Sunday, August 31, 2014

Latest on How the International Space Station (ISS) Benefits Us

Hey Space Placers!

Got this from NASA contacts a few days ago and wanted to share it with you. I hope you will tune in to the links as they really show how ISS benefits us here on Earth.

From NASA:

Always on the lookout for good products and content to share, we’re pleased to share a video that highlights how the International Space Station is impacting the lives of people around the globe through its evolving role as a groundbreaking platform for scientific research. We are finding that many people are quite interested in the benefits of space for life on Earth.
The newest of the "Benefits to Humanity" video series, this 6 minute video takes you on the high seas of the frigid Atlantic for a glimpse at how technology onboard the space station is making travel on the waves a safer place - watch the video here - and please share it with others at your site, professionals in your field, and even your family and friends!
In a nutshell, the Vessel-ID System investigation on the ISS demonstrates the ability for a space-based radio receiver to track a ship’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) signal, the marine equivalent of the air traffic control system. Since being turned on in 2010, Vessel-ID has been able to relay more than 400,000 ship position reports from more than 22,000 ships in a single day, proving a quantum leap in the ship tracking ability of coast guards around the world. This ability, coupled with multiple AIS tracking satellites launched since, is already making travel safer for those aboard thousands of ships around the globe. The ship identification and tracking system technology already aided in orienting rescue services for a lone survivor stranded in the North Sea, giving new hope to once impossible situations.
In earlier videos of the "Space Station Benefits for Humanity" series, NASA showed how the station’s water purification technology is used to provide clean, safe drinking water to an area plagued by contaminated water. You met doctors who use a life changing tool in neurosurgery adapted from the station’s complex robotic arm, the same “arm” used to lift huge cargo ships on the orbiting laboratory. And, we introduced the next generation of explorers inspired to create and learn more because of a virtual connection to the astronauts living and working in space. All of these videos are readily available for use at museums, science centers, and other venues.
Take a few minutes to see how the International Space Station is working – Off the Earth, For the Earth.
Find out more about science aboard the International Space Station at

Remember, you can see ISS from your location. Just sign up at

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!!!!! 8-30 & 31 Moon, Saturn Mars

Hey Space Placers!

Tune in to the sky tonight and tomorrow night to watch the Moon move in on Saturn and Mars. The two planets are keeping each other company in the west and the Moon will make a nice addition to the sky scene. You can also get an idea about how far the Moon moves in the sky from night to night by watching tonight and tomorrow.


Sky Guy in VA

Friday, August 29, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

Tune in today, 8/29/14 at Slooh to see Neptune - starting at 8 p.m. EDT - and asteroid 2002 CU11 at midnight EDT (8/30/14).

Slooh will be on the Internet streaming live views of these solar system objects using a telescope in the Canary Islands.

Neptune is at opposition tonight, or directly across from the Sun and 2002 CU11 is making a close approach to Earth.

Enjoy the show!

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, August 28, 2014

NASA's Mars 2020 Rover, MAVEN Mission Update, NASA Journey to Mars Poster

Hey Space Placers!

NASA made an announcement on July 31st as to what the agency's next Martian rover will comprise. You can read about the Mars 2020 Rover here.

With new instruments and exploration objectives this new rover will build upon the experiences and discoveries of previous Red Planet explorers.

The new rover will be primarily based on the nuclear powered Curiosity Rover/Lab but will feature changes in chassis and I am sure wheel design. Curiosity's wheels have actual gaping holes in them caused by the tortuous and rocky terrain it has been traveling over.

NASA's Maven mission will be arriving at Mars next month on the 21st and all is GO on the spacecraft.

Finally, here is a VERY COOL poster from NASA and how they intend to get HUMANS to Mars:

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Summer Milky Way

Hey Space Placers!

Sorry I missed you yesterday but I came down off the mountain from NOVAC's Almost Heaven Star Party and had to unpack after 4 days being in a tent, etc., etc.

Here is my have pic I took of the summer Milky Way:

People really like it and it has been published:

I am going to be at Shenandoah National Park tonight at Big Meadows Lodge 9 pm giving my next talk in the "Let's Talk About Space in the Shenandoah National Park", "So, You Want To Be An Astrophotographer?"

We will also be at Big Meadows afterwards having a star session. Looks like it will be clear so people can see the Milky Way for themselves.

More pics coming of the sky from AHSP soon.

Sky Guy back in VA

Monday, August 25, 2014

New Horizons Crosses Neptune's Orbit UPDATED

Hey Space Placers!

UPDATE: New NASA Press Release

Hopefully you have been able to tune in to the news conferences on NASA's New Horizons missions that I blogged about yesterday. I was not able to as I am listening to talks and getting ready to hopefully see the sky tonight at the Almost Heaven Star Party. I am giving a talk tonight on the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) and after that it is out to MY telescope which I have set up:

Today is a big day in New Horizons' mission as the spacecraft crosses the orbit of Neptune and next up will be Pluto at closest approach on July 14, 2015.

Yesterday was a landmark date for Pluto as well….it was the 8th anniversary of Pluto being reclassified as a dwarf planet. I am wearing my "RIP Pluto" T shirt to commemorate the event.

Here's to clear skies and as tropics tonight.

Sky Guy In WVA

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Sky Guy INTERNET ALERT!!! 8-25-14

Hey Space Placers!

Still living inside the clouds here at Almost Heaven Star Party! Was real windy last night and it is a total "in the clouds" day today.

NASA will be carrying live on the Internet two different sessions tomorrow, 8-25-14, on its New Horizons mission to Pluto. The sessions will run 1-2 pm EDT and 2-3 pm EDT. You can submit your questions via social media also.

Sky Guy Living in the Clouds in WVA

Saturday, August 23, 2014

SPACE-X Rocket Explodes, ESA Sats In Wrong Orbit

Hey Space Placers!

As I prepare to give my talk on "The Future of U.S. Manned Spaceflight" today at Almost Heaven Star Party, two incidents remind us that getting to space is not easy.

The European Space Agency (ESA) announced today that two of their Galileo GPS satellites that were just launched on 8/22/14 by a Soyuz rocket are in the wrong orbit. The satellites are under control and safe. ESA is assessing the situation and will decide on the appropriate course of action.

A Space X Falcon 9R rocket exploded on Friday during a fight test. The F9R is designed to be a reusable rocket and Elon Musk commented in a Tweet after the incident that "Rockets are Tricky".

Both of these incidents show us that access to space is not easy. Each organization will review data and telemetry to determine what happened, make corrections and try again.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, August 22, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 8-23-14 Pre-Dawn Trio

Hey Space Placers!

I'm heading out to AHSP. It is cloudy and will be for the next few days :-(

But there is still plenty to do there.

If it is clear tomorrow morning make sure you get up before dawn and view the splendid trio of Venus, Jupiter and the waning crescent Moon in the East. They will form a big, bright triangle and the Moon will have Earthshine I am sure.

I will be sharing (I hope) pics & tales from AHSP with you over the coming days.

Sky Guy on the way to AHSP!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Send A Message to Mars

Hey Space Placers!

I'm getting ready for the 2014 Almost Heaven Star Party. I honestly can't remember the last time when I went to a star party WITH my telescope. I've been to many as a speaker - I'll be talking about NASA's Manned Spaceflight Program and James Webb Space Telescope at AHSP.

I should have Internet while at AHSP so I can stay in touch.

I wanted to tell you about a neat fund raiser by the good folks of Uwingu - the same folks that are taking names for Martian craters to make a "people's map of Mars". I have a crater named 'REDFERN' that is in Gale Crater where Curiosity is located:

Named by gredfern2014-02-27

Diameter: 6.61 km (4.11 mi)
Latitude: -6.37° N, Longitude: 137.12° E
District: 3377Province: 405
Citation: Named for the family of "SkyGuyinVA" Greg Redfern, a NASA JPL Solar System Ambassador, cruise ship lecturer, space contributor to WTTG and WTOP and "What's Up:The Space Place" blogger.
It is not an official designation but it is still cool to see your name on a Martian Crater/map.

Their latest fundraiser is to charge as a little as $5 to beam a message to Mars on November 28, 2014. This date commemorates the 50th anniversary of the launch of Mariner 4 to Mars, the very 1st mission to the Red Planet.

Join in and make a contribution. 50% of it will go to research, education and outreach. I've sent mine!

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Moon's Deep Interior Still Hot

Hey Space Placers!

Here is a fascinating article on new research done by the National Astronomical Observatory of Japan (NOAJ) that shows the Moon's deepest mantle layer is still hot.

When we look at the Moon we are seeing the outermost layer of the Moon, the crust. Underneath the crust lies the mantle and then at the very center of the Moon the core. This structure, although vastly different in size and scope, is the same for the Earth.

The Moon and Earth are locked in a gravitational sequence that produces tides which affect both the Moon and Earth. The research done by an international team shows that the deepest interior of the mantle is soft due to this tidal heating.

Our view of the Moon has changed from being a dry, dead and geologically dormant world to one where water exists, a tenuous atmosphere and now interior heat.

The Moon beckons us to return to explore and I believe inhabit it.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, August 18, 2014

GREAT Crowd Last Night

Hey Space Placers!

We had a capacity crowd at Big Meadows Lodge at Shenandoah National Park to learn about the James Webb Space Telescope.

Families with kids, couples and attendees from international venues enjoyed learning about the space telescope successor to Hubble.

It was cloudy at the Park last night but what really struck me was how QUIET it was. There were lots of people staying in the campsites and the lodge where we were but the quiet was surreal. It made me realize how precious a commodity silence is in modern times.

We saw license plates from FL, VA, PA, NJ, NY, MN, CA and MD. People were riding bikes - one gent from the Netherlands was taking on the fluctuating terrain of Skyline Drive - to families riding together.

The campgrounds are a mixture of tent and RV separate sites. It was neat to see people and their campsite set ups. Nothing beats the smell of a campfire in the wilderness air.

It was cloudy so we could not have our star party that follows my talk and it was cloudy this morning so Jupiter-Venus were out. But all in all it was another great session in our "Let's Talk About Space at Shenandoah National Park.

If you haven't visited one of the Nation's National Parks in awhile, you owe it to yourself to do so.

Here's one pic I did get of Deer 084:

SKy Guy in VA

Sunday, August 17, 2014

James Webb Space Telescope: Join Me At Shenandoah National Park 8-17-14

Hey Space Placers!

Heading up to the mountains.

Tonight I will be at Shenandoah National Park's Big Meadow's Lodge at 9 p.m. to talk about NASA's James Webb Space Telescope.

This is the 3rd in the "Let's Talk About Space at Shenandoah National Park".

Don't forget to look for Jupiter & Venus tomorrow morning - see yesterday's blog for details.

Oh, and here's my first astropic with my new 80mm f/5 short refractor from last night:

Looking forward to getting more pics with this 'scope.

Sky Guy in the Mountains of SNP

Saturday, August 16, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

If you have not seen Venus and Jupiter in the morning sky before dawn yet, you need to set the alarm for about 45 minutes before sunrise, get out and look. See my previous blog for background and a pic.

At their closest on the morning of August 18th the two brightest planets in the solar system will be  close enough to view in a telescope at low magnification - that is close. Depending on your viewing location they will be separated by a 1/2 of a degree or less - the size of your little finger at arms-width.

Sky & Telescope 
The key to seeing the planetary pair is having a clear view of the ENE horizon and hopefully no intervening clouds or haze close to the horizon. If you have binoculars they will enhance the view immensely.

You can read more about this skywatching treat here and here.

I'll be up at Shenandoah National Park on Sunday, August 17th, giving my 3rd
"Let's Talk About Space at Shenandoah National Park" presentation - "The James Webb Space Telescope". The talk starts at 9 pm in the Massanutten Room at Big Meadows Lodge. Afterwards, if it is clear, we will have a skywatching session at Big Meadows.

My hope is to get a pic of the dazzling duo on Monday morning. I will be taking my new wide field 80mm refractor out to view the pair and attempt to get some pics to share.

You can try to get a pic too by mounting your camera on a tripod and using a telephoto lens to capture the pair. Take multiple exposures trying to get a faster shutter speed to cut down on pre-dawn glare.

Let's hope for clear skies and great pics!

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, August 15, 2014

Interstellar Dust Find?

Hey Space Placers!

7 possible specks of Interstellar Dust have been retrieved from NASA's  2006 Stardust Mission.

If confirmed this would be an impressive addition to our knowledge of the environment between the stars. Here is an excellent news release on the potential find and its implications.

Scientists have discovered supernova remnant material in the interior of the Allende Meteorite and others.

Have a good weekend and be sure to look at Jupiter and Venus - see my blog from yesterday.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!!! 8/15-18/14 Jupiter & Venus Meet

Hey Space Placers!

Supermoon (one more next month) and the Perseids have come and gone. But there is a real skywatcher's treat in the predawn sky for the next several days.

Bright Jupiter is moving out of the Sun's glare while Venus is sinking lower in the east each day. This will make for a fascinating view in the sky before dawn culminating on the 18th when the two are very close together.

We see this movement as a result of planetary motion. Venus, Earth and Jupiter all orbit the Sun in their  gravity defined paths or orbits. This changes the view of the planets every day. Jupiter will be in our evening sky and Venus will transition from the morning to evening sky in the coming months.

In my picture that I took at Shenandoah National Park yesterday, 8/13/14, you can see Jupiter in the lower left while Venus dominates the sky scene to the upper right.

To see the planetary duo you need to have a clear view of the eastern horizon and need to start looking around 5:30 a.m. FInd Venus first and look diagonally to the lower left of the "Morning Star" to find Jupiter.

If you have binoculars it will make your search easier. If you have a telescope be sure to look at the two  on the 18th as they will easily fit in a low power, wide field eyepiece. You can take a pic by mounting a camera on a tripod and take some exposures using a telephoto lens if you have one and using the delayed shutter function.

I hope to get some more pics too.

Happy skywatching!

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

Tonight is the predicted peak of the Perseid Meteor Shower. It looks like DMV will be clouded out BUT you can LISTEN for them on the Internet via space radar  - a favorite activity of mine - anytime up until the shower ends sometime after August 13. This includes day time hours as well.

NASA will have a live Internet chat at 11 p.m. EDT and streaming (weather permitting) at 9:30 p.m. EDT so you can  VIEW them via NASA.

The almost Full Moon is in the sky all night and will dampen this year’s  Perseid Meteor Shower but the brighter meteors will still be visible. Each year during August the cometary debris from Comet Swift-Tuttle intersects the Earth and produces a wonderful display of falling or shooting stars - meteors. These bits of comet dust, about the size of a grain of sand, hit our atmosphere at 140,000 miles per hour! 

At a dark sky site with no Moon present one can count on seeing up to a 100 meteors an hour. This year the bright and almost Full Moon will reduce the number to a predicted 30-40 per hour. These will be bright meteors and the Perseids produce a lot of fireballs - meteors that are brighter than Venus. NASA’s meteor monitoring stations have reported a number of bright Perseid fireballs in the past few days. 

Start watching the sky at 11 p.m. local time and especially the hours before dawn to look for them. The best place to watch the Perseids is somewhere free of city lights that offers a clear view of the whole sky. Being comfortable is key to watching the shower.

I will be at Big Meadows Lodge, Shenandoah National Park on August 12, 9 p.m. EDT, giving my next “Let’s Talk About Space at Shenandoah National Park” presentation on the Chesapeake Bay Impact Crater. Afterwards if it is clear we will meet at Big Meadows to watch the Perseids.

Here’s to clear skies! Hope to see you at Big Meadows!

Sky Guy Back in VA

Monday, August 11, 2014

Supermoon Sunday

Hey Space Placers!

I hope you had a chance to get in the hoopla around the world regarding Supermoon Sunday - see my blog from 8-10-14 for details.

It was wonderful - to me - to see such a reaction to a splendid astronomical event.

I watched the Supermoon from 1/4 mile above New York City on the 102nd floor of the Empire State Building and took this pic with my iPhone:

We have one more Supermoon next month so here's to clear skies!

Sky Gut Back in VA

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!!!! SUPERMOON SUNDAY 8-10-14

Hey Space Placers!

Tonight is the night for Supermoon Sunday .

I hope your skies will be clear where you live so you can see this fun and beautiful event.

I will be at the top of the Empire State Building in New York City to watch the Moon rise and hopefully get a pic to share with you. Wish me luck!

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Supermmon Sunday & the Perseid Meteor Shower

Hey Space Placers!

Get the low down on Supermoon Sunday (8/10/14) and the ongoing Perseid Meteor shower here 

Here's to clear skies!

Sky Guy in NYC

Friday, August 8, 2014

Almost Heaven Star Party Is In Two Weeks

Hey Space Placers!

Two weeks from today, August 22nd, is the start of the 10th annual Northern Virginia Astronomy Club's (NOVAC)     "Almost Heaven Star Party" (AHSP).

If you are in the DMV and love astronomy, telescopes, star parties and getting together with other like minded people at a dark sky site - this is YOUR event. The Milky Way is REALLY something to see at the West Virginia location of The Mountain Institute where AHSP is held.

I will be there with my telescopes - yes that is plural - as I bought a short 80mm f/5 refractor to obtain wide field views and astropics.

I will be giving a talk on "The Future of U.S. Manned Spaceflight". There is a great lineup of other speakers and topics as well as fun excursions during the day and night.

I hope to see you all there.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, August 7, 2014


Hey Space Placers!

Been making the media rounds today about our next "Let's Talk About Space at Shenandoah National Park".

Enjoy our Fox 5 segment.

I'll have more on Supermoon Sunday and the Perseids this weekend.

Try and get out to see the Perseids each night until the predicted peak on the night of 12-13 August.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Space History Made Today

Hey Space Placers!

I am back and on line again from New Orleans. My humble and sincere thanks for putting my blog at OVER 1 MILLION page views! Thank you!

Today the European Space Agency (ESA) successfully rendezvoused its Rosetta spacecraft with Comet 67/P after a daring 10 year flight.

The images being transmitted are simply stunning. The detail we can see will only get better as Rosetta gets closer and lands its Philae Lander in the near future.

We will have a ringside seat as Rosetta follows 67/P as it nears the Sun and begins to "turn on" due to the heat from the Sun.

Get the latest on Rosetta - ESA

Sky Guy Back in VA

Friday, August 1, 2014

NASA Is Building Rockets Again

Hey Space Placers!

I have been in New Orleans and very busy and unable to blog - sorry. Lots of family here for an event and it has been go, go, go. It will be that way for the next few days as well.

I did get to NASA's John C. Stennis Center and Michoud Assembly Facility (MAF) on Wednesday and I am still coming down from that incredible day. I accomplished so many personal wishes by be able to TOUCH, yes TOUCH, the following:

  • A Saturn V F-1 engine;
  • A Saturn V S-IC stage (the first stage of the Saturn V that had five F-1 engines);
  • J2-X engine S/N 003 - the development rocket engine for the upper stage of the Space Launch System (SLS);
  • One of the three ORIGINAL Space Shuttle Main Engines (SSMEs) that powered the very first Space Shuttle mission - STS-1 Columbia;
I also got to tour the Test Stands at Stennis that were used to static fire the F-1, SSMEs, J2-X and will soon test fire the RS-25 rocket engine that will power the SLS. The RS-25 is a SSME with an upgraded flight controller and other modifications. A core of 4 RS-25's will be tested eventually on the test stands as this will form the first stage of the SLS.


I also got to see where the core stage of the SLS and the Orion Spacecraft is being built at MAF. MAF is a 42 ACRE facility that is under one roof and is GIGANTIC. It was used during WWII and was picked up by NASA in the early 60's when the race to the Moon was heating up.

Advanced machine tools and processes are being used to manufacture the SLS fuel tanks, core stage, flight components and Orion. This is the same facility where the Saturn V S-IC first stage was built as was the Space Shuttle External Tank. Each SLS rocket and Orion spacecraft will be built at MAF and the rockets will be static fired (tested) at Stennis and certified as ready for flight. They will then by sent by barge to Kennedy Space Center (KSC).

Stennis and MAF are a beehive of activity - NASA is in the business of building rockets and manned spacecraft again in a very, very gratifying way. Everywhere you look at Stennis the test stands are being upgraded for the more powerful SLS - more water suppression systems to deliver an additional 70,000 gallons per minute on top of the current 330,000 gallon per minute capacity; beefing up support structures to accommodate the heavier than Saturn V SLS; painting, welding, digging - its shows LIFE in America's MANNED spaceflight program.

MAF is now building SLS panel by panel. Orion is out at KSC for its upcoming test flight on 12/4/14. Items are marked for when they are needed and a lot of them say 2015. The excitement of building MANNED spacecraft and rockets is palatable - you can really feel it.

J2-X S/N 003


I'll have more soon……

Sky Guy in New Orleans