Thursday, March 22, 2018


Hey Space Placers!

 Here's a fascinating article about the 3 way tug of war going on between the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds (LMC, SMC) which can be seen in the Southern Hemisphere and our very own Milky Way Galaxy (MWG).

LMC & SMC and Achenar
Taken by Greg Redfern Underway On Oceania
LMC and SMC orbit our MWG and all 3 are undergoing gravitational interactions, some of which result in the Magellanic Stream and Leading Arm which can be seen in the following photo:

Caption From NASA:
This is a photo mosaic of an edge-on view of the Milky Way galaxy, looking toward the central bulge. Superimposed on it are radio-telescope images, colored pink, of the stretched, arc-shaped Magellanic Stream below the plane of the galaxy and the shredded, fragmented Leading Arm crossing the galaxy’s plane and extending above it. These gas clouds are being gravitationally pulled apart like taffy from the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds—satellite galaxies to our Milky Way—which appear as bright clumps within the gas. 
The source of the ribbon-like Magellanic Stream was uncovered by the Hubble Space Telescope about five years ago, and it was found to come from both Magellanic Clouds. However, the source of the Leading Arm remained a mystery until today. Now, scientists have used Hubble’s ultraviolet vision to chemically analyze the gas in the Leading Arm and determine its origin. Because they could not directly sample it, they instead used the light from seven quasars—the bright cores of active galaxies—to measure how it filtered through the Leading Arm’s gas. These quasars reside billions of light-years beyond the Leading Arm and act as “lighthouses” shining through the gas.
Scientists looked for the absorption of the quasars’ ultraviolet light by oxygen in the cloud. This is a good indication of how many heavier elements reside in the Leading Arm’s gas. The team then compared Hubble’s measurements to hydrogen measurements made by the Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope in Green Bank, West Virginia, as well as several other radio telescopes. 
Marked locations indicate the three brightest of the seven quasars used to study the composition of the Leading Arm. Spectra for these three quasars are superimposed at the bottom of the graphic. The vertical axis of each spectrum indicates how much absorption is taking place. The more absorption, the greater the signal strength is. The horizontal axes indicate the velocities of the gas at different points. Blue boxes isolate the velocities unique to the Leading Arm.
The oxygen, combined with the hydrogen, provided conclusive chemical “fingerprints” to match the origin of the Leading Arm’s gas. The team found that the gas matches the contents of the Small Magellanic Cloud. 
Illustration: D. Nidever et al., NRAO/AUI/NSF and A. Mellinger, Leiden-Argentine-Bonn (LAB) Survey, Parkes Observatory, Westerbork Observatory, Arecibo Observatory, and A. Feild (STScI)
Science: NASAESA, and A. Fox (STScI)

It is amazing to think that gas from the SMC will possibly provide the MWG the raw material needed  to form new stars and solar systems far into the future.

Sky Guy in VA

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Moon Beckons Us

Hey Space Placers!

Back from sea and just in time to go from 89+F to 6+" of it.

Watch this video, it will only take a few minutes but will bring a smile to your face I am sure:

If you are a long time follower - my thanks to you - you know the Moon is my fave place in the Universe and I truly love our planet's companion.

As the video shows and Phil Plait writes, the Moon is a great unifier for us all - if we ONLY look. Whether it is with our eyes, binoculars or in a telescope, the Moon captures us when we look. I too have seen the light of the Moon going into the pupil of a human looking through my telescope and heard the exclamations that erupt forth.....they are music to my ears.

Take a look at the Moon for yourself.....enjoy the'll be glad you did.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Hey Space Placers!

Find a good clear view of the Western horizon as tonight the THIN Waxing Crescent Moon will be going Mercury and Venus in the sky after sunset. 

The planetary duo, Venus being the brighter of the two, has graced our skies for the past few weeks as you can see in this pic I took aboard Azamara Quest underway off the NW coast of Cuba a few days ago:

Venus, lower left, and Mercury grace the Western sky after sunset
off the NW coast of Cuba
Taken underway on Azamara Quest
Greg Redfern

The key to seeing this trio is going out about a half hour after sunset and looking due West. If you have binoculars that will help. Venus and Mercury will be in the same field of view. The Moon will be to the lower left of Venus. You may even be able to see Earthshine on the Moon - the ghostly light that is from the reflection of sunlight off our planet's oceans and clouds that illuminates the dark of the Moon.

The Moon will move to the upper left in the next few days and will be easier to see with some Earthshine as well.

I'll be underway on Azamara Quest enroute to Miami so I'm hoping to get a great pic which of course I'll share.

Good luck and clear skies!

Sky Guy Greg

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

Stephen Hawking Dies

Hey Space Placers!

Sad day as Dr. Stephen Hawking is dead at 76.

Read the Washington Post news story about his life.

The world will miss his intellect and wit.

Sky Guy in Cienfuegos, Cuba

Tuesday, March 13, 2018


Hey Space Placers!

There's a new theory out about how double lobed comets are formed.

Check out the video:

This video shows modelling of how a high-speed collision between two objects could have resulted in the comet 67p/Churyumov–Gerasimenko.

Sky Guy in Santiago de Cuba

Saturday, March 10, 2018

VIEWING ALERT: Mercury Venus at Sunset; Saturn, Mars, Moon, Jupiter before Dawn

Hey Space Placers!

Underway on Azamara Quest to Haiti and Cuba.

Venus and Mercury are in the West after sunset and will be getting easier to see each night.


The Zodiacal Light is in the West also about 90 minutes after sunset from a dark sky sight and should be visible for another week or so.

Zodiacal Light at Sea
Greg Redfern

Mercury will be getting higher until after mid-month when it will start to descend into the Sun's glare. This is the BEST view of Mercury for Northern Hemisphere observers this year so make sure you get out to see the planet closest to the Sun.

Venus will keep getting higher and brighter and will dominate the western sky for month's to come.

In the Southeast before dawn the Moon, Saturn, Mars and Jupiter, along with the Milky Way will be a beautiful view for the next few days. Once the Moon moves out of the scene it WILL REALLY be something as the Milky Way will dominate the view with the planets on full display.

This pic was taken this morning on Azamara Quest with 30+ knot winds. The image was defocused a bit to highlight the colors and seaspray is on the lens filter.

SkyGuy at Sea Aboard Azamara Quest

Wednesday, March 7, 2018


Hey Space Placers!

Just about every mission NASA sends into the solar system carries along the names of Earthlings.

I have sent my name on every mission that has offered to do so and I have carried on that tradition with NASA's Parker Solar Probe.

Hey, if Captain Kirk and Sky Guy in VA have signed up, shouldn't you?????? Sign up the whole family!

Sky Guy in VA

Tuesday, March 6, 2018


Hey Space Placers!

The Earth-Moon Synestia Visualization
 Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech
As promised yesterday here is the newest theory on how the Moon formed. 

Previously the leading theory was that the Moon formed as the result of a Mars-sized object called Theia impacting the Earth.

In this new theory the Earth has been vaporized due to a huge impact forming a Synestia - a hypothesized structure that forms - and the Moon emerges shortly afterwards followed by the Earth reforming.

This is a very intriguing, and to me, very plausible theory. More computer modeling and analysis of the Apollo lunar samples, including hopefully a new sample box - see yesterday's blog - will provide further refinement, and maybe, just maybe, a way to confirm how Luna came to be.

Sky Guy in VA

Monday, March 5, 2018


Hey Space Placers!

I have had some posts recently on the Moon so here is one more (with another to follow tomorrow ;-))

I hope NASA opens at least one of the sample boxes as we have come a LONG way in our ability to analyze lunar samples as the article describes. Wow, NEW lunar findings from pristine samples. It would be like a whole new lunar mission.

I'll be on the look out for updates on this story and hope to visit the Astromaterials Curation Center myself later this year.

Sky Guy in VA

Sunday, March 4, 2018


Hey Space Placers!

As March progresses make an effort to watch the movements of Mercury and Venus in the Western sky this month.

I got this pic on 8/3/18 when the two were at their closest to one another. Venus is on the left and always the brighter of the two.

Venus (L) and Mercury in the West after sunset
Greg Redfern
For the next two weeks the planetary pair will rise higher in the West making them easier to see and on the 18th the Waxing Crescent Moon will join them to make a nice view.

To see them find a Western horizon clear of obstructions, and go outside about 20 minutes after sunset. Look to the left of where the Sun set, or to the left go the bright horizon glow of the set Sun. If you have binoculars this will help too although they will be visible to the unaided eye as the month progresses.

Venus and Mercury will change their positions in the sky due to their respective orbits around the Sun as well as that of our own planet. It is viewing opportunities like this that show us that we live in a dynamic solar system where constant motion is the name of the game.

Venus will remain visible and resplendent in the Western sky for the most part of 2018. Mercury will move from the evening to morning sky later this month.

While looking West after sunset if you have a dark sky site look for the Zodiacal Light as it gets dark now that the Moon rises later each night. This will be visible as a pyramid shaped band of dim light that is tilted to the left in the sky from the horizon.

Zodiacal Light At Sea
Greg Redfern
We see it due to the reflection of sunlight off of the countless particles of interplanetary dust. The best time to look is when it just gets dark, about 80 or so minutes after sunset.

For my southern hemisphere Space Placers it will be visible in the East before sunrise but you have to wait a few days for the Moon to be less bright.

Enjoy your time outdoors looking at the sky as we get nearer and near to the Vernal Equinox.

Sky Guy in VA

Thursday, March 1, 2018


Hey Space Placers!

Get the scoop about March 1st AND the planets...FIVE OF 'EM are coming to a sky near you.

2018 will be a grand time for the planets as Venus returns to the evening sky with Mercury no less and Mars takes center stage this summer.


Sky Gy Greg