Friday, October 31, 2014

Thursday, October 30, 2014

NASA Wallops 1st Assessment Post ISS Supply Mission Mishap

Hey Space Placers!

NASA Wallops Island has done its 1st assessment of damage to structures and the environment since yesterday's explosion of the ISS resupply mission ANtares rocket - see yesterday's blog.

This will be an ongoing situation with NASA and Orbital posting additional updates.

Sky Guy Crossing the Atlantic

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

ISS Resupply Mission Explodes

Hey Space Placers!

I am just learning of the explosion, or in NASA terms, mishap, of the Orbital Sciences Antares rocket just after launch on 10/28/14. News travels a bit slow while crossing the Atlantic Ocean even in the Internet age.

The unmanned resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) was the 3rd resupply mission for the Dulles, VA based Orbital Sciences Corporation. This was the st launch of the two stage Antares rocket from NASA's Wallops Island Flight facility, and was the largest launch vehicle to ever be launched from the historic facility.

The Antares lifted off and exploded 6 seconds later and was captured live by NASA TV HD cameras. The explosion is all the more dramatic as it was at night. Fortunately there were no injuries but I am pretty sure the launch pad had to suffer some damage from the exploding fireball and debris.

The launch had been originally scheduled for 10/27/14 but had to be scrubbed due to a sail boat being in the launch zone.

A mishap investigation board will be convened to determine what caused the explosion. The rocket sends telemetry (data) back to mission controllers for a large number of engine and rocket sensors plus the board will review manufacturing records for the record. There will also be wreckage that can be used to determine what happened. I am pretty sure Orbital and NASA will find out what happened and make sure that the issue is corrected.

It has been a long time since there has been a US launch mishap like this and it proves once again that launching rockets is not a slam dunk evolution. Here is NASA's official comment on the mishap. Also, here is the news conference that was held by NASA regarding the mishap.

The other resupplier to the ISS is SpaceX and its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule. SpaceX will have to do the resupply missions until the cause of the Orbital Sciences launch mishap is found and corrected which will take some amount of time.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

UNREAL HST Photo of Jupiter

Hey Space Placers!

Greeting from Tenerife.

Check out this UNREAL picture taken of Jupiter by the Hubble Space Telescope.

Get the background on the photo here.

Sea Dream I leaves for Barbados tonight.

Sky Guy Greg

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Newest ISS Resupply Mission

Hey Space Placers!

Greeting from the Atlantic Ocean.

Getting settled in on Sea Dream I and hoping for clear skies tonight for our onboard guests as we attempt to hole our 1st "At Sea Under The Stars" session.

If you are on the US East Coast you might be able to see the newest resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) launch from NASA'sWallops Island Flight Facility, located on the Eastern Shore of VA.

As of a few minutes ago all systems are "GO" for launch at 6:45 p.m. EDT

This will be the first nighttime launch of the Antares Rocket so you need to check this visibility map and this info from Orbital to see if you can se the ascent of the rocket from your location in DC, VA, MD, and the US East Coast.
A rocket launch at night is a sight to see as I saw a space shuttle and the LADEE mission do so and it was impressive.

Antares on the Pad At Sunrise
Hope to have some at sea pics soon…

Sky Guy in The Atlantic Aboard Sea Dream I

Friday, October 24, 2014

Best Artistic Rendition of a Black Hole?

Hola From Malaga, Spain Space Placers!

Lots of walking amid ruins, castles and Picasso today.

But here is an artistic rendering, perhaps the most accurate ever of a black hole that was done for the upcoming movie Interstellar - see my previous blog. 

The amazing past of it is that Kip Thorne, a black hole expert is the moving force behind this artistic rendering - AND he claims that he will be able to publish two science papers because of it.

The Movie opens in two weeks.

Sky Guy Awaiting Sea Dream I in Malaga, Spain

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Hubble Space Telescope Sees Comet Siding Spring & Mars

Hey Space Placers!

Greetings from beautiful Malaga, Spain. A truly gorgeous city….

From NASA a truly INCREDIBLE pic:

The News Release:


This composite NASA Hubble Space Telescope Image captures the positions of comet Siding Spring and Mars in a never-before-seen close passage of a comet by the Red Planet, which happened at 2:28 p.m. EDT October 19, 2014. The comet passed by Mars at approximately 87,000 miles (about one-third of the distance between Earth and the Moon). At that time, the comet and Mars were approximately 149 million miles from Earth.

The comet image shown here is a composite of Hubble exposures taken between Oct. 18, 8:06 a.m. EDT to Oct. 19, 11:17 p.m. EDT. Hubble took a separate photograph of Mars at 10:37 p.m. EDT on Oct. 18.

The Mars and comet images have been added together to create a single picture to illustrate the angular separation, or distance, between the comet and Mars at closest approach. The separation is approximately 1.5 arc minutes, or one-twentieth of the angular diameter of the full Moon. The background star field in this composite image is synthesized from ground-based telescope data provided by the Palomar Digital Sky Survey, which has been reprocessed to approximate Hubble’s resolution. The solid icy comet nucleus is too small to be resolved in the Hubble picture. The comet’s bright coma, a diffuse cloud of dust enshrouding the nucleus, and a dusty tail, are clearly visible.

This is a composite image because a single exposure of the stellar background, comet Siding Spring, and Mars would be problematic. Mars is actually 10,000 times brighter than the comet, and so could not be properly exposed to show detail in the Red Planet. The comet and Mars were also moving with respect to each other and so could not be imaged simultaneously in one exposure without one of the objects being motion blurred. Hubble had to be programmed to track on the comet and Mars separately in two different observations.

The images were taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3.

Touring tomorrow before Sea Dream I arrives on Saturday.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

2001: A Space Odyssey Coming to the UK - Interstellar Promo

Hey Space Placers!

Wish I was going to be in the UK in the near future as there is going to be a limited release of Stanley Kubrick's immortal 2001: A Space Odyssey. This is being done in advance of the highly anticipated (and highly praised) movie Interstellar directed by Christopher Nolan.

2001 is my all time space scifi flick because of the grandeur of the sets, story and music. I saw 2001 when it premiered in 1968 at Grauman's Chinese Theater in Los Angeles, CA. Pretty amazing memory even after all these years.

2001 can to this day, 40+ years after its release, hold its own against CGI and special effects. The low Earth orbit (LEO) Moon, Jupiter, spacecraft sets still astound and spell bound viewers. It is a classic that will never be surpassed.

The movie is best seen now in BluRay on a large screen TV in a PITCH BLACK room with surround sound speakers. Still gives me goose bumps to see the Moon from orbit and on the surface with the beautiful music and sets.

Interstellar looks amazing and I love Matthew McConaughey and Hans Zimmer, so……….

I will be there to see it I hope on opening night 11/7/14.

I am heading to sea again aboard Sea Dream I  so I may be out of touch at times.

Sky Guy Heading To Sea

Monday, October 20, 2014

Comet Siding Spring Post-Mars Encounter

Hey Space Placers!

Comet Siding Spring - see my last blog - passed Mars yesterday and all 3 NASA orbiting spacecraft are A-OK. I think ESA and India's orbiters are as well as I have not heard anything contrary.

Here is a NEAT pic of the comet and Mars from the live Slooh coverage:

And a beauty of a pic taken by Nick Howes and the  observatory group:

It will take a week or so for the data and pics obtained by the orbiting spacecraft and the two rovers on the surface to be downloaded and analyzed. I am sure there will be some good stuff from this historic event.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Sky Guy INTERNET ALERT Comet Siding Spring & Mars Encounter 10/19/14

Hey Space Placers!

Here's my story on the close encounter tomorrow between Mars and Comet Siding Spring.

Sky Guy in VA

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT Orionid Meteor Shower

Hey Space Placers!

If it is clear the next few mornings before dawn get out and look for the Orionid Meteor Shower. These cometary particles that hit the Earth's atmosphere at an amazing velocity of 148,000 mph are from  Halley's Comet.

The best time to see thew bright Orionids is about an hour or two before dawn when the bright stars and constellations of winter are in the sky. You can see where to look on this sky chart from NASA, Dr. Tony Phillips:

The shower is underway now with the peak predicted for Tuesday morning before dawn. The predicted peak is about 20 meteors an hour.

Get more details here. Hope you have clear skies and a good show.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Rosetta Mission Trailer

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the Rosetta mission trailer (see my previous blogs on the mission) done by the German Aerospace Center (DLR). It is a teaser for the upcoming landing on Comet 67/P of the Philae lander on November 12th. There is supposed to be an 11-minute film coming out as well.

Better than sic-fi because it is real and is going to be something to see….

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, October 14, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

Tune in today, 10-14-14, at 2 p.m. EDT to hear the latest finding from NASA's Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) mission to Mars.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, October 13, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

Straight from NASA:

NASA Invites Public to Join #SkyScience Cloud Study

NASA is inviting people around the globe to step outside during Earth Science Week, Oct. 12-18, observe the sky and share their observations as citizen scientists.

NASA's #SkyScience activity is part of an annual educational event organized by the American Geosciences Institute to encourage the public to engage in Earth sciences. Citizen scientists can participate in this global Earth science data collection event by observing, photographing and reporting on clouds over their location as a NASA satellite passes over. Reports and photos will be compared to data collected by NASA Earth-observing instruments as a way to assess the satellite measurements.

Using the hashtag #SkyScience, participants are encouraged to post their cloud and sky photos and observation experiences to Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Google+ and Flickr. Throughout the week, NASA will share some of the most interesting photos on the agency's social media accounts.

In addition to #SkyScience, NASA has been engaging students in cloud observation for years through the agency's Students' Cloud Observations On-Line (S'COOL) project.

“#SkyScience is another opportunity to get lots of reports in a short period of time and enable additional statistical analysis," said S'COOL project lead Lin Chambers of NASA's Langley Research Center in Hampton, Virginia.

To learn how to get involved in the #SkyScience activity, visit:

For information about NASA's Earth science activities in 2014, visit:

Hope you will join in. 

Sky Guy in VA

Sky Guy NEWS ALERT! 10/13/14 Lunar Volcanism

Hey Space Placers!

If you have been reading my blog for awhile you know that I am a lunatic as to ALL things lunar. My fave NASA mission is the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) which has been rerouting the books on the Moon since its launch in 2009. NASA has extended LRO for another 2 years and I am sure we will learn more about our Moon during that time.

The BIG news released by NASA on October 12, 2014, is that LRO has found very strong evidence that volcanic activity on the Moon took place much later than previously thought. Before LRO's findings it was generally thought that volcanic activity on the Moon ceased over a billion years ago.

LRO's detailed and exquisite photographic coverage has found surface features that show volcanic activity as "recent" as 50-100 million years ago. In geologic time that is fresh and recent. Called "irregular mare patches" (IMP) by lunar scientists, over 70 of them have been found by LRO whereas only 1 was previously known.

This news follows the recent announcement that the Sea of Storms is not an impact crater but is a large surface feature caused by volcanic structures beneath the surface - see my blog.

Here are some of the IMP images  and here are two NASA news releases:

We will be learning more about Moon in the years to come as LRO and other nations' spacecraft explore this most beautiful and intriguing world.

Sky Guy in VA

PS My last "Let's Talk About Space at Shenandoah National Park" for this season is tonight at 9 pm at Skyland Conference Center. My talk is a special one, "The Universe and You". I wish you all could be there…..

Saturday, October 11, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

Here is an interesting press release about the world's religions and their response to extraterrestrial (ETs). We know there are other worlds beyond our solar system - almost 4,000 confirmed with thousands more to confirm. And it is currently thought that our Milky Way Galaxy has millions if not billions more exoplanets, including planets similar to our own Earth.

A subset of astronomy called astrosociology is starting to pop up on the Internet and may achieve mainstream status someday.

Interesting subject. If ET is found to exist it will transform humanity in some form or fashion. I personally believe we will see this come to pass someday as the Universe is just too full of planets, stars and the basic ingredients for life as we know it not to have other life.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, October 10, 2014

Maven Update

Hey Space Placers!

Here's an update from NASA on their newest mission to Mars - Mars Atmosphere and Volatile Evolution (MAVEN) .

There will be a live teleconference on MAVEN's first few weeks at Mars on Tuesday, October 14, 2014 at 2 p.m. EDT.

It will be interesting to hear these very first results.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Get Your Orion Boarding Pass

Hey Space Placers!

I got my boarding pass for Orion today:

Get yours here. You have until October 31, 2014 to do so.

It is really cool to know our names will fly aboard Orion on Exploration Test Flight-1 and other deep space destinations as well.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Gorgeous Night

Hey Space Placers!

A magical night last night at Shenandoah National Park at Bald Mountain Overlook. The sky was clear except for an occasional puff of cloud forming and leaving and the Full Hunter's Moon was resplendent  before, during, and after the total lunar eclipse.

Here are a few pics for you to see:

This is the star field around the eclipsed Moon - Uranus is in the upper left

Eclipsed Moon Over Shenandoah Valley
Blood Moon Tree

Totality Just Before Dawn

Maximum Color At Totality
 I hope you got to see the eclipse. If not, perhaps my pics will help you envision what it was like.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, October 6, 2014

Sky Guy VIEWING ALERT 10-8-14 Hunter's Moon Eclipse

Hey Space Placers!

The early morning hours of October 8th will provide  skywatchers a pretty sight - a total lunar eclipse. We had another total lunar eclipse back in April but I was at sea so I did not see it here in the U.S. but did witness it in the Atlantic. This eclipse will involve the Full Hunter’s Moon, or the first Full Moon after the Full Harvest Moon that took place in September. It will also present a bit of a viewing challenge for viewers on the U.S. East Coast as it will occur for low in the West and just before dawn.

The Moon will enter the outer shadow of our planet called the penumbra at 4:45 a.m. EDT. The penumbra is a ghostly shadow that is hard to see but should be visible in binoculars or a telescope. Things get much easier to see when the Moon enters the dark umbra shadow of our planet at 5:15 a.m. EDT to start the partial eclipse phase. You will see the dark curvature of our planet projected onto the Moon and as time goes on more and more of the Moon gets covered.

At 6:25 a.m. EDT things get real interesting as this is when the total eclipse phase begins - the Full Moon is completely immersed in the shadow of our planet. The half-way point of the eclipse occurs at 6:55 a.m. EDT. No direct sunlight is falling on the Full Moon in this phase of the eclipse and we should see the characteristic “copper penny” color covering the Moon but the brightening sky due to sunrise at 7:11 a.m. EDT will hinder the view.

Here is the timetable courtesy of Sky & Telescope:

Eclipse event                              EDT              CDT             MDT              PDT        UT (GMT)
Penumbra first visible?            4:45 a.m.     3:45 a.m.       2:45 a.m.      1:45 a.m.      08:45
Partial eclipse begins               5:15 a.m.      4:15 a.m.      3:15 a.m.      2:15 a.m.      09:15
Total eclipse begins                 6:25 a.m.     5:25 a.m.      4:25 a.m.      3:25 a.m.     10:25
Mid-eclipse                              6:55 a.m.     5:55 a.m.      4:55 a.m.      3:55 a.m.     10:55
Total eclipse ends                    7:24 a.m.     6:24 a.m.      5:24 a.m.      4:24 a.m.     11:24
Partial eclipse ends                      --              7:34 a.m.     6:34 a.m.      5:34 a.m.     12:34
Penumbra last visible?                --                     --             7:05 a.m.      6:05 a.m.     13:05

The best place to see the eclipse is an area that has an unobstructed view of the sky and western horizon - no trees or buildings to block the view as the Moon will be getting lower and lower in the West as the eclipse goes on.

Binoculars or a small telescope will help your view as you will be able to see the Moon and its colors far better than with the unaided eye. I saw the April eclipse in almost the same viewing circumstances as this eclipse will be - low in the West with the sky brightening due to impending sunrise in the East. The dimmed Moon will become harder and harder to see and will set just about sunrise.

The copper reddish color that you should see is caused by sunlight passing through the Earth’s atmosphere and falling upon the Moon’s surface. If you were an astronaut on the Moon you would see the darkened Earth surrounded by a ring of light along the circumference of our planet. All of our planet’s sunrises and sunsets would be visible as a reddish colored ring. It is this light that we see on the Moon during the totality phase of the eclipse. 

The color and its brightness that we view on the totally eclipsed Moon can vary due to worldwide atmospheric conditions. The total lunar eclipses that occurred right after Mount Pinatubo erupted in the Philippines in 1992 were so dark as to be nearly invisible in the sky - even in my telescope. This was due to the amount of aerosols and debris from the volcano’s eruption that were placed high into the Earth’s atmosphere which blocked the passage of sunlight through our atmosphere. Scientists can measure the brightness and color of the totally eclipsed Moon to glean the condition of the Earth’s high atmosphere.

If it is cloudy and/or you want to watch the whole eclipse,  you can tune in on the Internet to Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles, California which will provide a    live web stream. 
The stream will begin at 4:15 a.m. EDT and conclude at the end of the umbral eclipse at about 8:45 a.m. EDT. 

You can take pictures of the eclipse if you have a camera and tripod. A zoom lens is a big help but almost any camera will capture the Earth’s umbra and the color of totality. You can get more information   here.

The really good news is that with this total lunar eclipse we are continuing a remarkable series of four consecutive eclipses, all visible from North America which is called a tetrad. The next total lunar eclipse will be April 4, 2015.

Here’s to clear skies for all.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, October 5, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

The Delta IV-Heavy rocket that will launch the first space-worthy Orion spacecraft into orbit is vertical and on the pad:


We are less than two months away from the scheduled lift off of Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1) which will send the Orion spacecraft 3,600 miles out from Earth for two orbits and then come plunging back into the atmosphere at 20,000 miles an hour.

EFT-1 wil test the Orion thermal tiles, heat shield, spacecraft computer and systems. The data obtained will improve the follow on Orion spacecraft and get us that much closer to a manned flight in 2021.

I can hardly wait.

I will have info for you on the 10/8/14 total lunar eclipse tomorrow.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, October 4, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

The International Astronomical Union (IAU), the organization responsible for naming astronomical objects, has invited public organizations to name exoplanets and their stars.

Here is a portion of the press release from IAU:

The IAU invites all public organisations with an interest in astronomy to register on the IAU Directory for World Astronomy website for the NameExoWorlds contest, where they will in early 2015 be able to suggest names for exoplanets and their host stars. For the first time in history the public will then be able to vote for the official name of stars and planets. The IAU Directory for World Astronomy will function as a permanent platform for the global astronomical community.

The deadline for registration for the contest is 31 December 2014. Details of the registration procedure can be found on thewebsite. Eligible organisations include: planetariums, science centres, amateur astronomy clubs, online astronomy platforms, but also non-profit organisations such as high schools or cultural clubs interested in astronomy.

This is a GREAT opportunity to get involved in a fun astronomy project. More details can be found here.

What is really important about this contest is explained by the IAU:

Registration for the NameExoWorlds contest is just one of the planned functions of the IAU Directory for World Astronomy website. The site’s scope is much wider as it will function as a platform for the global astronomical community to meet, and it will act also as an information portal for the public to learn about astronomy activities internationally and locally.
The second phase of the IAU Directory for World Astronomy will be launched later this year, and will include an event calendar, which astronomical organisations can use to publish and promote their events easily through this one-stop service for the general public.

The Directory will be a valuable world wide asset for all things astronomy.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Moon Surprises Scientists

Hey Space Placers!

Those of you who follow me on Twitter @SkyGuyinVA and in this blog know that I am a lunatic through and through as in I LOVE all things lunar.

New research has just been published that solves a long standing mystery as to the area on the Moon known as Oceanus Procellarum - or Sea of Storms. It has been long thought that this vast area on the nearside of the Moon was caused by an impact from either a comet or asteroid as are all of the other impact basins that can be seen as the gray or dark areas on the Moon, especially when Full.

Now researchers have discovered that the Sea of Storms is NOT an impact basin but rather a surface feature created by ancient lava flows that were eventually covered by lunar lava. Using data from NASA's GRAIL A & B spacecraft researchers discovered structures under the surface of the Moon due to differences in the gravity gradient (strength) of the area.

This new discovery will help us to understand the structure and evolution of the Moon. It also shows that the Moon must have had an active geological history beyond our current understanding.

This is exciting stuff.

Sky Guy in VA