VENUS AND THE MOON: When the sun goes down tonight, step outside and look west. The crescent Moon is passing by Venus in the sunset sky. Catch them, if you can, before the sky fades to black. A Venus-Moon conjunction framed by twilight blue is extra beautiful.

Appearing above the horizon, the Moon and Venus are in the Constellation Cancer, the Crab. The time shown is 2045 hours, about 15 minutes after sunset.

Venus will set about 2315 hours. This will place them at the horizon but of course the sky will be black.



The changing face of Mars.


Want to see Mars with your own eyes? It’s easy to do. Just wake up an hour before sunrise; step outside and look south. Mars is blazing brighter than any star in the sky. You might be surprised, however, by the color. The dust storm now enveloping Mars is gradually hiding the planet’s rusty surface, giving the Red Planet an increasingly yellow complexion. Take a look and let us know what color you see! [sky map] [photo gallery]


Mars rover Opportunity is in trouble. NASA engineers attempted to contact Opportunity on June 12th, but did not hear back from the nearly 15-year old rover. The problem: A huge dust storm is blanketing Perseverance Valley where Opportunity has been working. This sequence of images from NASA’s Mars Reconnaisance Orbiter shows the progression of the storm:

The huge dust cloud is highlighted in red. Soon after it appeared on May 31st, the cloud swirled south to engulf Opportunity. Right now, the dust is so thick in Perseverance Valley, day has been turned into night, depriving the solar powered rover of the sunlight it needs to charge its batteries.[snip]

Other data and photos from Solar Dynamics Observatory.


Much has been made of the planned trip to Mars in the near future. there is a trip planned for a manned voyage to the Red Planet. Mars has to small moons orbiting it. Since the two orbits are not equidistant from the surface, it is possible for both to appear in the Martian sky at the same time.

It had to happen

When you look hard enough secrets of life are revealed. No, not in the dust bunnies under the bed nor in the cushions on the sofa.A more distant place: Mars.

NASA Mars rover discovers ‘building blocks’ for life: 3-billion-year-old organic matter

The “building blocks” for life have been discovered in 3-billion-year-old organic matter on Mars, NASA scientists announced Thursday.

Researchers cannot yet say whether their discovery stems from life or a more mundane geological process.  However, “we’re in a really good position to move forward looking for signs of life,”  said Jennifer Eigenbrode, a NASA biogeochemist and lead author of a study published Thursday in the peer-reviewed journal Science. [snip]

The material was discovered by the Mars Curiosity rover, which has been collecting data on the Red Planet since August 2012. The organic molecules were found in Gale Crater — believed to once contain a shallow lake the size of Florida’s Lake Okeechobee.

For the past six years, “the Curiosity has sifted samples of soil and ground-up rock for signs of organic molecules — the complex carbon chains that on Earth form the building blocks of life,” according to Science. “Past detections have been so faint that they could be just contamination,” the journal said. [snip]

Thank God, Curiosity isn’t union; it would have gone on strike years ago.


The gas giant Jupiter with it’s Moons


Here is Saturn with the majority of it’s Moons


MIDNIGHT PLANET SHOW: Any night this week, step outside after midnight and look south. You’ll see Jupiter, Saturn and Mars arranged in a bright line across the starry sky. The Moon can be your guide. It’s hopping from one planet to the next with beautiful conjunctions on June 1st (Moon-Saturn) and especially June 3rd (Moon-Mars). Enjoy the show!