Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Computer Died So Won't Be Posting

Hey Space Placers!

My computer died so am in the throes of getting up & running again

Big stories: NASA's budget at 19.285 Billion for FY 16;

Space X lands its 1st stage after a rocket launch;

ISS astronauts fix the robotic arm carrier.

Happy Holidays & back up sometime!

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Hey Space Placers!

Can you tell what is in the picture?

Give up?

It is Orion the Hunter, Taurus the Bull and the Pleiades UPSIDE DOWN! The two bright stars on the right are Sirius (top) and the 2nd brightest star in the sky Canopus below and to the right of Sirius. I took this pic on Oceania Cruises’ Nautica, which I am aboard. The latitude at the time was 28 degrees SOUTH and I have never been that far south of the equator.

The stars in the Northern Hemisphere look very different down under the equator. We have started heading North so I am hoping to get some pics of southern sky gems to share with you as we go along.

Sky Guy Down Under

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!! Geminid Meteor Shower 12/13-12/14

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the best meteor shower of the year - the Geminids.

This weekend, especially on Sunday and Monday night, we will enjoy the peak time for what I think is the best meteor shower of the year, the Geminids. I say best because it reliably produces a large number of meteors per hour (60+) in a dark sky and many of them are bright. Plus the Geminids is the only major meteor shower where you can see a good number of meteors starting at 10 p.m. local time instead of the hours just before dawn.

Sky & Telescope
The predicted peak of the 2015 Geminid Meteor Shower is the night of December 13-14 but you can see Geminids from the 12th to the 16th. Each year at this time our planet encounters a debris stream of rock particles made by Asteroid 3200 Phaethon. The Geminids is the only meteor shower caused by an asteroid or what astronomers call a rock comet - all others are due to cometary debris. 

As Earth moves in its orbit around the Sun it collides with this rocky debris stream and the particles hit our atmosphere at 22 miles per second to become “shooting or falling stars”. It is thought that the Geminds are brighter than other meteor showers because they involve larger and heavier debris than normal cometary dust and penetrate deeper into the atmosphere.

The best place to see the Geminids is a location that is away from lights and obstructions such as trees and buildings. If you are a city dweller you still may see the brightest Geminids as long as you are not staring into a street light or nestled in amongst tall buildings. The view of the Geminids is worth it from the suburbs as long as lights and obstructions are minimized as best you can. Out in the country or along the beach is the best place to be.

You do not need any equipment or know how to    http://www.skyandtelescope.com/press-releases/geminid-meteors-in-2015/     enjoy the show - just find a place where you can put a lounge chair or blanket to see the sky. Starting at 9 p.m. look in the east for the constellation Gemini for which this meteor shower is named. A meteor that is part of the shower can be traced back to Gemini. Sporadic meteors that are not part of the shower can be seen during the night as well.

The shower will continue all night before dawn - about 4 a.m. The Moon will not be in the sky which helps a lot to see fainter meteors.  The key to watching the shower is being comfortable, in other words WARM. The Geminids 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. 

Enjoy the shower with family, friends or your significant other. Some music, food and beverages are an added plus. You can also tune in on the 13th to a   http://www.nasa.gov/centers/marshall/news/news/releases/2015/M15-180.html    NASA live chat on the Geminids starting at 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. EST.

The weather may cloud us out in the WTOP viewing area for the Geminid Meteor Shower. Our best bet is to check the sky to see if it is clear when you want to go out to look for Geminids. 

If it is cloudy you can still observe the Geminid 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 Geminids. Essentially the louder a ping is, the brighter the meteor would be in the sky.

You can   spaceweatherradio.com     listen during the day and night. 

Sky Guy in VA

Ceres Bright Spots Explained?

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's Dawn mission might finally have an answer to the enigmatic bright spots that I have written about numerous times.

Occator in False Color

The Dawn spacecraft has finally reached its lowest altitude - about 240 miles - above Ceres. This will allow for accumulating very detailed photographs and data as the mission enters its final phase.

Ceres is quite the dwarf planet like Pluto. What an amazing solar system we live in.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, December 5, 2015

Sky Guy ALERT! Moon, Venus & Comet Catalina Dec 6-7

Hey Space Placers!

The next two predawns offer a beautiful view of the Moon and Venus PLUS a chance to see Comet Catalina. You will need binoculars to see the comet. Here is a Sky & Telescope finder chart:

I'm hoping to get some pics to share with you - stay tuned.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, December 4, 2015

Watch The First JWST Mirror Segment Go Into Place

Hey Space Placers!

Watch the 1st of the 18 mirror segments go into place on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) in this video by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Exoplanet Candidates

Hey Space Placers!

Check out this uber cool graphic of the size of exoplanet candidates (planets to be confirmed beyond our solar system) from NASA's Kepler mission

We live in a time when we know of thousands of planets beyond our solar system that are orbiting other stars - think about that.....

It is quite clear that planets are a natural byproduct of stellar formation and our Milky Way probably contains BILLIONS if not TRILLIONS of planets.

Oh, and each of the 200 billion plus galaxies we can see should also have planets as well.

What a Universe!

Sky Guy in VA