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

Monday, November 30, 2015

Exploration Mission-1

Hey Space Placers!

I hope all of my U.S. readers had a safe and wonderful Thanksgiving holiday.

NASA's next unmanned mission with the Orion spacecraft and the 1st ever flight of the Space Launch System (SLS) is called Exploration Mission-1.

Orion and ESA Service Module NASA

This will be a very important test of Orion, SLS and the European Space Agency's Service Module. It excites me to think we will be sending a manned rated spacecraft to the Moon and orbiting beyond it. EM-1 will be the test run for the first manned mission of Orion and SLS possibly in late 2021 or later.

EM-1 is slated for launch in late 2018 with the first manned launch of Orion-SLS slipping from 2021 to 2023.

You have to remember that NASA is building all of this hardware on a shoestring budget as there has been no significant plus up to NASA's budget. The FY16 $18.6 billion pays for the International Space Station, Hubble Space Telescope, building the James Webb Space Telescope, spacecraft exploring the solar system, weather satellites, R&D, aerospace and safety.

We get ALOT from NASA. Too bad the U.S. Congress doesn't see that and elects to pay the Russians almost half a billion dollars for seats on their Soyuz instead of paying more into NASA's Commercial Crew Program

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, November 27, 2015

Full Beaver Moon on Thanksgiving Day 2015

Hey Space Placers!

Enjoy these views of the setting Full Beaver Moon on Thanksgiving Day 2015. The first pic shows the Moon's differing minerals in the maria in the varying colors. You can also see crater rays.

The video shows the International Space Station flying across the Moon.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

JWST Gets 1st Mirror Mounted

Hey Space Placers!

The James Webb Space Telescope received its 1st of 18 mirror segments today!

Both NASA/Chris Gunn
This is a HUGE step forward in the construction of JWST which is slated for launch in October 2018.

I will be visiting NASA Goddard Space Flight Center early next year to get the latest.

Happy Thanksgiving to all in the U.S. May you and yours have a SAFE and wonderful holiday.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, November 23, 2015

Earth Might Have Hairy Dark Matter

Hey Space Placers!

Enjoy this article about Dark Matter and our Earth.

We are surrounded by the stuff and our Universe probably couldn't have formed as we see it today if it weren't for Dark Matter.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, November 20, 2015

Orion Spacecraft Gets Apollo Command Module Look

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's new Orion spacecraft is getting a new shiny look to it that is reminiscent of the Apollo Command Module:

Orion New Look
Both From NASA

This is what Orion looked looked like after recovery from Exploration Flight Test-1 (EFT-1). You can see the back shell tiles that protected the spacecraft during the searing heat of re-entry.

Orion "Old Look"
The new look of Orion adds an extra layer of protection to the spacecraft based upon the results of EFT-1 and the higher temperatures that will be encountered when the spacecraft returns from beyond the Moon in Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1).

Here is what the Apollo Command Module looked like. I took this pic at Kennedy Space Center.

NASA sure got it right in building Apollo and that is carrying through as a legacy to Orion.

I can hardly wait to see what Orion looks like in lunar orbit.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, November 16, 2015

JWST Starts Final Deep Freeze Test

Hey Space Placers!

Check out this video on NASA's latest and final deep freeze test of the James Webb Space Telescope (JWST).

This is a CRITICAL test to make sure that JWST can withstand the rigors of deep cold in space. Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Pics From Peaks of Otter

Hey Space Placers!

Great group at Peaks of Otter last night, 60+. Had a wonderful star gazing session too.

Here are some pics-enjoy!

Sharp Top mountain x's 2

Beautiful sunset w/ Moon

Stars in a stream - you can see the bottom of the stream too
Orion with Barnard's Loop on left frames Sharp Top Mountain
Had some technical issues on download of images :-(...salvaged what I could.....better next time!

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, November 14, 2015

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

The Latest on Rosetta and Comet 67P

Hey Space Placers!

In the US take time to pause and remember all of our Veterans throughout our history. Without them we would not enjoy the liberty and freedom we have today....the world would also be a far more dangerous place. Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, November 5, 2015

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT Moon, Planets, Fireballs 11/6-11/10

Hey Space Placers!

IF the clouds leave us alone tomorrow morning and Saturday there will be a gorgeous lineup with the planets in the predawn sky and the waning crescent Moon - probably with Earthshine.

Also the Taurid Meteor Shower is underway until the 10th which produces bright fireballs like we had in 2005 -  in VA there were multiple reports on Halloween night.

I'll at Shenandoah National Park and will try to get some pics if it is clear.

Clear Skies!

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

NASA Looking for New Astronaut Candidates

Hey Space Placers!

Think you have the 'Right Stuff'?

NASA will be accepting applications for its next group of astronaut candidates starting December 14, 2015. Get all the details here.

The last class was selected in 2013.

Good luck!

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, October 31, 2015

Happy Spookyween

Hey Space Placers!

Here's my write up on WTOP  on now dead comet 2015 TB145.

These are the pics I took EARLY this am

Tune in to Slooh.com at 12:30 pm EDT today for a live view.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, October 30, 2015

1st Enceladus Flyby Pics Are In

Hey Space Placers!

My last blog gave you the scoop on Cassini's deepest flyby through the plumes of Enceladus.

Here is the unprocessed pic of the plumes and the other unprocessed pics. These will get better as they are processed and there will be more as well as data in the coming weeks.

This unprocessed view of Saturn's moon Enceladus was acquired by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a close flyby of the icy moon on Oct. 28, 2015.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Unprocessed view of Saturn's moon Enceladus
This unprocessed view of Saturn's moon Enceladus was acquired by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a close flyby of the icy moon on Oct. 28, 2015.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Unprocessed view of Saturn's moon Enceladus
This unprocessed view of Saturn's moon Enceladus was acquired by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a close flyby of the icy moon on Oct. 28, 2015.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Unprocessed view of Saturn's moon Enceladus
This unprocessed view of Saturn's moon Enceladus was acquired by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a close flyby of the icy moon on Oct. 28, 2015.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute
Unprocessed view of Saturn's moon Enceladus
This unprocessed view of Saturn's moon Enceladus was acquired by NASA's Cassini spacecraft during a close flyby of the icy moon on Oct. 28, 2015.
Credits: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Historic Flyby Through the Plumes of Enceladus

Hey Space Placers!

Ever seen “Old Faithful” or other smaller geysers erupt at beautiful Yellowstone National Park   http://www.nps.gov/yell/planyourvisit/exploreoldfaithful.htm     ? It is quite the sight. Located on a small, ice covered moon around the ringed planet Saturn there is a continuous eruption of huge Yellowstone-like geysers that an intrepid spacecraft will fly through at very close range to further discern their secrets.

On Wednesday morning the Cassini spacecraft http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/cassini/main/index.html    that has been exploring the Saturn system for over 11 years will perform its 21st flyby  http://www.jpl.nasa.gov/news/news.php?release=2015-328    of Enceladus, the amazing ice covered moon with a global sub-surface ocean. This daring flyby will be only 30 miles above the South Pole of Enceladus   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BZ1KowQXc3Y    and it will be the deepest penetration ever of the fascinating plumes that are located there. Closest approach will be at 11:22 a.m.EDT.

The plumes of Enceladus, originally called fountains,  were discovered  http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/science/moons/enceladus/enceladusdiscoverytimeline/      in November 2005 and have been flown through before but at a higher altitude. These earlier flybys showed that the plumes are made up of ice, water vapor and organic molecules and occur continuously only at the South Pole of Enceladus. This deeper plume penetration will allow for the best sampling ever of the particles and complex chemistry contained within.

This artist's rendering showing a cutaway view into the interior of Saturn's moon Enceladus. NASA's Cassini spacecraft discovered the moon has a global ocean and likely hydrothermal activity. A plume of ice particles, water vapor and organic molecules sprays from fractures in the moon's south polar region. Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech

The plumes are believed to be caused by “Yellowstone” like eruptions that originate from the global ocean and hydrothermal heat concentrated at the South Pole. The plumes might be erupting from the “Tiger Stripes” of Enceladus - fractures in the surface ice. The makeup and structure of the plumes is one of the key science objectives of this flyby     http://saturn.jpl.nasa.gov/mission/flybys/enceladus20151028/    .

During a teleconference held on Monday   http://www.ustream.tv/recorded/76308203 , scientists stated that traveling at over 19,000 miles per hour Cassini will spend only a few tenths of a second flying through the plumes. But its instruments have been prepped and tuned specifically for this encounter and are expected to gather data that will help answer a number of questions including “is the Enceladus ocean habitable for simple life?”. The spacecraft can detect complex organic molecules but can’t determine if they are biological in nature.

Cassini will gather data and take pictures inbound and outbound of Enceladus. The North Pole is visible for the first time ever while the South Pole will be illuminated only by the light of Saturn itself. I asked Linda Spilker, Cassini project scientist at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL), “How bright will the South Pole be during the flyby?”. She responded that, “It will be much, much less than our own Full Moon. Enceladus is very bright and we have done this before.” Dr. Spilker stated that the Cassini science team is “excited and awaiting results”.

Cassini will be flying by so fast that it must take “smeared” pictures which software should be able to convert to regular view. By late afternoon Wednesday the spacecraft is expected to do a call back followed by transmission of data and pictures. It will take a week to process the initial results followed by weeks and months of analysis but we may see the first pictures by late Thursday or Friday morning.

This pioneering close flyby is our first step in exploring other oceans in our solar system. Sniffing, probing and photographing the plumes of Enceladus will reveal much about its hidden global ocean. In turn this may give us another  place in addition to Mars to look for life. Jupiter’s moon Europa  http://www.caltech.edu/news/probing-mysteries-europa-jupiters-cracked-and-crinkled-moon-48593   also has a global liquid ocean and is a target for future exploration. The science and lessons learned by Cassini will go a long way in preparing for future exploration of Europa and Enceladus.

Cassini, described by the scientists during the teleconference as “a perfect mission” has two years left. It will flyby Enceladus one more time in December  http://solarsystem.nasa.gov/finalflybys   , take high resolution pictures of the F-ring of Saturn, fly close to tiny ring moons and in April 2017 hop across the entire ring system to fly in between a gap in the rings - wow.

At its end Cassini will do a death plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn and will have written THE book on the ringed planet and its moons.

I’ll have updates on the flyby and Cassini as they become available.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT Predawn 10/26 Jupiter & Venus Meet

Hey Space Placers!

Predawn on 10/26 Venus and Jupiter are going to be very close - a little over two Moon-widths.

Go outside an hour or more before dawn to see Venus (brightest) near Jupiter with Mars just below both.

If you have a clear view of the horizon Mercury might be visible just before it gets light.

Sky Guy in Cloudy VA

Friday, October 23, 2015

New Horizons Spacecraft On Its Way To New Mission

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's New Horizons spacecraft that completed its historic flyby of Pluto last July, is on its way to a billion mile voyage to a new mission - to explore for the first time ever a Kuiper Belt Object (KBO).

Artist's Concept of a KBO & New Horizons Flyby
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute/Steve Gribben
From the 10/22/15 news release:

NASA’s New Horizons spacecraft has carried out the first in a series of four initial targeting maneuvers designed to send it toward 2014 MU69 -- a small Kuiper Belt object about a billion miles beyond Pluto, which the spacecraft historically explored in July.

The maneuver, which started at approximately 1:50 p.m. EDT on Oct. 22, used two of the spacecraft’s small hydrazine-fueled thrusters, lasted approximately 16 minutes and changed the spacecraft’s trajectory by about 10 meters per second. Spacecraft operators at the Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in Laurel, Maryland, began receiving data through NASA’s Deep Space Network at approximately 8:30 p.m. EDT that indicated a successful maneuver.

All told, the four maneuvers will change New Horizons’ trajectory by approximately 57 meters per second, nudging it toward a prospective close encounter with MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019. That flyby would be part of an extended mission that NASA still must approve; the New Horizons team will submit a formal proposal to NASA for that mission in early 2016.

The remaining three KBO targeting maneuvers are scheduled for Oct. 25, Oct. 28 and Nov. 4.

New Horizons is approximately 74 million miles (119 million kilometers) beyond Pluto and 3.16 billion miles (5.08 billion kilometers) from Earth. The spacecraft is healthy and continues to return data stored on its digital recorders from its flight through the Pluto system on July 14, 2015.
KBOs are a class of solar system objects that reside beyond Neptune and contains dwarf planets like Pluto. This is a totally unexplored by spacecraft region in our solar system. New Horizons flyby of 2014 MU69 will be another historic first in the exploration of our solar system.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT NIGHT OF 10/21-10/22 Orionid Meteor Shower

Hey Space Placers!

Tonight is the predicted peak of the Orionid Meteor Shower. The best time to look for these bits of Comet Halley debris hitting our atmosphere is after midnight, especially in the hours before dawn. The Orionids are expected to produce about 20 meteors and hour.

Viewing tips are here and NASA will be live to follow the Orionids at 10 pm EDT.

Here's to clear skies!

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

New NASA Web Site Provides Daily Views of Earth

Hey Space Placers!

NASA has a new web site that will have daily pics of our Earth taken from a point 1 million miles distant.

Here's NASA's press release:

NASA launched a new website Monday so the world can see images of the full, sunlit side of the Earth every day. The images are taken by a NASA camera one million miles away on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force.
Once a day NASA will post at least a dozen new color images of Earth acquired from 12 to 36 hours earlier by NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC). Each daily sequence of images will show the Earth as it rotates, thus revealing the whole globe over the course of a day. The new website also features an archive of EPIC images searchable by date and continent.
The primary objective of NOAA’s DSCOVR mission is to maintain the nation’s real-time solar wind monitoring capabilities, which are critical to the accuracy and lead time of space weather alerts and forecasts from NOAA. NASA has two Earth-observing instruments on the spacecraft. EPIC's images of Earth allow scientists to study daily variations over the entire globe in such features as vegetation, ozone, aerosols, and cloud height and reflectivity.
EPIC is a four megapixel CCD camera and telescope. The color Earth images are created by combining three separate single-color images to create a photographic-quality image equivalent to a 12-megapixel camera. The camera takes a series of 10 images using different narrowband filters -- from ultraviolet to near infrared -- to produce a variety of science products. The red, green and blue channel images are used to create the color images. Each image is about 3 megabytes in size.
"The effective resolution of the DSCOVR EPIC camera is somewhere between 6.2 and 9.4 miles (10 and 15 kilometers)," said Adam Szabo, DSCOVR project scientist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, Maryland.
Since Earth is extremely bright in the darkness of space, EPIC has to take very short exposure images (20-100 milliseconds). The much fainter stars are not visible in the background as a result of the short exposure times.
The DSCOVR spacecraft orbits around the L1 Lagrange point directly between Earth and the sun. This orbit keeps the spacecraft near the L1 point and requires only occasional small maneuvers, but its orbit can vary from 4 to 15 degrees away from the sun-Earth line over several years.
EPIC was built by Lockheed Martin’s Advanced Technology Center, in Palo Alto, California. Using an 11.8-inch (30-centimeter) telescope and 2048 x 2048 CCD detector, EPIC measures in the ultraviolet, visible and near-infrared areas of the spectrum. The data from all 10 wavelengths are posted through a website hosted by the Atmospheric Science Data Center at NASA's Langley Research Center, Hampton, Virginia. All images are in the public domain.
NASA uses the vantage point of space to increase our understanding of our home planet, improve lives, and safeguard our future. NASA develops new ways to observe and study Earth's interconnected natural systems with long-term data records. The agency freely shares this unique knowledge and works with institutions around the world to gain new insights into how our planet is changing.
For daily images from EPIC, visit:

For more information about the DSCOVR mission, visit:

Make sure you tune in and see our beautiful planet....

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Enceladus Close Ups

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's Cassini spacecraft has spent 11 years studying the ringed planet and its moons. In the past week Cassini started its final series of flybys of Enceladus. The returned pics have been amazing as can be seen in this close up of the moon's North pole.

The closest pics are to be taken on October 28th as the spacecraft will zoom to within a mere 30 miles above the frozen and contorted surface of Enceladus. This will be Cassini's deepest penetration of the icy spray plumes that erupt out of cracks in the moon's frozen surface.

Enceladus has a global ocean underneath its icy surface and is a desire future mission for NASA. The exploration of this ocean would give us our first look at such a feature beyond our own planet and who knows what we would find.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, October 17, 2015

1st Scientific Paper on Pluto From New Horizons Team

Hey Space Placers!

I have been on the road with family and no computer for the past several days so no blog!

Here is the 1st Scientific Paper on Pluto From New Horizons Team that was just published yesterday, 10/16/15.

It is a good read from the team that brought us the Pluto Flyby just 3 months ago.

I'll have some interesting pics in the next few days of my trip to New Jersey.....

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT! Morning Planets & Moon 10-8 to 10-11

Hey Space Placers!

For the next few morning the crescent Moon will be sliding by Venus, Jupiter, Mars and Mercury in the East before sunrise.

Sky & Telescope.com
This is a nice morning sequence that is a warm up for the grouping of Mars, Jupiter and Venus later in the month.

Clear skies and enjoy!

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Andromeda Galaxy

Hey Space Placers!

The skies finally cleared and I took my 1st pic for the Fall of M-31, the Andromeda Galaxy. M-31 is the closest large galaxy to our own Milky Way Galaxy and contains about 1 TRILLION stars - our Galaxy has several hundred billion stars.

It stretches out over 260,000 light years as opposed to the Milky Way Galaxy's 100,000-150,000 light years. A light year is how far light, traveling at 186,000 miles per second travels in one year - it is about 6 trillion miles.

Greg Redfern
The pic was taken with a 300mm f/4 telephoto which tells you something about the size and relative closeness of M-31. In the pic you can see spiral arms, dust lanes, star clouds and M-110 to the immediate left and M-32 to the immediate right which are two large dwarf galaxies to M-31.

The Andromeda Galaxy is the farthest object you can see with your unaided eye. It is 2.5 million light years away which means the light I captured in this pic left M-31 2.5 million years ago! This is about the time in Earth's history when our ancestors started walking upright.

If you look at this article and its star chart you can see where Andromeda and M-31 are located just off of the NE corner of the Great Square of Pegasus. Pegasus is visible in the East as it gets dark and rises higher in the sky as the evening progresses. If you have binoculars the view of M-31 is really enhanced, especially if it is higher in the sky.

M-31 and our own Milky Way Galaxy are on a collision course and will merge about 4 billion years from now into a brand new giant elliptical galaxy called Milkomeda. The two galaxies are moving towards one another at about 250,000 miles per hour.

Get out when the sky is clear and go back in time by looking at the Andromeda Galaxy. I will be getting more pics in the Fall and will share.

I hope you get out and see this beautiful galaxy.

Sky Guy in VA

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 https://g.co/doodle/m4fgh2 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

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Matt Damon - "The Martian" - Talks About NASA's Journey to Mars

Hey Space Placers!

We are at T-10 days until 'The Martian' makes its debut in movie theaters. On October 2nd we will be able to watch what I think will be a space blockbuster movie.

The star of the movie, Matt Damon, plays marooned on Mars NASA astronaut Mark Watney. The film is based on Andy Weir's best selling 2011 novel of the same title and was directed by Ridley Scott.

NASA went all out in supporting the film as it is a good promotion for the agency's "Journey to Mars".

Matt Damon has done a promotional video for NASA's 'Journey to Mars' which is a nice mix of the movie and NASA's efforts to get to Mars. I think that people seeing 'The Martian' will gain an appreciation for the efforts it takes to get to Mars and learn about the Red Planet.

The astronauts aboard the International Space Station got an off planet premiere of the movie as you can see in the 9/20 post by Astronaut Lindgren. ISS is key to going to Mars as we need to learn how to survive and thrive in space for the 500+ day mission to Mars.

Movie night! What a treat to watch while in space and see reflections of our own !

Sky Guy in VA