Friday, August 21, 2015

Watch & ENJOY "The Martian" Trailer

Hey Space Placers!

UPDATE: I am off to the Alaska Bush again and will be off the 'net for awhile. C U when I get back.

To follow up on 'Send Your Name to Mars" yesterday, check out the trailer for "The Martian". This is gonna' be a GREAT space flick.

I can HARDLY WAIT for this movie!

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Send Your Name To Mars!

Hey Space Placers!

I'm a Frequent Flyer with NASA as I have flown my name on a lot of NASA missions and I have a crater on Mars with my name on it as well as our beloved and deceased dog.

Now is your chance to sign up to send your name to Mars with NASA's InSight Mars Lander that is due to launch in 2016.

It's easy and fun to do. And let's face it, you and I will probably never get to Mars in person. BUT our names will be there ON MARS!

Sky Guy in VA

P.S. THANK YOU to the 2.5 MILLION WUTSP viewers! Quite a milestone for a DIY blog - I am grateful & humble for your readership.......

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Enjoy Astronaut Scott Kelly's Aurora Pic

Hey Space Placers!

Quite the view from space aboard the International Space Station (ISS):

Scott Kelly & NASA
Read All About It.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, August 16, 2015

Help Name Other Worlds

Hey Space Placers!

Want to help name worlds beyond our solar system? Well, here's your chance.

Credit: IAU
Between now and October 31, 2015 you can enter a world wide contest sponsored by the International Astronomical Union (IAU) as explained by the IAU News Release:.

The NameExoWorlds contest, organised by the IAU, is now entering its historic final stage. The public voting on the shortlist of names for the ExoWorlds — 20 planetary systems comprising 15 stars and 32 exoplanets — starts today (8/12/15). The vote will decide the names for the selected stars and exoplanets.

It's easy and fun to vote....take a few minutes to be part of history.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, August 14, 2015

Perseid Pics

Hey Space Placers!

Shenandoah National Park (SNP) had very large crowds at Big Meadows on Wed & Thurs to see the Perseid Meteor Shower. I had to give 3 presentations as there were over 500 people at the Visitor's Center to see it.

People of all ages came to the Park and gathered in and around Big Meadows to see this annual spectacle. The Perseids did not disappoint as the sky remained pretty clear for most of the night and did not cloud up until the hour or so before dawn.  The clear mountain air resonated with "ohs and ahs" from the crowd as bright meteors were seen in the sky.

Here are some of my pics from the shower.

Brightest Perseid Caught on Camera

Milky Way Over Big Meadows SNP

Persied & A Satellite & Milky Way

The Great Rift

Awesome Color

Two Galaxies - The Milky Way & Andromeda Galaxy
Quite the night for all.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, August 8, 2015

UPDATED: Sky Guy Viewing ALERT! The Perseid Meteor Shower

Hey Space Placers!


NASA to host Perseid Meteor Shower Segment.

Here is the latest on the Shower.

The year’s best meteor shower, the Perseids, is happening now with the peak predicted to occur on the night of August 12-13, Wednesday into Thursday. With the Moon out of the sky and the peak expected to be centered on 4 a.m Thursday morning an observer with a good (read dark and unobscured) location could see 60-100 meteors - falling stars - an hour.

Annie Yu, Mike Thomas & I on the Fox 5 Set 
Credit: Dianne Murphy
APR Public Relations Consultant
Dinamic Communications

Each year at this time our planet encounters a debris stream of cometary dust made by Comet Swift-Tuttle. As Earth moves in its orbit around the Sun it collides with this debris stream and the cometary debris particles hit our atmosphere to become “shooting or falling stars”. 

Traveling at 37 miles per second (133,000 miles per hour) these cometary bits hit the atmosphere 80 miles up and heat the atmosphere white hot which is what we see. Usually the size of a grain of sand they can also be as big as a pebble or a little larger. Speed plus size makes for a lot of “oohhs and aahhhs” while we watch the Perseids through the night.  Research by NASA has determined that of the dozen or so annual meteor showers the Perseids produce the largest number of fireballs or meteors that are as bright or brighter than the planet Venus. Last year the Full Supermoon and less than clear weather inferred with the Perseids.

The DMV has a truly perfect location to watch this “fun for the whole family” celestial spectacle - our very own Shenandoah National Park (SNP).  The National Park Service at Shenandoah National Park is going to have a Park-wide “Perseids Star Party” at three separate locations - Dickey Ridge Visitor Center lawn (mile 4.6 on Skyline Drive), Big Meadows (mile 51), and Loft Mountain amphitheater (mile 79.5).

As noted in the SNP Press Release:

At Dickey Ridge Visitor Center and Loft Mountain amphitheaters, the evening will begin at 9 p.m. with a 30-minute presentation about the Perseids and dark night skies. Rangers and volunteers from local astronomy clubs will provide constellation tours and opportunities to view the night sky through telescopes. Rangers and volunteers will be on site until 11 p.m., but visitors are welcome to stay longer to continue to view the meteor shower, which will peak before dawn.

At Big Meadows, starting at 9 p.m., Greg Redfern will present The Perseids, Falling Stars at Shenandoah National Park in the Byrd Visitor Center auditorium (mile 51). He will discuss the Perseid meteor shower, meteor showers in general, and the basics of photographing Shenandoah National Park’s night skies. Rangers and volunteer astronomers will provide telescope viewing and constellation tours near the Rapidan Fire Road gate at Big Meadows. Rangers and volunteers will be on site until 11 p.m.

Park visitors are welcome to stay longer to see the Perseids at these three locations and I will be at Big Meadows until dawn. 

You do not need any equipment or know how to enjoy the show - just find a place where you can put a lounge chair or blanket to see the sky. Starting at 11 p.m. in the northeast the constellation for which this meteor shower is named - Perseus - hangs low above the horizon and will rise higher as the night progresses. 

Credit: Sky &
A meteor that is part of the shower can be traced back to Perseus. Sporadic meteors that are not part of the shower can be seen during the night as well.

The shower should improve after midnight and Perseids can appear anywhere in the sky but looking straight up gives you the widest viewing area - this is where the lounge chair or blanket come in handy. 

If you are a city dweller you still may see the brightest Perseids as long as you are not staring into a street light or nestled in amongst tall buildings. The view of the Perseids is worth it from the suburbs as long as lights and obstructions are minimized as best you can.

If you can’t make it to the Park you can still observe the Perseid Meteor Shower by a very novel and cool means.

As I write this I am listening to meteor radar - yes radar that scans for incoming meteors as well as satellites and space debris. It is a fascinating way - just heard one!! - to monitor a meteor shower like the Perseids. Essentially the louder a ping is, the brighter the meteor would be in the sky.

You can listen during the day and night, so tune your browser to to listen in just like you would go out to watch.

Enjoy the shower with family, friends or your significant other. Some food and beverages are an added plus. Be sure to have extra clothing as it can get cool at night. You can book a room and enjoy fine dining at the Park if you want to make a full day and night of it.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, August 7, 2015

NASA Does Tumblr

Hey Space Placers!

NASA has added Tumblr to its other Social Media outreach.

Every NASA mission, Center and Facility has a website, Twitter, Facebook, and possibly other Social Media accounts.

Public outreach and education are part of each NASA mission's budget as NASA is dedicated to sharing with the world what it does.

The recent and ongoing missions of New Horizons at Pluto, Dawn at Ceres and the International Space Station are prime examples of this outreach.

Make sure you tune in to all of your favorite NASA missions - some of the data is received in almost real time!

I'll be blogging about the Perseid Meteor Shower tomorrow! Watch the skies!

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, August 6, 2015

New & Amazing Ceres Video

Hey Space Placers!

Check out this new video of Ceres  - it is a tour de force!

Ceres "Pyramid Mountain"
Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA/MPS/DLR/IDA/LPI
The view will get even BETTER as the Dawn spacecraft edges lower and lower to its altitude of 900 miles which will happen in mid-August.

Wow, what a year we have had so far in the solar system - Pluto flyby, Dawn, Rosetta. And the best is yet to come in all of these missions. New Horizons is sending data back, Ceres will get down low and Rosetta flying in formation with Comet 67P reaches closest approach to the Sun next week.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

What a View of Our Double Planet System

Hey Space Placers!

Watch this video a few times

What we are seeing is our "double planet" system of the Earth and the Moon. I am not aware of another video like this showing the transit of the Moon across the Earth in such detail. A similar video was taken by NASA's Seep Impact spacecraft but it was 31 million miles away.

The video was taken a million miles away from a NASA weather satellite that monitors space weather and can observe the Earth as well.

This really puts our precious planet in perspective in a way we have not seen before.

Enjoy the view.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, August 3, 2015

Spot the Station

Hey Space Placers!

Last night at Skyland Resort in Shenandoah National Park, myself and 40+ attendees for my "Let's Talk About Space At Shenandoah National Park" watched the International Space Station (ISS) pass silently but brightly overhead.

Many had never seen ISS before and they were thrilled to finally have done so. We waved as Scott Kelly and crew travelled 17,500 miles per hour for 6 1/2 minutes in our sky.

Waving at ISS Above the Treetop on the Left
by Greg Redfern
 You can register at SpotTheStation to receive notices of when ISS will be visible from your location. It is truly a sight to see.....

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Closest Rocky Exoplanet Discovered

Hey Space Placers!

How about a rocky exoplanet located ONLY 21 light years away? What is even better is that you can see the star it orbits with your unaided eye - which I think is a first.

This is a gold mine for studying exoplanets because it is so close and it transits its star from our point of view which allows us to study it in great detail.

I am going to try to photograph Cassiopeia and get a view of the star  HD 219134.

Sky Guy in VA