Saturday, December 31, 2016

Top Space Story of 2016 - ‘The Waves Have It’

Hey Space Placers!

Happy New Year’s Eve everyone. Last year at this time I was in the Indian Ocean enjoying the stars way down under and couldn’t get out a ‘Top Space Pick for 2015’. The July flyby of Pluto   http://wtop.com/the-space-place-tech/2015/07/pluto-come-finally/      would have been my pick.

For 2016’s pick  we leave the solar system and enter the realm of the Cosmos. February’s announcement regarding the discovery of gravitational waves   http://wtop.com/science/2016/02/breakthrough-scientists-detect-einstein-predicted-ripples/slide/1/  is my pick for 2016’s “Top Space Story”. 

Illustration of gravitational waves produced by two orbiting black holes. (Image: Henze/NASA)
Ever since humans looked up at the night sky 2.5 million years ago and the invention of the astronomical telescope by Galileo in 1609, almost all information we have gleaned about the Universe has come to us in the form of electromagnetic radiation. Literally the entire spectrum   http://imagine.gsfc.nasa.gov/science/toolbox/emspectrum1.html       - radio waves to gamma rays. I say ‘almost all’ because we have sent spacecraft to land on planets, comets and asteroids, obtained comet dust, and sent humans to the Moon. We have recovered over 50 thousand meteorites - rocks from space - including specimens from the Moon and Mars. All of this has added to our cosmic knowledge.

The detection of gravitational waves was made possible by finally developing the exquisite technology that enabled us to detect the physical warping of spacetime by an event. A second event was announced in June 2016   https://www.sciencenews.org/article/second-gravitational-wave-signal-detected  and showed us that more events were going to come our way - that gravitational waves were not a ‘one and done’ occurance.

Gravitational wave astronomy is now a new branch of humanity’s oldest science. Plans are underway for placing gravitational wave detectors in space  https://lisa.nasa.gov    and adding a third detection facility in Italy  http://www.ego-gw.it/public/about/whatis.aspx .  New discoveries regarding black holes, neutron stars and the Big Bang  itself await us   https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/the-future-of-gravitational-wave-astronomy/      . Even more exciting is what we don’t know about that we will uncover - therein lies the prize of new discoveries and knowledge.

What lies ahead space-wise in 2017? NASA will get a new Administrator and we will see what that means for the country’s space program. There are a number of unmanned mission scheduled to go to the Moon in 2017. The U.S. will witness an eclipse of the Sun on August 21st   https://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/SEmono/TSE2017/TSE2017.html  .

And once again, what we don’t know about in the upcoming space year will be the ultimate prize….

Have a safe and wonderful New Year and we’ll follow the Universe together in 2017.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Access The Universe - From Your Computer

Hey Space Placers!

Ever dreamed of roaming the Universe? Well, now you can from the comfort of your computer!

Here is the full news release:

PAN-STARRS RELEASES LARGEST DIGITAL SKY SURVEY TO THE WORLD:
SPACE TELESCOPE SCIENCE INSTITUTE TO HOST PAN-STARRS DATA ARCHIVE

The Space Telescope Science Institute (STScI) in Baltimore, Maryland, in conjunction with the University of Hawaii Institute for Astronomy in Honolulu, Hawaii, is publicly releasing data today from Pan-STARRS -- the Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System -- the world’s largest digital sky survey. The Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics (CfA) is among the partners who contributed to the Pan-STARRS1 Surveys.

“The Pan-STARRS1 Surveys allow anyone to access millions of images and use the database and catalogs containing precision measurements of billions of stars and galaxies,” said Dr. Ken Chambers, Director of the Pan-STARRS Observatories. “Pan-STARRS has made discoveries from near Earth objects and Kuiper belt objects in the solar system to lonely planets between the stars; it has mapped the dust in three dimensions in our galaxy and found new streams of stars; and it has found new kinds of exploding stars and distant quasars in the early universe.”

“With this release we anticipate that scientists -- as well as students and even casual users -- around the world will make many new discoveries about the universe from the wealth of data collected by Pan-STARRS,” Chambers added.

The four years of data comprise 3 billion separate sources, including stars, galaxies, and various other objects. The immense collection contains 2 petabytes of data, which is equivalent to one billion selfies, or one hundred times the total content of Wikipedia.

The first Panoramic Survey Telescope & Rapid Response System (Pan-STARRS) observatory is a 1.8-meter telescope at the summit of Haleakala, on Maui. In May 2010, it embarked on a digital sky survey of the sky in visible and near-infrared light. This was the first survey to observe the entire sky visible from Hawaii multiple times in many colors of light. One of the survey’s prime goals was to identify moving, transient, and variable objects, including asteroids that could potentially threaten the Earth. The survey took approximately four years to complete, and scanned the sky 12 times in each of five filters.

Achieving the high quality of the Pan-STARRS1 measurements and maintaining it over such an enormous quantity of data was a unique computational challenge and the results are a tribute to the dedicated efforts of our small team of scientists at the UH IfA and our collaborators who worked to process and calibrate the extraordinary volume of raw image data,” said Dr. Eugene Magnier, lead of the Pan-STARRS Image Processing team.

A number of CfA scientists were involved in analyzing Pan-STARRS data and extracting groundbreaking results. For example, Dr. Douglas Finkbeiner and students Edward Schlafly and Gregory Green led the effort to map the interstellar dust in the Milky Way in three dimensions. They used the colors of nearly 1 billion stars, requiring photometric calibration at a level unprecedented for ground-based surveys.

“The tiny particles in dust clouds make background stars fainter and redder, for the same reason the sky turns red at sunset,” said Dr. Finkbeiner. “In order to measure the subtle color shifts, we must know the brightnesses and colors of the stars at the percent level. With vastly more data than any human could ever look at directly, this required serious effort, and I’m proud of everyone who contributed.”

“Pan-STARRS also has given us an unprecedented view of the dynamic and transient nature of astronomical phenomena,” said CfA astronomer Dr. Edo Berger. “Our group discovered and studied new types of supernova explosions and the disruptions of stars by supermassive black holes from the Pan-STARRS data.”

This research program was undertaken by the PS1 Science Consortium -- a collaboration among 10 research institutions in four countries with support from NASA and the National Science Foundation (NSF). Consortium observations for the sky survey, mapping everything visible from Hawaii, were completed in April 2014. This data is now being released publicly.

“It’s great to see the Pan-STARRS1 data release supported by the NSF now made available to the general astronomical community,” said Nigel Sharp, Program Director in NSF’s Astronomical Sciences division. “I am impressed by the work the team invested to make the best-calibrated and best-characterized data set they could. I eagerly anticipate the science from mining these data.”

“The cooperation between STScI and the Pan-STARRS team at the University of Hawaii has been essential to ensuring that this initial data release is successful,” explained Dr. Marc Postman, Head of the Community Missions office at STScI, and liaison between STScI and the PS1 Consortium. “STScI was a natural partner to host the Pan-STARRS public archive given its extensive experience serving astronomy data to the international community. In advance of the release of the Pan-STARRS data, STScI staff helped perform checks of data quality, helped write archive user documentation, tested and installed the local data storage and database query system, and designed, built and deployed the web-based user interfaces to the archive system.”

The roll-out is being done in two stages. Today’s release is the “Static Sky,” which is the average of each of those individual epochs. For every object, there’s an average value for its position, its brightness, and its colors. In 2017, the second set of data will be released, providing a catalog that gives the information and images for each individual epoch.

The Space Telescope Science Institute provides the storage hardware, the computers that handle the database queries, and the user-friendly interfaces to access the data.

The survey data resides in the Mikulski Archive for Space Telescopes (MAST), which serves as NASA’s repository for all of its optical and ultraviolet-light observations, some of which date to the early 1970s. It includes all of the observational data from such space astrophysics missions as Hubble, Kepler, GALEX, and a wide variety of other telescopes, as well as several all-sky surveys. Pan-STARRS marks the nineteenth mission to be archived in MAST.

The data can be accessed at http://panstarrs.stsci.edu

So when those clouds have you bummed, just click your way to who knows, a new discovery!

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, December 26, 2016

Vera Rubin - American Astronomer & Pioneer

Hey Space Placers!

2016 has taken another space great from us - Vera Rubin.

Read all about her here.

The stars and galaxies shin a little brighter now......

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Christmas Eve 2016

Hey Space Placers!

Not even heavy fog can dim the stars of Orion and Sirius on Christmas Eve and this Holiday season.

May you and Yours have a SAFE and wondrous Holiday season.......

Orion & Sirius in Heavy Ground Fog Christmas Eve 2016
Sky Guy in VA

Friday, December 23, 2016

Season's Greetings Cards Courtesy of ESA

Hey Space Placers!

Go to http://greetings.esa.int for a wonderful selection of space oriented holidays cards you can email to friends and family.

Here are some of my own "cards" from this morning of the Moon, Jupiter and Spica.

Moon, Jupiter (top) and Spica

Celestial Trio

The Waning Crescent Moon

The Waning Crescent Moon & Earthshine
Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, December 22, 2016

For Moon Lovers!

Hey Space Placers!

With the Anniversary of Apollo 8's orbiting the Moon coming up I thought this would be appropriate to view.

Moon Village Concept
Credit: ESA
The Moon is no longer the "Rodney Dangerfield" of solar system exploration. Nations are planning lunar missions designed to explore new regions, prospect for resources and eventually land humans once again on the Moon. No more one and done - humanity will come and stay this time.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Happy Winter Solstice!

Hey Space Placers!

Today is the Solstice so the Northern Hemisphere is in winter and the Southern enjoys summer.

Here's a great article to explain it all.

The nights start getting shorter and the days longer each for us in the North......

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Water World in Asteroid Belt

Hey Space Placers!

Ceres
NASA/JPL
Read about the Water World Ceres located in the asteroid belt. Water, water everywhere in the solar system!

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, December 16, 2016

The Breathing Earth

Hey Space Placers!

Look at this wondrous GIF that was part of today's Earth & Sky.

CREDIT: John Nelson IDV Solutions
It brings our beautiful and wondrous planet alive which it is in the sense of being an ecosystem that supports ALL life. We are doing harm to Earth and ultimately ourselves and the other life forms that exist with us.

The planet doesn't need us, WE need the planet. Humanity is causing climate change regardless of what clueless and ill informed politicians or others say.  In my personal opinion we are entering the Dark Ages of old with this new Trump Administration where petro-dollars, big oil/fossil fuels come first and political attempts to disrupt, discredit and attack climate science will happen.

Scientists, informed citizens and politicians, US Government employees and world leaders will have to stand up for Earth in the Trump era. Nothing less than the future of the planet, which determines our future, is at stake.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Happy Birthday Tyco Brahe

Hey Space Placers!

Today is Tycho Brahe's  birthday.

Here is his Round Top Observatory in Copenhagen which I visited earlier this year.

Greg Redfern



Greg Redfern

Tycho's observations led to Kepler's 3 laws of planetary motion which carried over to Issac Newton's Laws of Gravitation.

Happy Birthday Tycho!

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, December 12, 2016

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT - The Geminids VS the Full Cold Supermoon

Hey Space Placers!

Back in Virginia after 24 hours in the air.


A celestial duel takes place in our skies the night of December 13-14 - the Full Cold Supermoon   http://www.almanac.com/content/full-moon-december    versus the peak of the annual Geminid Meteor Shower   http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/supermoon-clashes-with-the-geminids/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=sky-mya-nl-161209&utm_content=905470_SKY_HP_eNL_161209&utm_medium=email    . Our third of three Supermoons in a row will win the fight overall as the Full Cold Moon’s light will significantly diminish the number of meteors that can be seen from 75-100+ an hour from an ideal viewing site to about 12. But oh those 12 we can see will be worth the effort.

I say worth the effort as I think is the Geminids  http://www.amsmeteors.org/2016/12/viewing-the-geminid-meteor-shower-in-2016/     are the best meteor shower of the year. I say best because it reliably produces a large number of meteors per hour (75-100) in a dark sky and many of them are bright enough to be classified as fireballs - a meteor that is brighter than the planet Venus. With Venus in the southwestern sky after sunset you can readily see how bright that really is. 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.

The predicted peak of the 2016 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   https://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2013/27nov_rockcomet/                - 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. Out in the country or along the beach is the best place to be. But with the Full Cold Supermoon this year city dwellers have just as good a chance to see fireballs as anyone else.

You do not need any equipment or know how to enjoy this sky show duel as the Full Cold Supermoon will be up and you need to just find a place where you can put a lounge chair or blanket to see the sky for the Geminids. 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 normally seen during the night as well but the Full Cold Supermoon will eliminate all but the brightest sporadics.

The shower will continue all night before dawn - about 4 a.m. The very bright Full Cold Supermoon will be in the sky which will eliminate the 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. 

The weather may cloud us out  this sky show duel. Our best bet is to check the sky to see if it is clear when you want to go out to look for Geminids and see the Moon.  If it is cloudy you can still observe the Geminid Meteor Shower. Tune in live from 8 p.m. Dec. 13 until 6 a.m. on Dec. 14 on Marshall’s Ustream account   www.ustream.tv/channel/nasa-msfc      


Good hunting, clear skies or not!

Sky Guy BACK in VA

Thursday, December 8, 2016

End Of An Era

Hey Space Placers!

John Glenn - Marine Colonel, Distinguished Naval Aviator,  Mercury 7 and Space Shuttle Astronaut, U.S. Senator - a true American hero and one of the finest human beings to ever walk and orbit the Earth, now belongs to the ages with his passing today at the age of 95  https://www.nasa.gov/johnglenn.

With his death an era comes to an earthly end. An era when seven white military men who were proven warriors and pilots of the sky were chosen by the fledgling National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) to be America’s Mercury 7 astronauts https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mercury/missions/program-toc.html     . These 7 would go up against the Communist Cosmonauts in the declared Space Race - America and democracy against the Communists of the U.S.S.R in competition for the hearts and minds of the earthbound via the new high ground of space.

It was a different time for the world and humanity, much simpler and everything was in black and white, including TV news coverage from ABC, NBC and CBS - the only news channels available that signed off at midnight with the playing of the National Anthem. People depended on their daily newspapers for information - there was no Internet, let alone computers in the home. Watching the TV was a family affair and the evening news a daily routine.

The Cold War between the US and USSR with its doctrine of Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD) had thousands of nuclear weapons in fleets of bombers and eventually, thanks to the Space Race, atop Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles (ICBMs) that together could rain total and complete destruction of the enemy’s civilian population and industrial capability through the horror of all out nuclear war. The world held its breath for 13 days in October 1962 as the threat of nuclear war loomed with the Cuban Missile Crisis 

Presidents Eisenhower and Kennedy guided American efforts to match the Soviets in space. And America was losing badly. The Soviets with their captured Nazi German rocket scientists from World War II who developed the V-1 and V-2, coupled with their devil may care and secretive space program, startled the world October 4, 1957 with the orbiting satellite Sputnik   http://history.nasa.gov/sputnik/ . Every 90 minutes the beeping spacecraft could be seen flying overhead telling the world that it and the Soviets who put it there were in command of space. For American military and political leaders it was catastrophic - next the Communists could be putting nuclear bombs in space.

American attempts to launch a satellite ended in spectacular explosions seen by the world as these attempts were broadcast live. America finally got a diminutive satellite into orbit, Explorer 1, on January 31, 1958  http://history.nasa.gov/sputnik/expinfo.html .

It was only a matter of time until either side would attempt to put a man in orbit. NASA launched a recruiting effort in January 1959  https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mercury/missions/astronaut.html     to obtain the best fighter/test pilots in the U.S. military to become astronauts. After arduous medical, physical and psychological testing the Mercury 7 were introduced to the world in a April 9, 1959 press conference held in Washington, D.C. John Glenn was the only Marine astronaut, wore a bow tie and became famous in an iconic photo for raising both of his hands as to only one by his fellow astronauts, following a reporter’s question as to “which of you will be first in space?”   https://www.nasa.gov/content/pioneering-mercury-astronauts-launched-americas-future 

The U.S.S.R. shocked the world again with the successful orbiting of the Earth by Cosmonaut Yuri Gagarin on April 12, 1961 in Vostok 1 https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/sts1/gagarin_anniversary.html     . NASA responded a few weeks later with the suborbital flight of Alan Shepard, the first American and Naval Aviator to go into space on May 5, 1961. Gus Grissom followed with a second suborbital flight in which his spacecraft was lost at sea.

NASA decided to move on to a flight using the Atlas missile, the most powerful rocket in the U.S. inventory but also one with a history of spectacular failures. It was not a totally reliable launch vehicle but if America wanted a man to orbit the Earth it was the only way to go. NASA wanted to fly a 3 orbit mission as soon as possible to eclipse the success of Gagarin’s flight.

On August 7, 1961 the Soviets triumphed again with the amazing feat of Gherman Titov whose Vostok 2 spacecraft orbited the Earth for a full day and 17 1/2 orbits   http://www.history.nasa.gov/SP-4201/ch11-9.htm   . This was unprecedented and totally beyond the capability of the U.S. to respond in kind. But, America had to respond with getting an American into orbit as quickly as possible.

NASA finally responded on February 20, 1962 with the launch of John Glenn in Friendship 7 atop an Atlas rocket. He orbited the Earth 3 times and was in space a little over 4 hours. His spacecraft suffered a technical malfunction that required him to take manual control to fly Friendship 7 and there was an indicator light that a heat shield clamp had released. This meant that the attached retropack which fired to slow the spacecraft and bring it back to Earth would remain attached to the heat shield - something that had never been done before. It was a very distinct possibility that the heat shield could come loose and fail - literally frying John Glenn https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/mercury/index.html . The heat shield held - it was determined post-flight that the indicator light was a false reading but the tension and apprehension for Glenn’s safe return was not.

He returned to a well deserved hero’s welcome and became close to President Kennedy who told NASA he did not want John flying in space again for fear he may be killed. John left NASA and the Marines and went into business and politics - becoming a long term U.S. Senator from Ohio.

John flew in space again at the age of 77 - the oldest human to date - aboard space Shuttle Discovery in 1998 for 9 days   https://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/shuttle/shuttlemissions/archives/sts-95.html . He provided valuable medical knowledge about aging in space and wasn’t one bit worse for wear upon return to Earth - something critics had predicted.

I watched the Mercury missions enthralled but while still quite young. It was the Gemini program followed by Apollo that I truly immersed myself in while growing up. We soundly defeated the Soviets in the long run of the space race and the Moon race. Now American astronauts and Russian cosmonauts fly together aboard the International Space Station. I hope this international cooperation continues.

John Glenn was the last of his fellow Mercury astronauts to walk amongst us. They leave a legacy of history and accomplishments that can never be repeated - the first American astronauts - in a time that will never be again. I will always remember them in their group poses - in fighter pilot attire near a sleek F-106 fighter, dirty, unshaven and in long johns during survival school, and the iconic silver spacesuit portrait. 


God speed, Mercury 7. You now belong to the stars.

Back Row: L-R Alan Shepard, Gus Grisson, Gordo Cooper
Front Row: L-R Wally Schirra, Deke Layton, John Glenn, Scott Carpenter
Mercury 7
IMAGE: NASA
Sky Guy in the South China Sea

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

ESA To Supply Service Module For Orion Crewed Mission

Hey Space Placers!

The European Space Agency (ESA) will supply a fully functional service module for the 1st Orion crewed mission set for sometime in 2021.

Orion & Service Module
ESA
This mission will be essentially a repeat of Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1) currently scheduled for 2018 which will be an unmanned Orion launched by the new Space Launch System (SLS) on a 3 week plus mission out to lunar orbit & beyond.

Sky Guy in the South China Sea


Thursday, December 1, 2016

UPDATED SKY GUY VIEWING ALERT 12/2-4 Sunset Planets & Moon

Hey Space Placers!

UPDATED:
Here was my view of Mars, Moon, Venus and Mercury in the South China Sea 12/5/16:

Top to bottom: Mars, Moon, Venus, Mercury at sea
Greg Redfern
Here was sunset that evening:

Sunset South China Sea
Greg Redfern




Be sure to get outside on Dec 2-4 after sunset and watch the crescent Moon approach Venus on 12/2 & 3 and then Mars on 12/4.

As an added bonus Mercury is very low on the horizon as well.



I hope to get pics art sea to share but the weather has to improve!

Sky Guy at Sea

Whoa...TINIEST ASTEROID EVER DISCOVERED

Hey Space Placers!

At sea off the coast of Thailand on Azamara Journey. We have had some heavy weather so no sky pics yet.

Astronomers have discovered an asteroid that is ONLY 6 feet across! That is quite a find. Read all about it here.

Sky Guy at Sea

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Sky For A Few Nights

Hey Space Placers!

As it gets darker earlier take the time to see brilliant Venus in the SW after sunset. Mars is to the left of Venus and a dimming ember of itself from back in May when it was closest to the Earth.

The bright Summer Triangle is setting in the West and the Great Square Pegasus flies high overhead while Orion rises in the East with Sirius.

I hope to get some nice pics at sea and sharing them with you.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

More Water Found on Mars

Hey Space Placers!

Check out this story about more water found on Mars. This subsurface deposit has more water than Lake Superior on Earth!

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, November 18, 2016

Latest on Pluto

Hey Space Placers!

Read this great article on the latest findings about Pluto from the New Horizons mission.

(Image: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute)

What a fascinating world!.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, November 14, 2016

It Was a SUPERMOON!

Hey Space Placers!

It was so uplifting to see the whole world involved in the Full Super Beaver Moon. Twitterverse, media and people were excited about the whole event AND went outside to see it and photograph it.
I watched and photographed the event at Shenandoah National Park and wanted to share my pics with you which span 11/13 and 11/14.

The Supermoon Rises in the Piedmont of Virginia

The Earth's Shadow & Belt of Venus

The Supermoon Rises Above the Earth's Shadow 

The Color of Night Via A Supermoon

The Supermoon Over Shenandoah Valley

The Supermoon at 221,524 Miles-Closest Until 11/25/20134

Wonderful Color As SuperBeaverMoon Sets over the Massanuten Range

Wonderful Color As SuperBeaverMoon Sets over the Massanuten Range
I hope you got to see it as well......

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, November 13, 2016

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!!! See The CLOSE Super Full Beaver Moon TONIGHT

Hey Space Placers!

Got plans tonight, tomorrow morning? Whatever they are and wherever you are, you should include taking a peek at the Moon. Depending on when you were born doing so may be a once in a lifetime event as November’s Full Moon will be the closest one since January 26,1948 and will not be as close again until November 25, 2034  http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/see-the-biggest-supermoon-in-68-years/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_campaign=sky-mya-nl-161111&utm_content=896725_SKY_HP_eNL_161111&utm_medium=email   .

November’s Full Moon will also be a Supermoon, a phrase that has become part of our popular culture in recent years but has been around since 1979  http://earthsky.org/space/what-is-a-supermoon  . Just to be clear Supermoon is not an astronomical term. In each monthly lunar cycle while orbiting the Earth our Moon has a point where it is closest to the Earth - perigee - and when it is farthest - apogee. When the Full Moon occurs the same day as perigee, that is when it is a Supermoon. This can occur several times a year. In fact, we are in a stretch of  3 Supermoons in a row that ends with December’s Full Moon  https://science.nasa.gov/news-articles/2016-ends-with-three-supermoons .

The closest the Moon can get to Earth is 221,500 miles  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lunar_distance_(astronomy)    and this month’s Supermoon will be 221,524 miles from Earth, so that is close! The actual moment when the Moon is closest will be tomorrow morning at 6:23 a.m. EST, just before the Moon will be setting in the West at 6:36 a.m. EST in Washington, D.C. The Moon is actually at Full phase later in the morning at 8:52 a.m. EST so observers out west will be able to view the Full Moon at its closest.

2015 Full Beaver Moon
Greg Redfern
Tonight you will see a glorious nearly Full Moon rising in the East after sunset. To find out when the Moon rises and sets for your location use this website  https://www.timeanddate.com/moon/    . For Washington, D.C. moonrise is at 4:43 p.m. EST tonight. 

To observe the Moon tonight and tomorrow morning try to find a horizon in the East and West that are clear of obstructions so you can see the Moon near the horizon. The Moon may have some color and it may appear large due to the Moon Illusion http://www.skyandtelescope.com/observing/moon-illusion-confusion11252015/ .  The Supermoon is actually bigger than an average Full Moon but is hard to detect by eye. The Supermoon will also be brighter which may be apparent to observers.

This month’s Full Moon is also known as the Full Beaver Moon http://www.space.com/34662-november-supermoon-full-beaver-moon.html .  If you want to photograph the “Full Beaver Supermoon”  get these tips from NASA  https://www.nasa.gov/feature/shoot-the-supermoon-like-a-pro .

Tonight at 8 p.m. I will be at Shenandoah National Park’s Skyland  Conference Center talking about, what else, the Moon  http://www.goshenandoah.com/activities-events/astronomy   . Afterwards if the sky is clear we will enjoy views of the Moon and night sky. I hope you can join me.


To me the Moon is always special but tonight/tomorrow will be an event you can take part in that doesn’t happen very often - a really close Full Moon. Enjoy.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, November 7, 2016

NASA Upgrades ISS Spotting Tool

Hey Space Placers!

NASA has added a new feature to its very popular "Spot the Station" website. The new interactive map makes it easier than ever to pinpoint your location and get alerts from NASA as to when the International Space Station will be visible to you.

It is truly amazing to watch 1 million pounds of space hardware inhabited by humans soar silently overhead.

Sign up today...

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, November 4, 2016

Thursday, November 3, 2016

2 Years to Launch For JWST

Hey Space Placers!

Here is my story on my visit to NASA Goddard Space Flight Center yesterday to participate in Media Day.
The JWST Optical Telescope Element
Greg Redfern
Be sure to click the links in the story.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, October 31, 2016

Happy Halloween!

Hey Space Placers!

Did you know that Halloween is an astronomically inspired holiday? It marks the halfway point between the Fall Equinox and the Winter Solstice.

Read all about it here  and here .

Have a SAFE and enjoyable Halloween. By the way, the Moon is at its farthest from Earth for the entire year and in two weeks will be at its closest - with another Super Full Moon.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Last of New Horizons Flyby Data Received

Hey Space Placers!

The last data from the New Horizons spacecraft flyby of Pluto on July 14, 2015 has been received.

You can read about it here.

I wonder what treasures are in store for us......

Stay tuned as we find out.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Latest on Strange Star

Hey Space Placers!

Here's an article on the very latest about the strange star that captured the world's attention when it was thought it could be surrounded by an alien megastructure.

We'll see what astronomers develop after they get this latest run of data.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Dark Energy Exist? Yes or No?

Hey Space Placers!

If you have been following Twitter or some of the major news outlets the last couple of days has seen some amazing headlines about the Universe.

There has been a paper published that dealt with the acceleration of the expansion of the Universe. The upshot of the paper as interpreted by readers is whether "Dark Energy" exists.

Read this article to get a good handle on the whole issue.

Bottom line is Dark Energy is still a VERY viable theory that is supported by multiple lines of evidence/data.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter views Schiaparelli landing site

Hey Space Placers!
 
It is beginning to look like ESA's  Schiaparelli Lander did not survive the landing attempt. Although data continues to be reviewed, photos of the area where it was to land show a new dark marking - crater - that could indicate a crash landing and explosion.

The other part of the mission, the Trace Gas Orbiter, is in orbit and working so this mission to the Red Planet is overall a success in terms of getting to Mars. 

Getting to Mars is HARD and the Red Planet is littered with crash sites from NASA, Russia and ESA to prove it. ESA's lander was an engineering test vehicle so it was successful in that valuable data was returned during the descent until contact was lost.

Humans will keep trying.......

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, October 20, 2016

ExoMars Update

Hey Space Placers!

Here is the latest from the European Space Agency (ESA) on their ExoMars mission which placed a new spacecraft in orbit and is awaiting the fate of their lander.

Time will tell if the lander survived.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Mars To Get New Visitors Today

Hey Space Placers!

Tune in today as the European Space Agency (ESA) prepares for its ExoMars spacecraft and Schiaparelli lander arrive at the Red Planet. 

If the landing is successful the Schiaparelli lander will join NASA's Curiosity and Opportunity Rovers on the surface of Mars and add to our knowledge of the planet.


Orbital ATK and NASA Wallops Flight Facility successfully launched the OA-5 resupply mission to the International Space Station on Monday night and here is my photo of the 1st stage rocket from 150 miles away.


OA-5 1st Stage Rocket PlumeFrom 150 Miles Away
Greg Redfern
Sky Guy in VA

Monday, October 17, 2016

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT! 10/17/16 Antares Rocket Launch

Hey Space Placers!

If you are in the DC, Maryland, Virginia (DMV) area or the U.S. East Coast, you may be able to see
tonight’s launch at 7:40 p.m. EDT of Orbital ATK’s sixth resupply mission, CRS-5, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility to the International Space Station (ISS) http://www.nasa.gov/mission_pages/station/structure/launch/orbital.html is a GO according to Keith Koehler, Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia

Wallops is Located on Virginia’s Eastern Shore so CRS-5’s launch and ascent to orbit will be visible to viewers in the DMV and along the U.S. East Coast. Using these maps  http://www.orbitalatk.com/news-room/feature-stories/OA5-Viewing-Maps/default.aspx  you can find your location and determine the best time to look for segments of the flight.

This is a return to flight for Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket which suffered an explosion during the CRS-3 launch from Wallops to ISS on October 28, 2014 http://wtop.com/virginia/2015/11/new-nasa-photos-show-massive-rocket-explosion-in-virginia/slide/1/ . The rocket exploded just after liftoff and was completely destroyed along with the Cygnus spacecraft http://www.nasa.gov/image-feature/orbital-atk-s-cygnus-preparations    carrying supplies and items destined to ISS. There was also damage to the launch facilities which have been repaired.

Orbital ATK and NASA determined that the launch failure was due to an issue with one of the AJ-26 engines’ turbo pump - there are two engines  http://wtop.com/science/2015/10/fire-in-engine-doomed-orbital-rocket-on-space-station-flight/ . The decision was made by Orbital ATK to switch to RD-181 engines for the Antares rocket which required design and manufacturing changes. The Antares rocket had to undergo certification tests and successfully conducted a static engine firing in May 2016 http://wtop.com/virginia/2016/06/antares-rocket-test-successful-at-wallops-island/

Last week the launch window had to be moved to Sunday because of Hurricane Nicole’s proximity to a ground tracking  station in Bermuda and then to Monday due to a faulty ground support equipment cable.

NASA TV coverage of the launch of the Orbital/ATK OA-5 Antares/Cygnus Mission to the ISS Starts at 6:45 p.m. EDT http://www.ustream.tv/nasahdtv 

For the next few days you can see ISS in our skies. To get the sighting details for your location go to this NASA website https://spotthestation.nasa.gov .While there sign up for “ISS Sighting Alerts” so you will know when ISS is visible. 


ISS will be bright in the sky for these passes and if we are lucky we may even be able to see the Cygnus spacecraft “chasing” ISS. We won’t know until after launch if that is possible but I will update you.

Let's LIGHT THIS CANDLE!

Sky Guy in VA