the story develops.

Sky Guy in VA