Friday, April 21, 2017

Monday, April 10, 2017

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!!!! Full Moon & Jupiter 4/10/17

Hey Space Placers!

Hello from Jamaica!

Tonight the Full Pink Moon will be accompanied by brilliant Jupiter so be sure to look. The Full Pink Moon is named for the pink moss and flowers that bloom in early spring.

Enjoy these pics from the Oosterdam:


Sky Guy at Sea

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Event Horizon Telescope & Astronomy Month

Hey Space Placers!

from at sea aboard the ms Oosterdam in the Gulf of Mexico. 

A cosmic first got underway this week - humanity’s attempt to image a black hole using the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT)   http://eventhorizontelescope.org  . Using radio telescopes located around the globe to combine their separate signals into the equivalent of an Earth sized radio telescope antenna, the EHT will be making several observations.

Radio Telescopes like this one atop Mauna Kea, HI will be used worldwide
to obtain the 1st ever image of a black hole
Greg Redfern
EHT will try and image the supermassive black hole (SBH) located at the center of our Milky Way Galaxy known as Sagittarius A* (Sgr A*)       and the SBH located in nearby galaxy M87. EHT will also be observing several other galaxies.

SBHs are thought to be at the center of most galaxies. Sgr A* is over FOUR MILLION times as massive as our Sun and is 26,000 light years distant.  Due to intervening gas and dust we cannot see the center of our Milky Way Galaxy using optical telescopes but we can do so using radio telescopes.  EHT has been a decade long project that has now come to fruition with this history making observing run.

EHT will be collecting a huge amount of data during its 10 day observing run. The first several days have been going well and according to schedule. After the observing run is concluded EHT astronomers will then begin the arduous task of correlating and analyzing all of the data to try and achieve the first ever image of Sgr A*. It will take months of work before they know if they have been successful and publication of their results is expected in 2018. 

April is Global Astronomy Month (GAM)   http://www.gam-awb.org  , organized each April by Astronomers Without Borders (AWB)  (http://www.astronomerswithoutborders.org. It is the world’s largest annual global celebration of astronomy and brings new ideas and new opportunities. GAM 2017 is currently underway and is bringing enthusiasts together worldwide to celebrate Astronomers Without Borders’ motto “One People, One Sky”. You can find more information one events here  http://astronomerswithoutborders.org/global-astronomy-month-2017.html .


Be sure to look at bright Jupiter in the southeast at sunset as it will be in the sky for several months. Venus has moved to the morning sky and is visible before dawn. 

Sky Guy at Sea

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Mighty Jupiter UPDATED & SKY GUY VIEWING ALERT 4/7/17 Jupiter

Hey SPACE PLACERS!

UPDATE:

Info on Jupiter opposition from NASA.



Check out the latest pic of Jupiter taken by Hubble Space Telescope (HST).

NASA
You can see Jupiter for yourself by looking in the SE right at sunset as tomorrow Jupiter will be directly opposite the Sun or what astronomers call opposition. Jupiter will remain bright in the sky all night.

If you have binoculars you can see the four main moons if you hold the binoculars steady enough. Bracing against a wall or car top helps. A telescope really brings forth the 'King of The Planets' in all his glory.

Enjoy.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

NASA'S CASSINI MISSION PREPS FOR GRAND FINALE

Hey Space Placers!

NASA's Cassini spacecraft is making preparations for its finale at the planet Saturn. This mission has written the book on the Saturnian system. The spacecraft is running on fumes and starting April 26 will begin its final phase - a 'Grand Finale' - eventually plunging into Saturn.

The September 15, 2017 death plunge into the atmosphere of Saturn is being done to protect the surrounding moons of Saturn, especially Enceladus, from any possible contamination. Enceladus has a warm ocean under all of its ice and is one of the prized places in the solar system to look for life.

Cassini will provide us an amazing look at the rings and Saturn for as long as possible and then become part of the planet it has studied for over 13 years.

Enjoy this amazing video that highlights the Cassini mission....enjoy the stunning vistas of Saturn.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

New Horizons Spacecraft Update

Hey Space Placers!

The New Horizons spacecraft will be at the halfway point to its next target, 2014 MU69 this Friday. The spacecraft is traveling at 32,000 miles per hour and is 3.5 BILLION miles from Earth. Controllers will place New Horizons into hibernation on April 7th after being awake and operational for the past 2 1/2 years. The spacecraft will remain in hibernation for 157 days and upon reawakening will start to prepare for the flyby of 2014 MU69 that will occur on 1/1/19.

A KBO among the Stars: In preparation for the New Horizons flyby of 2014 MU69 on Jan. 1, 2019, the spacecraft’s Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) took a series of 10-second exposures of the background star field near the location of its target Kuiper Belt object (KBO). This composite image is made from 45 of these 10-second exposures taken on Jan. 28, 2017. The yellow diamond marks the predicted location of MU69 on approach, but the KBO itself was too far from the spacecraft (544 million miles, or 877 million kilometers) even for LORRI’s telescopic “eye” to detect. New Horizons expects to start seeing MU69 with LORRI in September of 2018 – and the team will use these newly acquired images of the background field to help prepare for that search on approach.
Credits: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute
Sleep well New Horizons!

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, April 1, 2017

SpaceX Makes History

Hey Space Placers!

SpaceX made history on March 30, 2017 by using a previously flown and recovered orbital class rocket to launch another spacecraft into orbit. This is the first time this has been done and will help to further decrease the cost of rocket launches.

Watch the mission launch replay.

Sky Guy in VA


Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT! Moon, Mercury, Mars 3/29-3/30

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the young waxing crescent Moon, Mercury and Mars in the night sky tonight and tomorrow night

Look West tonight about a half-hour after sunset and you will see the Moon just to the upper left of Mercury, which will be about a full fist-width above the horizon. You have to have a clear view of the horizon to get the best view. Mars is a bit farther up to the left.

On the 30th the Moon will be just to the upper left of Mars.

Be sure to look for Earthshine on the Moon which is the lunar surface illuminated by the reflection of sunlight off our planet's oceans and clouds....very beautiful.

Binoculars will help immensely in your viewing.

Enjoy!

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, March 26, 2017

August 21, 2017 Solar Eclipse Guide UPDATED

Hey Space Placers!



You are probably aware that there is a total solar eclipse occurring across the continental US on August 21, 2017. Millions of people will be able to see either a total or partial solar eclipse from wherever they are.

With just under 5 months to go now is the time to get ready for this event. Here is a COMPLETE guide to the eclipse courtesy of Sky and Telescope of which I am a long time subscriber as well as author.

The most important thing about the event is that you have to SAFELY observe the Sun. Be sure to read the safety guidelines.

UPDATE
-------------------------------------------------------
This is part of S&T's Guide but I wanted to highlight it NASA has a Solar Eclipse Guide.

I will have more on this as we get closer to August.

Sky Guy in VA


Saturday, March 25, 2017

Surviving Lunar Night

Hey Space Placers!

The Moon is going to be a place where humanity will build outposts to stay long term; it is only a question of when.

One of the biggest issues to a lunar outpost is how to keep people and facilities warm when there is no sunlight. The Moon has day and night but it is on an almost month long cycle as opposed to our 24 hour cycle.

Temps can drop drastically during the lunar night and will need a heat source to keep people alive in their facilities.

The European Space Agency (ESA) is working on this problem and is looking to using lunar soil as a solution. 

It will be interesting to see how this research pans out.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Maunakea Observatories Photo Essay

Hey Space Placers!

On a tour arranged by Holland America's Westerdam I was able to return to the summit of Maunakea, Hawaii earlier this month to see the numerous observatories located there. It has changed quite a bit since my last visit in 1992.

Yesterday's blog included a picture of the VLBA radio telescope that is part of the Event Horizon Telescope. SO I won't include it here today.

The biggest change being that the 10-meter Keck Observatory now has a twin Observatory, Keck II. These are currently the largest optical telescopes in the world, having surpassed the 5-meter Hale Telescope at Palomar Observatory with the commencement of observations with Keck I in 1993.


Maunakea is a VERY special place because it has such clear and dry skies at almost 14,000 feet altitude. The telescopes there can observe above much of the Earth's atmosphere and enjoy excellent conditions. That is why there are so many telescopes there.

Collectively the Maunakea Observatories  are a very important asset in our study of the Universe. Here are some of the Observatories - refer to the link for more information about them.

Subaru Telescope
Caltech Submillimeter Observatory
NASA Infrared Telescope Facility
University of Hawaii Telescope
Gemini Telescope (foreground) and Canada-France-Hawaii Telescope
James Clerk Maxwell Telescope (Center)
&
Submillimeter Array w/ 8 Antennas (Right)
United Kingdom Infrared Telescope
I hope to get back there someday when I can enjoy a night time few of the Observatories and the night sky.....it's on my Bucket List.

Sky Guy in VA



Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Event Horizon Telescope (EHT)

Hey Space Placers!

Here is an excellent article on the Event Horizon Telescope (EHT)

EHT is supposed to start observations next month if all goes well but as the article states, it will be months of data processing before we know if the attempt to image a black hole event horizon was successful.

On my recent voyage I was able to get a photograph of the Hawaii-based radio telescope that is part of the EHT network. It was so cool to see this clone of the Very Large Array (VLA) that was featured in the movie 'Contact' and is poised to make history with EHT.



I couldn't get my "touch history" selfie as I usually do so I had to improvise.


Tomorrow I will share my visit to Mauna Kea, HI.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, March 17, 2017

An AMAZING PIC

Hey Space Placers!

This is one of the most AMAZING pics I have ever seen:

NASA
It shows multiple images of a quasar 6 billion light years away that we can see due to the gravitational lensing of a foreground galaxy. A quasar is a galaxy that has an active supermassive black hole at its center. The black hole has infalling matter - planets, comets,  gas, etc - that heats up to millions of degrees as it gets consumed. It produces a great deal of light and energy that we can detect and study.

The gravitational lensing helps us to see this quasar and make measurements of the black hole.

See this video to help understand what you are seeing and read the article.

Really amazing - what a universe we live in.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

NASA Bill To POTUS Trump

Hey Space Placers!

Here is the Congressional NASA bill sent to POTUS Trump for signature.

It appears that NASA is still heading for Mars. But no Administrator for NASA named yet.

Looks like funding for 2017 will be $19.5 billion.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, March 13, 2017

Huge Galaxy Cluster Forming

Hey Space Placers!

Galaxy Clusters are the largest structures in the Universe. Here is a great article about FOUR Galaxy Clusters observed in the process of merging into one!


Four Galaxy Clusters Labeled A-D In the Process of Merging
From Forbes' Article
Wow.

Sky Guy in VA

Saturday, March 11, 2017

The WEIRDEST World of the Solar System

Hey Space Placers!

Check out Pan, an amazing moon of Saturn. To me it is the weirdest place (to date) in the solar system.



CREDIT: NASA/JPL Space Science Institute
Get more info on this UFO-looking world here.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

A VERY Neat Meteor Shower Visualization

Hey Space Placers!

Check out this very cool meteor shower visualization tool.

You can select what meteor shower you want to see from a list of 45 and then view it from a variety of angles.

You also will read about how some of them are warped by Jupiter's gravity.

Really cool to watch.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Back From Sea

Hey Space Placers!

Glad to be back after a wonderful 18 day Hawaii cruise aboard Holland America's beautiful Westerdam. I will share with you my trip to Mauna Kea Observatories later but I want you to see this first.

I toured the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park  HVNP on 2/24/17 and it is currently active in its central crater. It was amazing to see venting come out of the crater AND TO SMELL IT.
Kilauea Crater HVNP
Greg Redfern
When I was up at Mauna Kea you can see the VOG - volcanic smog - in a layer that flows through the valley between Mauna Kea and Mauna Loa.

VOG
Greg Redfern


The real treat was the next night transiting to our next port when we went directly south of HVNP. It looked like Hell on Earth as the Crater came alive in the dark.


Kilauea Crater At Night As Viewed At Sea
Greg Redfern


I made a video of the lava flow that descends from the crater to the sea and posted it on You Tube. The awesome power of seeing new land being created right before your very eyes in such explosive fashion was breathtaking.

Lava Flow From Kilauea Crater
Greg Redfern
Lava Enters The Sea at Kamokuna, HI
Greg Redfern
Lava Enters The Sea at Kamokuna, HI
Greg Redfern
I have seen the effects of lava on Earth and in the solar system but this was my 1st ever encounter with LIVE and active lava. It was simply amazing and humbling.

We humans think we are in control of all things - we are not. Earth is. Change the climate or the geology of our planet and you change humanity. We are seeing that in climate change right now and I have seen the affects in my world travels. I have personally witnessed the power of geology in the form of 8.1 and smaller earthquakes to include being in the San Fransisco event of October 1989.

And now, seeing the Dante's Inferno of destruction and creation at work at HVNP through the unrelenting power of lava, I am awed. Our planet and other bodies of the solar system have been built through mighty geologic forces including volcanoes and lava - the Moon, Venus, Mars, Io to name a few. We have even seen CRYOVOLCANOES - "lava" of frozen origin - at work in the outer solar system.

I hope this has given you a better perspective about the planet on which you live. The Earth doesn't need us, we need the Earth. Our planet has another couple billion years of evolution to undergo before the Sun destroys our planet by returning it into the dust from which it came 4.6 billion years ago.

Until then, lava will continue to create and destroy and amaze.

Sky Guy in VA






Saturday, February 18, 2017

Organics on CERES!

Hey Space Placers!

NASA announced that organic compounds have been discovered on Ceres, the largest object in the asteroid belt - a dwarf planet actually.

This is the first confirmed discovery of such in the main belt and it IS a big deal.

Sky Guy at Sea

Help Find Planet 9

Hey Space Placers!

From today's 'Daily Minor Planet:

NASA is inviting the public to help search for possible undiscovered worlds in the outer reaches of our solar system and in neighboring interstellar space. A new website, called Backyard Worlds: Planet 9, lets everyone participate in the search by viewing brief movies made from images captured by NASA's Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.  Read More

Sky Guy at Sea

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Orion-SLS Update

Hey Space Placers!

At sea again on my way to Hawaii.

There has been some very interesting reporting coming out that says that NASA is considering making the first Orion-Space Launch System (SLS) mission, Exploration Mission 1 (EM-1), a MANNED mission. The only other launch system in NASA’s history that had a crew onboard for the maiden flight was the Space Shuttle.

Orion-SLS has a crew abort system that can lift the Orion spacecraft with its crew to safety from the launch pad well into the ascent phase. The Space Shuttle had limited options for crew abort once the solid rocket boosters (SRBs) ignited and burned for two minutes. SLS will have two SRBs also.

There is also a move to name the EM-1 mission for the late Apollo 17 astronauts Gene Cernan. A fitting tribute to the last human to walk on the Moon.

Sky Guy in the Pacific Headed to Hawaii

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!! Full Snow Moon Penumbral Eclipse Feb. 10-11

Hey Space Placers!

February’s Full Moon is called the Full Snow Moon as this is prime time for snow. The Full Snow Moon will look a little different this Friday as it will undergo a penumbral lunar eclipse.

There are three types of lunar eclipses - total, partial and penumbral  http://www.mreclipse.com/Special/LEprimer.html   . All three occur when the Full Moon passes into the Earth’s shadow which is caused by light from the Sun. There are two components to our planet’s shadow  (and all shadows actually  http://van.physics.illinois.edu/QA/listing.php?id=2068 ) called the umbra and penumbra. The umbra is the central and darkest shadow zone which projects about a million miles into space while the penumbra is the outer and lighter shadow zone  https://www.nasa.gov/audience/forstudents/k-4/stories/umbra-and-penumbra/#.WJyHLhg-KfQ .      

Penumbral lunar eclipses are the least dramatic of the three types as usually there is only a slight shading. But for this penumbral eclipse the Full Snow Moon is deep within the penumbral shadow and misses the umbra by only 100 miles  http://www.skyandtelescope.com/press-releases/friday-nights-deep-penumbral-lunar-eclipse/   . The result will be shading that will be visible on the Full Snow Moon similar to what you see in the picture I took of the penumbral phase of the October 8, 2014 total lunar eclipse.

The Full Snow Moon eclipse will look very similar to this picture taken of the eclipsed Moon on October 8, 2014.
Greg Redfern
To see the eclipse is easy if the sky is clear. Just go outside and face the east and find the Moon. Starting at 6:14 p.m. EST you should detect shading on the upper, or northern face of the Moon. By mid-eclipse at 7:44 p.m. EST the shading will be at its greatest and should be easily visible. The penumbral shadow will start to move off the Moon and the last vestiges of it should be seen around 9:14 p.m. EST.

The weather for Friday has clouds in the forecast but it is still worth checking to see if the Moon is visible. If clouds intervene you can watch the eclipse on the Internet  http://main.slooh.com/event/the-full-snow-moon-2/  .

You may have heard about the close approach of a comet this weekend. Comet 45P/Honda-Mrkos-Pajdušáková or  Comet 45P for short  http://earthsky.org/astronomy-essentials/comet-45phonda-mrkos-pajdusakova-new-years-eve    will pass a mere 7.4 million miles from Earth on February 11 at about 3 a.m. EST.

Comet 45P the closest comet we have had in more than 30 years, the last being the glorious Comet Hyakutake  http://www2.jpl.nasa.gov/comet/hyakutake/ .  That was a COMET! I still remember being at Shenandoah National Park photographing it on the night of closest approach. With just your eyes you could see the long tail stretch across almost the whole sky - and it moved against the background stars as you watched! While watching that bright comet move silently and majestically across the sky it was easy to understand why our ancestors feared them.

Comet 45P is beyond naked eye visibility and even in binoculars or telescopes the brilliant full Snow Moon will make it hard to see. You can tune in to a live show on the Internet  http://main.slooh.com/event/cruise-the-galaxy-with-comet-45p/    after the Full Snow Moon eclipse.


By the way, you can see brilliant Venus in the southwest just after it gets dark with dim Mars just above it to the left. Jupiter makes its appearance in the southeast sky after 11 p.m. and Saturn rises in the hour before dawn in the southeast.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

1st Ever White Dwarf Pulsar Discovered

Hey Space Placers!

The 1st EVER white dwarf pulsar has been discovered. This is a major discovery in our study of stars and fills a gap that has been awaiting such a discovery.

AR Scorpii
Credit: Mark Garlick, University of Warwick
Sky Guy in VA

Monday, February 6, 2017

POPE'S VIEW ON BIG BANG & EVOLUTION

Hey Space Placers!

A very welcome read from Pope Francis on his views about the Big Bang and Evolution. Many do not know that the Vatican has its own observatory and staff to do research on cosmology and astrophysics.

Sky Guy in VA

Friday, February 3, 2017

Amazing Exoplanet Video

Hey Space Placers!

I was AMAZED to see this video that shows FOUR exoplanets in orbit around their star.

Let me say that again. We can actually SEE four other worlds outside of our solar system in orbit around another star.....WOW.

With new telescopes and instruments becoming available we will be seeing more and more of other worlds for ourselves.....unreal.

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT: Moon, Venus, Mars 1/31/17

Hey Space Placers!

Check out the sky tonight after dusk, it is going to be something to see.

Credit: Sky & Telescope
Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Andromeda Galaxy & Large Magellanic Cloud

Hey Space Placers!

My Two pics of galaxies that are part of our Local Group.

Enjoy.

Large Magellanic Cloud
Andromeda Galaxy

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Two News Articles on NASA Under A Trump Administration

Hey Space Placers!

I will not comment on these stories as I never want to make this blog political. I do feel however an obligation to keep you informed on events that affect NASA and the space exploration community.

For full disclosure I know both of the authors and correspond with them.

Article by Nancy Atkinson

Article by Joel Achenbach

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

UPDATED Sky Guy Viewing ALERT!! See all 5 Bright Planets

Hey Space Placers!

UPDATED: PICS FROM 1/25/17

27.2 OLD WANING CRESCENT MOON W/ EARTHSHINE

MERCURY, MOON, SATURN (UPPER)
---------------------------
For the next few days you can see all 5 of the naked eye planets.

Venus and Mars are in the SW after sunset.

Jupiter rises around midnight in the E.

Saturn and Mercury will be in the SE before dawn.

The Moon will be keeping Saturn and Mercury company also in the next few days.

Credit Sky & Telescope

Here's to clear skies!

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, January 23, 2017

Solar Eclipse Grant for Libraries

Hey Space Placers!

If you have a library near you, please let them know about the following grant that is supporting libraries for the upcoming August 21, 2017 Solar Eclipse.

News Release from StarNet.org:

The Space Science Institute (SSI) was recently awarded a grant from the Moore Foundation that will provide 1.26 million solar viewing glasses and other resources for 1,500 public libraries across the nation. These libraries will serve as centers for eclipse education and viewing for their communities.

This new grant opportunity provided by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation will allow your library to access up to 200, or 1,000 FREE eclipse shades (on a first-come, first-served basis). To qualify, your library will be required to complete a 2-Step registration process which will include general library information and verification of your library’s commitment to an eclipse event (on or around August 21, 2017), additional information such as general event details, promotional examples and an agreement to some basic event statements.

Sign up is here.

Thank you....

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Curiosity Finds a VERY PROBABLE 3rd Meteorite on Mars!

Hey Space Placers!

Another Mars-Curiosity story. The rover has found its third iron meteorite! At least I am convinced it is from its appearance and the shiny spots caused by the laser zapping the surface. NASA should have the test results soon to confirm my speculations.


CREDIT: NASA-JPL


Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Curiosity Studies POSSIBLE Martian Mud Cracks

Hey Space Placers!

Just got back from a cruise aboard +Cunard Line's Queen Victoria. Wow, what a ship! I'll be posting some pics for you to enjoy.

In the meantime check out Mars' 'Mud Cracks'???

Sky Guy Back in VA

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

2 New NASA Missions Selected

Hey Space Placers!

Off to sea.

Here are NASA's latest selected missions that will study the early solar system.

Hope to stay in touch while transiting the Atlantic.

Sky Guy Leaving VA

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

NASA's Newest Approved Mission

Hey Space Placers!

As I head out to sea here is the news on NASA's newest approved mission.

I hope to keep in touch....but one never knows at sea!

Sky Guy Greg

Monday, January 2, 2017

Sky Guy Viewing ALERT 1/2-3/17 Quadrantid Meteor Shower

Hey Space Placers!

If your skies are clear try catching the Quadrantid Meteor Shower tomorrow morning.

Credit: Sky & Telescope Magazine


All of the details are here.