Thursday, March 31, 2016

HST Photographs Center of Our Galaxy

Hey Space Placers!

Look at this incredible picture of the center of our Milky Way Galaxy taken by Hubble Space Telescope (HST).

Milky Way Nuclear Star Cluster

Isn't it beautiful? There are 500,000 stars crammed into an area of space that would be the equivalent of the distance from our Sun to the Alpha Centauri system, a little over 4 light years away.

To learn even more about the Milky Way's nuclear star cluster and Hubble, join astronomers and scientists during a live Hubble Hangout discussion at 3pm EDT on Thurs., March 31 at

Here is the full story behind the picture.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Hey Space Placers!

Read the story about Jupiter being hit again by a comet or asteroid.

Earth faces similar dangers which is why we need to find all of the hazardous Earth crossing asteroids.

Asteroid Day is 3 months from tomorrow. Join the planetary wide movement.....

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, March 24, 2016

UPDATED Sky Guy Viewing ALERT Comet 252P/LINEAR In Morning Sky

Hey Space Placers!

UPDATE: Here are images and story about the OTHER comet that MAY be from Comet 252P/LINEAR. What is most interesting is how big Comet P/2016 BA14 is, almost a kilometer across as opposed to 252P/LINEAR's estimated size of 230 meters...the former may have calved the latter instead of the other way around.

This comet is also very, very dark which probably explains why it was estimated to be smaller than it is.


If you have binoculars, a fairly decent sky and SE horizon free of obstructions you will want to try and view Comet 252P-LINEAR.

Use this Sky & Telescope finder chart below and a red flashlight to see the chart to try and pick up the faint glow of this comet. You will not see a tail probably and the bright Moon will make it tough to see but it is worth a try. If you have a telescope you may be able to see its green color similar to Comet Lovejoy.

Sky & Telescope finder chart
Once the clouds clear out I'll be looking.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, March 21, 2016

UPDATED Sky Guy Viewing ALERT - Moon & Jupiter Pair Up 3-21-16

Hey Space Placers!

UPDATED: My pic of Moon & Jupiter tonight

The Waxing Gibbous Moon and bright Jupiter pair up tonight for a very fine sight in the Eastern sky.

Be sure to break out the binoculars if you have them to see the Moon and the 4 main moons of Jupiter.

If conditions are favorable I will be trying for some pics which I will share.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about two historic incoming comets.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Learn All About The International & Private Teams Trying To Win The Lunar-X Prize

Hey Space Placers!

Great video telling the story about teams world wide trying to win the $30 million Lunar-X prize by going to the Moon.

Going to be quite a deal when one of them wins it....I look forward to the day! The Moon is FINALLY getting the attention it deserves as a long term resource for humanity.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Here Is A Really COOL Experiment To Fly On ISS

Hey Space Placers!

Here is a really COOL experiment that will be flying to the International Space Station (ISS) on the upcoming 5th Orbital ATK Resupply Mission.

The Cygnus spacecraft for the upcoming Orbital ATK Commercial Resupply Services-6 mission is encapsulated inside its payload fairing as it moves past the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida. It is being moved to Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Credits: NASA/Dimitrios Gerondidakis
Meteor will visually observe the night sky from ISS especially during major and minor meteor showers. Meteor will take photographs and spectra (chemical makeup of the light comprising the meteor or other object) for two years. Analysis of the data will provide how many meters enter Earth's atmosphere and what they are made of.

Being on orbit ISS will be above the Earth's atmosphere and corresponding interference/weather. This will provide continuous observational data to be gathered and provide us really good data. Researchers will get a good idea of the infall rate of meteors and what they are comprised of - asteroid vs cometary origin and composition of these bodies.

I am REALLY excited to see the results of Meteor. I'll be following this experiment, that is for sure.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Gemini - Pathfinder to the Moon

Hey Space Placers!

50 years ago two spacecraft docked together for the first time in human spaceflight. The manned spacecraft was a Gemini mission carrying two crew members and the unmanned spacecraft was an Agena upper rocket stage.

The Agena Target As Seen by Gemini VIII
The two astronauts were future moon walkers Neil Armstrong and Dave Scott.

After the successful rendezvous and docking, the two spacecraft were flying together for about 30 minutes when an uncontrolled spin started. As the spin quickly increased the G-forces on the astronauts were getting to the point where they were in real danger of blacking out which would lead to a probable loss of the crew.

"Cool Stick" Neil saved the day by initiating an emergency procedure using the re-entry control system which stabilized the spin. The two detached and following mission rules Gemini VIII re-entered Earth's atmosphere for a near perfect splashdown.

Gemini had many other firsts that paved the way for Apollo to the Moon:

  • Two Crew Members w/A Larger & More Capable Spacecraft
  • Extended time on orbit (14 days)
  • 1st American EVA & More Complex EVAs
  • Two Gemini Spacecraft Rendezvous 
  • Radar Rendezvous Procedures
  • Orbit Change Capability 
I fondly remember building the Revell Gemini model - going to have to get another one to go with my Apollo and Saturn V models. Gemini was a far bigger spacecraft than Mercury and it had two modules behind the Crew Capsule. One provided logistics - power from fuel cells, oxygen, propellant  - and the other was the reentry module that housed the retrorockets. Gemini could maneuver and change its orbit using the sophisticated reaction control system.

I had a paper route in California back in the day of Gemini and I would deliver papers and then get back in time to see the launches. I don't think I missed one.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, March 14, 2016

ESA Mars Mission On Its Way To The Red Planet

Hey Space Placers!

The European Space Agency (ESA) and the Russian Roscosmos launched  a new mission to Mars - ExoMars 2016 - today. ESA provided the spacecraft while Roscosmos provided the Proton rocket.
The mission is designed to look for evidence of life on Mars via gasses that could be caused by biological processes.

The launch was successful and all systems checked out for Martian orbit insertion which was performed. After a 7 month cruise to Mars the spacecraft which consists of an orbiter and lander will arrive in orbit around Mars in October.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, March 12, 2016

A MAJOR Step Forward For Beyond LEO

Hey Space Placers!

On March 10, 2016 NASA conducted a successful 500 second test firing of the first Space Launch System (SLS) flight dedicated RS-25 engine. This major milestone means that the first of the four RS-25 engines that will form the core 1st stage of SLS is ready to go. The next time it lights for that length of time will be during the maiden flight of SLS hopefully in 2018.

The RS-25 is the engine that propelled 135 Space Shuttle missions and is the most reliable rocket engine on the planet. 16 RS-25 engines were left over from the Space Shuttle program and are being used for SLS. The Rs-25 production line was recently reopened so that new engines could be produced.

Unlike the Space Shuttle, SLS RS-25 engines will be "one and done" for each mission.

Here is a closeup of an RS-25 engine from when I visited Stennis in 2013.

RS-25 Engine
Greg Redfern
I can hardly wait to see SLS light these candles! I will be there when it happens.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, March 11, 2016

Fireball Season ALERT!

Hey Space Placers!

Now that Spring is almost upon us with better weather be sure to be on the lookout for fireballs (meteors as bright or brighter than Venus) as you spend more time outside. Fireballs can be seen during day and night.

If you do see a fireball be sure to report it to AMS.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Mars Orbiter Celebrates 10th Year in Orbit

Hey Space Placers!

Can NASA build 'em or what?

Read the story and see the video about Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter (MRO), celebrating TEN YEARS in orbit around the Red Planet today.

The HiRISE camera is the same system with required modifications that Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter (LRO) uses.....what a camera system!!!

Here's to many more years on orbit MRO.

I can hardly wait to observe Mars with telescopes and in the sky as it approaches Earth these next few months.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Total Solar Eclipse Video & Jupiter + 4

Hey Space Placers!

Enjoy this AMAZING NASA video of yesterday's total solar eclipse (East Coast USA time).

I look forward to hearing what science was accomplished by the NASA Goddard team in Micronesia.

I took this pic last night of Jupiter at opposition with a telephoto lens which mimics the view in binoculars and what Galileo saw in 1610 through his crude telescope. Click on the photo and zoom in to see the 4th moon VERY close to the gas giant.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Super Tuesday Sky Trio

Hey Space Placers!

Lots going on today but the total solar eclipse is worth watching:

Here's the rest of the story about Super Sky Tuesday.

Had your fill of politics for awhile? Not to worry as this Tuesday we have a trio of super sky events to take your mind off of the continuing election year.

To update my previous story    on the close approach of asteroid 2013 TX68 to our planet. Flyby was expected today anywhere from 15,000 miles to 3 million miles. This wide range is due to lack of sufficient observations to precisely define the space rock’s orbit but a clear miss was assured.

“2013 TX68 safely passed by Earth on Monday morning. According to the Minor Planet Center, the space rock’s closest approach occurred on March 7 at 13:42 UTC (8:42 ET) at a distance of 2,542,960 miles (4,092,497 km) from Earth, just a bit closer than the nominal 3 million miles previously estimated.”

Although the space rock safely passed us by the Internet is still abuzz with end of the world chatter If 2013 TX68 had entered the Earth’s atmosphere it would have released about twice the energy of the 2013 Chelyabinsk bolide 

There is a total solar eclipse for areas of the Pacific and Indonesia taking place on March 9 in their time zones but occurs today in ours. We can’t see the eclipse here in the DMV but we can watch it live (and safely) on the Internet via NASA’s telecast tonight starting at 8 p.m. EDT.

If you happen to be reading this in an area that the eclipse is occurring, make sure you view the eclipse SAFELY by following these eye safety guidelines Failure to do so can result in injury to your eyes.

Be sure to tune in at 1 p.m. for a Reddit Ask Me Anything session as solar scientists from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, will be taking questions on the eclipse and the science observations that NASA will be conducting 

The next total solar eclipse will be August 21, 2017 and will occur in the United States I will have much more on this as we get closer to the event.

If you have been outside at night when clear lately, you may have noticed a very bright “star” in the East. That “star” happens to be the planet Jupiter and it will be rising at sunset today as it is at opposition, or directly opposite the Sun. King of the planets, mighty Jupiter will be in our sky all night in the coming months and will be the brightest object in the night sky after the Moon. 

A pair of binoculars can show the four main moons of Jupiter discovered by Galileo in 1610   and any quality telescope will reveal details in the atmosphere of the gas giant planet. You can determine which moon is which by using this nifty tool It is pretty cool to watch the moons change their positions as the night goes on.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, March 4, 2016


Hey Space Placers!

Enjoy these pics of flying crocodiles in Australia and Kamodo Dragons in Indonesia....throw back to ancient times......

What a planet we live on.....

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Coral Sea Milky Way & Lightning in Torres Strait

Hey Space Placers!

As I get over jet lag from 24 hours flying time yesterday here is a pic I took of the Milky Way in the Coral Sea and lightning in Torres Strait by the light of the Full Snow Moon. I hope you enjoy!

Jet Lagged Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Southern Cross

Hey Space Placers!

I've missed you! I am in Benoa, Indonesia Returning Home tomorrow afternoon. It will take 24 total hours of flying time.

It was tough to get a blog out while at sea so I hope we can get back on track now that I have regular Internet.

I want to share this picture of the Southern Cross that I took on Azamara Quest on 2/17/16 at 5:30 am while the ship was underway.

The Coal Sack, Eta Carinae, Star Clusters, Milky Way
Southern Cross
Greg Redfern

This is a wonderful picture of this smallest constellation in the sky. The Cross is standing almost straight up in the dark nebula called the Coal Sack which is the largest Dark Nebula in the whole Milky Way Galaxy.

The pinkish area on the right is the Eta Carinae complex which is named for the star that is one of the largest in our Galaxy and will supernova someday.

Here is a wide filed view that shows Alpha and Beta Centauri on the left, the "Pointer" stars to the Southern Cross.

The Coal Sack, Eta Carinae, Star Clusters, Milky Way
Southern Cross
Greg Redfern

I hope you enjoy.

Sky Guy Greg