Friday, July 31, 2015

Blue (Full) Moon Friday UPDATED

Hey Space Placers!

Be sure to get out tonight (Friday 7/31) to see the second Full Moon of July. Called a Blue Moon as explained in this article this happens about once every 2 1/2 years.

Here's my pic:

For U.S. observers the International Space Station is starting a series of great passes. Go to Spot the Station to register your location so you can see ISS flyover. Quite the sight.

Here's my FIRST telescope pic (movie) of ISS - look quickly!

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Some Science Results From Philae Lander

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the very latest science results just published regarding ESA's Rosetta mission and its Philae Lander.

Also enjoy this landing sequence that shows us where Philae landed.

Headed up the mountain to Big Meadows to talk about meteorites.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Red Arcs on A Saturn Moon???

Hey Space Placers!

The solar system continues to amaze:

Check out the RED colored arcs in the photo of Tethys, an icy moon of Saturn. The photo was obtained by the Cassini spacecraft that has been at Saturn for a decade. The photos were taken in April 2015.

Mission scientists presently do not know what is causing the arcs but it is possible that they are chemical compounds or some kind of outgassing.

It has been quite the year in solar system exploration and it is far from done.

Stay tuned.....

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Update on The Other Dwarf Planet - Ceres

Hey Space Placers!

Here's the latest on NASA's other 'dwarf planet' mission, Dawn. Instead of Pluto this mission has been exploring the largest body in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter, Ceres.

Mission scientists have been able to make the best maps to date of Ceres and have started naming features seen on this fascinating world.


The Dawn spacecraft is slowly decreasing its altitude around Ceres and will provide even greater details as it achieves its final orbit.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, July 27, 2015

Name An Asteroid

Hey Space Placers!

Here's the news release from the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency  that asks the worldwide public help in naming the asteroid its Hyabusa2 spacecraft will be exploring.

Be a godparent to an asteroid! How cool would that be!

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Some Pics

Hey Space Placers!

Here are some pics of the Moon taken with my new camera tonight:

8 Day Old Moon
Copernicus Close Up


Sky Guy in VA

Friday, July 24, 2015

Just Be Amazed At the View

Hey Space Placers!


BEHOLD PLUTO! AN icon in the making, this image was taken by New Horizons 7 hours following the July 14th flyby and released at today's press conference.  The distant Sun backlights Pluto and allowed the spacecraft to photograph the hazy atmosphere. Details like two distinct layers can be seen and additional data and analysis will provide more information on the distant world.

We also got to see flowing Nitrogen ice (!) on the surface acting just as glaciers on


The New Horizons team will have more for us to feat our eyes on in the coming weeks.

Stay tuned.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, July 23, 2015

ISS, Exoplanets Update

Hey Space Placers!

We now have 6 astronauts aboard the International Space Station (ISS) as 3 new astronauts of Expedition 44 joined the 3 already on board. The Russian Soyuz successfully rendezvoused with ISS just after midnight EDT on 7/23/15.

NASA's exoplanet hunting spacecraft Kepler was the topic of a news conference on 7/23/15. It was announced that Kepler had "confirmed the first near-Earth-size planet in the “habitable zone” around a sun-like star. This discovery and the introduction of 11 other new small habitable zone candidate planets mark another milestone in the journey to finding another “Earth.” 
"The newly discovered Kepler-452b is the smallest planet to date discovered orbiting in the habitable zone -- the area around a star where liquid water could pool on the surface of an orbiting planet -- of a G2-type star, like our sun. The confirmation of Kepler-452b brings the total number of confirmed planets to 1,030."
Artist's Conception of Kepler 452-b (R) & Earth (L)
CREDIT: NASA/JPL-Caltech/T. Pyle
What a time we live in - exploring our own solar system and discovering new planets beyond our own system.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The OTHER Dwarf Planet Mission - Dawn at Ceres

Hey Space Placers!

We have another dwarf planet mission besides New Horizons going on in the solar system - Dawn at Ceres. This mission is orbiting Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt located between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter.

I have blogged about the 'bright spots' at Ceres which has captivated those who have seen them and are following the mission.

In an article published today in Nature Ceres' bright spots are discussed or more specifically, a mysterious haze that has been detected above them.

Great stuff.....

Our solar system continues to amaze us.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, July 19, 2015

A Great Cartoon & NYT Article

Hey Space Placers!

Enjoy this cartoon and New York Times article on Pluto.

See Credit - Sent by NASA via Twitter

The New Horizons team will be releasing more data on a weekly basis. We'll keep you posted.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, July 17, 2015

I Photographed Pluto

Hey Space Placers!

A busy couple of days with Pluto and I will have more tomorrow BUT I had to share the following with you.

I have ALWAYS wanted to photograph Pluto. It is A CHALLENGE as Pluto is faint and is currently amongst the dense star fields of the Milky Way in Sagittarius.

I took one photo on the 15th and a second on the 16th, almost two days a part. Using a finder chart from Sky and Telescope I was able to pinpoint the elusive and wonderful world as you can see here:

Identifying Pluto on these images gave me a sense of what Clyde Tombaugh had to do to discover Pluto in 1930. He used a device called a Blink Comparator to watch for changes in the star field of two different photographs whereas I did not. I had a finder chart for Pluto which he did not.

It is not an easy thing to do finding Pluto. Even the New Horizons team had to make sure they were on target with their spacecraft.

Maybe someday I will see this fabulous world in the eyepiece of a telescope - that would be something.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Pluto Flyby 1st Images - WOW Oh WOW!

Hey Space Placers!


In this just released photo taken by the New Horizons spacecraft during its 7-14-15 flyby of Pluto you can see mountains made of ice that are 11,000 feet high!

Pluto also lacks impact craters that you would expect for a 4.5 billion year old world. The lack of craters means that Pluto is a geologically active world that "refreshes" it surface. This is an entirely unexpected discovery. 



Charon, the largest moon of Pluto, has a surprisingly young surface devoid of large numbers of impact craters just like the Pluto image.

The "gouge" in the upper right section of Charon is a canyon over 4 miles deep and we can actually see through one part of it into space itself. Ridges, the dark pole, oh so much going on here!

More images and data will be coming in and the next release should be this Friday. 

This is JUST STARTING as there are 16 months of data and pics headed our way.

Stay tuned to be amazed.....

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

New Horizons NOMINAL (OK)

Hey Space Placers!


A few haunting seconds after the signal from the New Horizons spacecraft was supposed to be heard, it finally phoned home a little after 8:52 p.m. EDT. Transmitted over 4.5 hours earlier the radio signal came in to the Mission Operations Room at Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Lab having covered 3 billion miles of space.

As the telemetry provided the health of the spacecraft the wonderful word 'nominal' was used over and over to describe each of the systems. In the end, 'The spacecraft is healthy' was the assessment given to New Horizons - the piano sized spacecraft that had survived the close approach to the last planet to be explored up close and personal.

New Horizons has been acquiring data all day and will be sending it back over the next 16 months.
We should get our first look of Pluto at closest approach, a shade under 7,800 miles, tomorrow. I am sure this will be something to see.

Here is what Pluto and its biggest moon Charon might look like on the dark side of Pluto:

Charon Lights Up Dark Pluto

Maybe we will see such an image. I know we will be amazed by what we do see!

Sky Guy in VA

Bye Bye Pluto

Hey Space Placers!

Here is the last picture taken by New Horizons on 7-13-15 prior to today's 7:49 a.m. EDT closest point of approach (see my previous blogs).

We will not know for certain if the New Horizons spacecraft successfully completed its scheduled flyby of Pluto until about 9 p.m. EDT tonight - 7-14-15. That is when the "thumbs up" signal scheduled for transmission at approximately 4:30 p.m. EDT will be received.

It will have taken 4 1/2 hours for that radio signal to reach Earth 3+ billion miles away traveling at the speed of light - 186,000 miles per second.  The spacecraft has maintained radio silence during the flyby in order to concentrate on data acquisition. It will take 16 months for all of the flyby data to be transmitted and received by Earth. The transmission rate is only 2,000 bits per second - painfully slow due to the immense distance involved.

We will hopefully receive the first flyby photo tomorrow, 7-15-15.

Pluto is now a WORLD we have visited for the first time in history with a robotic emissary...something that will never happen again. It is not likely we will be this way again any time soon.

New Horizons is now leaving Pluto behind and perhaps heading to a new mission to visit another world if approved.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, July 13, 2015

How Big Is Pluto Is FINALLY Settled

Hey Space Placers!

New Horizons has FINALLY settled a most basic question of the deposed 9th planet of the solar system  - "How big is Pluto?"

The data returned from 3 billion miles away says Pluto checks in at 1,473 miles (2,370 kilometers) in diameter.

 This makes Pluto the largest of the four other dwarf planets known to exist beyond the orbit of Pluto.

Be sure to tune in tomorrow morning for the flyby.


Sunday, July 12, 2015

Less Than A Million Miles To Pluto

Hey Space Placers!

Get your Pluto Flyby info here.

Buckle UP - Less than two days and a million miles to go!


Saturday, July 11, 2015

Newest Astronaut Class Finishes Training

Hey Space Placers!

Tomorrow starts my Pluto flyby coverage so here is my last non-Pluto blog for awhile.

NASA's newest astronaut class selected in 2013 has completed training. No longer astronaut candidates after their two years of intensive training they now join the astronaut corps awaiting future flight and ground assignments.

Congratulations to all.

Sky Guy in STILL Rainy/Cloudy VA

Thursday, July 9, 2015

NASA Selects 1st Astronauts For Commercial Crew Program

Hey Space Placers!

A temporary break from New Horizons to Pluto today.

NASA has announced the 1st four astronauts to be assigned to the Commercial Crew Program to fly the Boeing CST-100 and SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft to the International Space Station beginning in 2017. Be sure to watch the video to hear Bob, Eric, Doug and Sunni's reaction to their historic assignment.

All 4 are veteran astronauts having flown in space previously and will use their collective experience to help finalize the spacecraft and prepare and train for their flights. This marks the first flight assignment for U.S. astronauts to fly into space on U.S. spacecraft since the space shuttle was retired in 2011.

Boeing's CST-100 is slated for the 1st flight.

This is a VERY big step indeed for NASA's return to using American hardware for manned spaceflight.

Sky Guy in STILL Cloudy VA

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

The Heart of Pluto Joins the Whale & Donut

Hey Space Placers!

Here is the latest pic (received 7/8) from Pluto being called "the Heart":

The Flyby of Pluto has started!


Sky Guy

Latest Pluto Map of the Whale & Donut

Hey Space Placers!

Here is the latest map of Pluto based on images taken from June 27-July 3rd:

We will see the resolution of Pluto improve dramatically as New Horizons gets closer to the Pluto system. But the "Whale and the Donut" are definitely capturing our collective attention.

We should be seeing new photographs today, 7/8/15, as New Horizons resumed science operations yesterday following the resolution of the glitch that occurred over the 4th - see my previous blog for background.

I will have more as it comes in from 3.BILLION.MILES.AWAY!

Sky Guy in Perpetually Cloudy VA

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Video of What Will Happen In Pluto Flyby

Hey Space Placers!

Pluto is going to be dominating the "known" Universe for the next week ;-)
Here is a video to give you an idea as to what will happen a week from today, 7/14/15 at closest approach.

History approaches.....

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, July 5, 2015

UPDATED: New Horizon Pluto Spacecraft Suffers Glitch

Hey Space Placers!


NASA has announced that New Horizons will re-commence science operations of July 7 as the cause of the glitch tot he spacecraft was not hardware or software related. It was a timing error in commands uploaded for the 7/14/15 flyby.

NASA will hold a press conference today 7/6/15 at 3 pm EDT.

The REALLY good news is that this did not happen days from now. All of the science lost while New Horizons was in safe mode will be obtained. No more commands are scheduled for uploading to the spacecraft prior to flyby.

Getting REALLY excited.

Sky Guy in VA


NASA's New Horizons spacecraft that is less than 10 days from its historic July 14th flyby of distant Pluto has suspended science operations due to a glitch.

NASA and the New Horizons' team has set up an anomaly board to determine what caused the spacecraft to lose communications with Earth and go into 'Safe Mode'.

The team has stated that it expects to resume science operations within the few days. There has been no update since the initial announcement.

We will keep you informed.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Birthday Crab Nebula (And America)

Hey Space Placers!

July 4th, 1054 saw a "guest star" appear near Taurus the Bull, as noted by Chinese and American SW star gazers.

Modern telescopes checking the position of this historical observation would discover the "Crab Nebula":

To see this very bright guest star must have been something to see - we are overdue to see one in the Milky Way Galaxy.

I hope everyone in America has a safe and fun 4th of July.

Sky Guy in Perpetually Cloudy VA

Friday, July 3, 2015

More on Pluto's Weird Spots

Hey Space Placers!

Can you believe this? See the spots and wonderful/weird Pluto and Charon for yourself! Check THIS out from NASA/New Horrizons - be sure to click on the movie to zoom in for a closer view.

It's only gonna' get better folks as we get closer!

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

What the Pluto?

Hey Space Placers!

Take a look at the four evenly spaced spots on the pic of Pluto below, right, the latest from New Horizons. What the?????

Oh, and don't overlook the dark spot on the moon Charon in both frames..

Jeez, what a system we are going to see better and better each day to close encounter on the 14th.

Get more pics and details here.

Sky Guy in VA