Wednesday, January 28, 2015

NASA Day of Remembrance

Hey Space Placers!

Today, January 28, 2015, is NASA's "Day Of Remembrance". This is the day that the agency marks each year to remember the lost crews of Apollo 1 January 27, 1967, Challenger January 28, 1986 and Columbia February 1, 2003.

I remember each of these accidents well and the aftermath that ensued. Each had a root cause in human error that led to a chain of circumstances that directly caused each accident.

As America prepares to return to manned spaceflight in the next few years the lessons learned from the loss of these crews must be remembered by NASA, SpaceX, Boeing, Virgin Galactic, and all who would fly humans into space.

There will be more losses in space as we fly new missions to places we have never been before and for durations that will push technology and crews. Humanity has to keep pushing the boundaries of space exploration for the benefit of the planet and our species. If we don't, we will become extinct.

Godspeed Apollo 1, Challenger and Columbia - you are NEVER forgotten and we see you in the stars that beckon us.

Sky Guy in VA

Our Best Photo of Ceres To Date

Hey Space Placers!

Check out this BEST EVER pic of Ceres, the largest dwarf planet in the asteroid belt, taken by NASA's Dawn spacecraft.

Dawn is due to enter orbit around Ceres for a long study of the 590-mile world.

Stay tuned, the view is only going to get better!

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, January 26, 2015

UPDATED Incoming Asteroid 2004 BL86 To Flyby Today-1/26/15

Hey Space Placers!


Here is a pic from NASA's Goldstone Deep Space Antenna that bounced radar off the asteroid that shows a moon accompanying the big space rock - not an unusual discovery as other asteroids have been found with moons.


A lot of us are dealing with winter weather today.

1/2 kilometer (1/3 mile) wide Asteroid 2004 BL86  passed at closest approach to Earth today at 11 am EST. This big boy will pass us at about 745,000 miles distance, or about 3 times the distance to the Moon.

Amateur astronomers will be able to see this space rock with their telescopes and even quality binoculars at closest approach on the night of 26-27 January. Scientists are planning on observing the asteroid with radar as it passes by to get as much information as possible.

This is A CLEAR MISS and there is no danger. This is the largest known asteroid to pass us until 2027.

Get more info here and here.

It will be cloudy here in VA tonight :-(

Hope you can see it!

Sky Guy in Winter Weather VA

Friday, January 23, 2015

Comet 67/P Facts

Hey Space Placers!

To follow up yesterday's blog, here is a COOL poster on Comet 67/P:

Here is the very latest update from ESA on Rosetta and Comet 67P as well.

Enjoy - it is only going to get better as the year progresses!

Sky Guy in Wintry VA

Thursday, January 22, 2015

I Am REALLY Getting Into Comets!

Hey Space Placers!

Look at this, can you believe that you are seeing a COMET less than 5 miles away?

Make sure you download the hi-res JPG to see every nook, cranny and pebble on Comet 67/P. This picture was taken by European Space Agency's (ESA) magnificent Rosetta spacecraft that will be orbiting and following the comet as it gets closer to the Sun this year.

I have always tried to visually see (and photograph) every comet I could and the short list (like my memory) is as follows: 
Hale Bopp

But when you work, have a family and lots of commitments it is tough to see them all. I missed   :-(   the northern hemisphere comet classics of Ikeya-Seki and West due to school and being in the Navy.

Comet ISON in 2013 was a real joy to follow on the Internet as was Comet Siding SPring that flew so close to Mars last October.

But I think it is Rosetta that has really showed us how insanely complex and wonderful these remnants of the beginning of our solar system are. They truly are worlds unto themselves.

Sky Guy in VA EAGERLY Awaiting The Next BRIGHT Comet

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Moon Video From ESA

Hey Space Placers!

Sorry I have been out of touch the past few days but a dear, dear friend has entered hospice and it has been hard.

It was great to see this WONDERFUL video from the European Space Agency (ESA) about the past, present and future exploration of the Moon.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, January 17, 2015

3 Simultaneous Views of Comet Lovejoy

Hey Space Placers!

Come Lovejoy is at its best right now in the Northern Hemisphere and will be for the next several days as the Moon is out of the sky and the comet is riding high in the sky.

These pics were taken at the same time on 1-15-15 using a 200 mm telephoto, a 3 inch refractor and a 10 inch reflector. Some nice detail in the tail; sky had a thin haze but still showed the comet.

I hope you enjoy them.

Check here on how to see the comet for yourself.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, January 16, 2015

2014 Warmest Year On Record

Hey Space Placers!

Read the report on 2014, the warmest year on record and see the accompanying video.

World-wide temperature keeps on increasing and probably won't decrease in our collective lifetime.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 1-17-15 Saturn & Moon

Hey Space Placers!

Before dawn on Friday, 1-17-15, the waning crescent Moon will be joined by the planet Saturn in the south-eastern sky.

If you have binoculars they will help in looking at the Moon which should have Earthshine visible - that ashen glow caused by the reflection of sunlight off our planet's oceans and clouds.

For those of us in the throes of winter this pairing takes place in the constellations of summer so take heart - the days are getting longer as we approach spring in about 2 months.

Clear Skies!

Sky Guy in Getting Clear VA

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Titan Landing 10 Years Ago & New Horizons to Pluto is GO!

Hey Space Placers!

It is hard to believe that it was 10 years ago TODAY that humanity's Huygens probe launched from the Cassini spacecraft landed on Titan. What a world we found.

And starting tomorrow, 1-15-15, we are going to explore another world, PLUTO, via the New Horizons spacecraft. New Horizons will be starting the 6 month voyage of exploration that will culminate in the flyby of Pluto July 14, 2015.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Sun Spews 1st Solar Flare for 2015

Hey Space Placers!

The Sun remains active into 2015 as it produced the year's 1st solar flare visible on the right:

As provided by NASA:

The sun emitted a mid-level solar flare, peaking at 11:24 p.m. EST on Jan. 12, 2015. NASA’s Solar Dynamics Observatory, which watches the sun constantly, captured an image of the event. Solar flares are powerful bursts of radiation. Harmful radiation from a flare cannot pass through Earth's atmosphere to physically affect humans on the ground, however -- when intense enough -- they can disturb the atmosphere in the layer where GPS and communications signals travel. 

We'll see how the Sun behaves in 2015 but it should be heading into less activity as it winds down from the last Solar Maximum into a new Solar Minimum.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, January 8, 2015

UPDATED Sky Guy VIEWING ALERT! Comet Lovejoy & Bright Planets

Hey Space Placers!


I have updated the links for Mercury-Venus pairing and Comet Lovejoy. All 3 are STILL prime time viewing objects as it gets dark.

Here is my pic of Comet Lovejoy from 1/10/15

I know it is cold - hey, it IS winter - but there are some sights to see in the night sky that ARE worth bundling up and getting out to see.

First up right after sunset is the pairing of bright Venus and Mercury in the Southwest sky. Venus is easy to see when it starts to get dark and Mercury is just to the lower right. These two inner planets of our solar system have been getting closer to one another each night and they will be closest, less than the width of your little finger at arm's length, on Saturday.

Use this to help find them. Binoculars are a big help and will show the color contrast between the two. To me Venus is a greenish-white while Mercury is a yellowish-golden-white color. If you have never seen Mercury, most of humanity hasn't, this is your chance to do so. It is an amazing little world that orbits closest to the Sun and you can join an exclusive group that can say they have seen it.

You can also take a picture of the two using your camera. It is best to mount your camera on a tripod and use a remote shutter release to minimize vibrations. Take a variety of shots at different exposures.

Next up in the sky is Comet Lovejoy which has been reported (including by me) to be at naked eye visibility at a dark sky site. The comet is getting higher in the sky each night and can be seen when it gets dark in the Southeast sky. Once again binoculars will REALLY help you in finding this green colored interloper into our solar system.

You want to look for Comet Lovejoy when the Moon is not up in the sky. Use this to orient yourself with the sky and scan for Comet Lovejoy. You will also learn about why the comet is colored green and its history. What I found interesting is that this is not the first time Comet Lovejoy has been through our solar system.

If you live in a city I would still try to see the comet but binoculars are a must as is having no glaring lights in your view. Suburbanites should have no problem spotting the comet with binoculars either. The comet will linger in our skies for the next several weeks.

I have taken time exposures of Comet Lovejoy and so can you. Mount your camera on a tripod and take time exposures of at least 10-20 seconds. Your picture should show the green color of the comet.

Finally, bright Jupiter is up in the Eastern sky at about 9 o'clock and is easy to see. Binoculars can show the 4 main moons discovered by Galileo on January 7th, 1610 but a small telescope is best.

Here's to clear skies and let me know how your observing sessions went! 

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT! Moon & Jupiter 1-7-15

Hey Space Placers!

Tonight the waning gibbous Moon and bright Jupiter team up in the eastern sky for a nice view at around 9 pm local time.

Also peek at Venus and Mercury as they are closing in on one another. This pic was taken on 1-5-15. Venus is at the top with Mercury below.

And check out Comet Lovejoy as soon as it gets dark. See my earlier column. Here is a pic from last night. A faint tail is at 9 o'clock. The comet is almost at naked eye in moonlight so when the Moon is out of the sky you should be able to see it with your eyes. It is distinct in binoculars.

Hope you have clear skies for tonight.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, January 5, 2015

Comet Lovejoy Pics 1-5-15

Hey Space Placers!

Fresh from the telescope:

The pics were taken several hours apart on different continents. The tail is faintly visible at the 10 o'clock position.

I'll take more when the Moon is out of the evening sky and the clouds are gone.

Sky Guy in Soon to be Snowy VA.

Saturday, January 3, 2015

UPDATED Sky Guy Viewing ALERT! Venus & Mercury Teaming Up After Sunset

Hey Space Placers!


Here is what they looked like in the sky tonight. They will be getting closer each day.


The brightest planet Venus is climbing higher in the SW sky each day. It is easily visible as it starts to get dark. Joining Venus for the next week is the elusive but bright planet Mercury. The planetary duo will be getting closer to one another for the next week so it is worth looking each night.

A week from today the two will be less than a degree apart and quite striking in the sky.

Watch them move closer and envision them in the solar system orbiting the Sun.

Try taking a picture or two as you watch this celestial dance.

I'll have an update on Comet Lovejoy tomorrow.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, January 2, 2015

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT Jan 3, 2015

Hey Space Placers!

View the year's 1st major meteor showerThe Quadrantid meteor shower. The almost Full Moon will interfere with the shower but the brighter meteors should still be visible.

The best time to view will be the hour or so before dawn tomorrow morning when the Moon has set.

If it is cloudy and/or too cold for you, tune in to to LISTEN to the shower.

Good hunting!

Sky Guy in VA