Sunday, October 4, 2015

This is Ceres

Hey Space Placers!

The OTHER dwarf planet, Ceres, was in the lime light for a bit recently when NASA released a new global map of the icy world showing compositional differences.

Ceres is an intriguing world that we will learn more about while the Dawn spacecraft continues to make observations.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, October 2, 2015

My Review of 'The Martian'

Hey Space Placers!

I saw Sir Ridley Scott's movie, 'The Martian' today. In a word - OUTSTANDING. I say this NOT totally because I love all things space. I'm saying it because this is a very, very good movie.

You can get the movie's basics from the IMDB link.

Here's my review.

While Matt Damon is the HUMAN star of the movie, make no mistake, Mars as it is depicted in the film is THE STAR of the movie with the impressive space hardware winning best supporting honors.

Scott repeatedly gives us grand and visually stunning views of the Red Planet. I am sure he had access to the thousands of photographs of Mars from orbit and on the planet that NASA has acquired over the years. The huge scale of geological features and the endless sand contrast so vividly with the sky and weather. The night sky scenes took my breath away.

The view of the Earth as a bright star, the transiting of the Martian moons, the famous dust devils, cirrus clouds and sunset are mesmerizing. Add to it the crushing loneliness of being the only living thing on the planet with help 50 million miles and 4 years away.

When I looked at the very plausible space hardware being used for the MULTIPLE trips to and from Mars, living on Mars, I have to be honest. I said to myself that our current broken political system would never be able to pull itself together to pay for what I was seeing. Make no mistake, going to Mars will be very expensive, but so was going to the Moon. Done over a period of decades WITH DEDICATED AND GUARANTEED FUNDING, we can send humans to and from Mars.

The movie also highlighted international cooperation in space. Can you imagine the power of China and the US applied to manned spaceflight? The movie shows what is possible and NECESSARY when it comes to going to Mars. There is real international cooperation in space going on now with the International Space Station (ISS). The U.S. and Russia, even though at great odds with one another here on terra firma, breathe, bathe, eat and watch over one another aboard ISS.

'The Martian' flows smoothly and quickly and is a joy to follow. There is no complicated science to comprehend as there was in 'Interstellar' and the science presented is completely understandable.

There is also plenty of 'feel good' aspects to this move, and yes, I got a few tears going here and there due to the sheer beauty of the scenery and humanity. I became fully enveloped as I think a lot of movie goers will.

NASA obviously plays a big part in the movie - on screen and in its making. When the launch of a new mission to Mars is portrayed, I'm pretty sure it is the actual footage from the unmanned Exploration Flight Test-1, NASA's 1st Orion mission launched December 5, 2014.

Orion is NASA's new manned spacecraft that can take astronauts to the Moon, Mars and the asteroids. The rocket that can get it there is NASA's Space Launch System (SLS) which is being built and is scheduled for its first launch with Orion - unmanned - no earlier than 2018.

'The Martian' is a movie that movie goers should see and yes, the Oscar folks take a look at for Best Actor Matt Damon, Best Director Ridley Scott, Best Special Effects, Best Cinematography and Best Sound.

It is that good.

I saw it in 2D and may (will) go back and see it in 3D.

See 'The Martian'. You will not regret doing so....

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Enjoy This Latest Pic of Charon

Hey Space Placers!

Enjoy this latest enhance color pic of Pluto's moon Charon.

Besides the reddish color at the north pole of Charon the massive canyons/valleys and different terrain that goes at a diagonal across the whole moon is impressive. There are a lot of rilles (lines in the surface) that can be seen as well.

Image Credit: NASA/JHUAPL/SwRI
You can details on this pic here.

There is much, much more to come in the next 13 months as data is returned to Earth by the New Horizons spacecraft.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

NASA Picks New Space Missions for Next Round

Hey Space Placers!

Read about the space missions that were selected by NASA today for further competition.

OK, I confess, Near Earth Object Camera (NEOCam) is my favorite because:

1. It will help find asteroids that threaten Earth;

2. Dr. Amy Mainzer would be the Principal Investigator of the mission - and I know her:

Greg Redfern & Dr. Amy Mainzer, NASA JPL
She is passionate about asteroids and this mission. NASA would do well to select the mission to protect Earth and learn more about our solar system.

Sky Guy in the possible bull's eye of Hurricane Joaquin

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

NASA Announces Liquid Water Found on Mars

Hey Space Placers!

As usual, Google says it all when there is a major space event.

Scroll through the headlines and stories to get the background and latest on NASA's 9/28/15 announcement that "a mystery on Mars had been solved". The mystery being the cause of long, dark streaks found at numerous craters and hills on Mars during certain times - read seasons - on Mars.

Due to the combined work of various NASA spacecraft studying Mars, scientists were able to definitely say that these dark streaks are liquid, but briny (salty) water areas. These are not fast flowing streams but areas where the Martian soil has become wet due to the presence of liquid water.

What makes this announcement so important is that we are now talking about liquid water on PRESENT DAY Mars and not in the distant or geological past.

Of course the presence of liquid water is necessary for life as we know it to exist AND can provide a valuable resource for future astronauts on the Red Planet.

Social Media (SM), especially the Twitterverse was abuzz about what the announcement would be about and some guessed it right about being water related. There were political comments made in the media that tried to align the announcement with "left wing" elements - unreal. Some also had comments about how NASA had characterized this announcement as being "major" when they didn't think it was.

But the Red Planet beckons us to keep observing, learning and sending new missions and one day, ourselves.

Sky Guy in RAIN SOAKED VA with a LOT more to come in the next week!!

PS - Clouded out for the Eclipse but had a GREAT audience at Shenandoah National Park

Thursday, September 24, 2015

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT: Rare Harvest-Supermoon Total Lunar Eclipse 9/27-28/15

Hey Space Placers!

Shenandoah National Park
Greg Redfern
You have to watch this Sunday's (9-27) rare Harvest-Supermoon Total Lunar Eclipse. All of the details are here.

We are probably going to be cloudy here on the East Coast :-(

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pope Francis Visits the U.S.

Hey Space Placers!

With Pope Francis visiting the U.S. and his stated stance on climate change, here is a video you should watch.

All living things share this planet and one person's pollution is another's next breath. We have nowhere else to go at present and MUST take steps to preserve our planet's health.

As I have stated many times, the Earth doesn't need humanity, we need the Earth. Humanity cannot continue its present course in population growth, go-go economics and power generation without consequences that could radically change civilization for the worse.

Humanity as a whole must come together to change how we generate power and use our finite resources.

Pope Francis is an inspiration due to his faith, his vision that includes science (he has a Master's degree in chemistry) and most of all, his humanity.

Let's hope that his wisdom will influence members of Congress and others who continue to deny climate change is real and happening now.

Sky Guy in VA