Bruce McCandless II

Sadly passed away 21st December 2017. Born 8th June 1937 although the name might not mean much to some. Taken of him was, i think one of the most iconic space pictures i have every seen.


He is pictured here doing the first ever unteathered space walk. Before then astronauts who did EVA (Extra Vehicular Activity) had to be tethered to the ship or object they were working on. This did much to hinder the work they did. Here Bruce is pictured with an MMU the movement control can be see in his left hand.

RIP Bruce, very brave man indeed.

So we have a piece of interstellar rock in our solar system

Not sure its going to disclose much to scan it for alien technology, but i was interested to know this could have come from another star system. Wherever its come from it has taken millions of years to reach us. We know its come from outside the solar system as the orbit of the asteroid could not have been created within our own solar system.

Reassuringly the chemistry of the object appears to be similar to what we already know about in the solar system. We also know it is dark red, which is indicative of it containing organic material.

It is a shame we cannot nip out and grab a sample of it. With some 10 000 similar like it in the solar system, i wonder if some of it has already made it to the Earth. Weird thing of course is the cigar shape of this.

Time will tell!

Have a read of these links and this

Mosaic of the Moon

In the media a lot of the time, they show a single picture that someone has taken of the Moon. Digital Cameras are pretty good at shooting the whole Moon in one picture. That is you take your shot and there it is in its entirety.

However, when you use a camera which will only show one part of the Moon at a time, it can be interesting as often we’re seeing parts of the Moon enlarged. However a nice excercise is to try to take multiple frames of the Moon.

What do i mean?

When you plug a webcamera into a laptop, it can take individual shots, but what its better at is taking short movies. in fact amateur astronomers use these to take images of the planets.

With the Moon, what we done in the past is, taken 1000 frames (you set the software to do this) capture a section of the Moon, then move to the next, getting reasonable overlap.

NOW, granted as a teacher or educator, this can be challenging without the right kit. So in light of this we have provided the images and the software to do it! How cool is that?

Files can be accessed here

You will also need the free Microsoft Image Composite Editor (Microsoft ICE) download here

If interested in actually doing this, you will need a webcam and free software called SharpCap download here

A nice little tutorial i did on it here


The Planet Uranus

The Planet Uranus is at opposition to the Earth, so the closest to us it can get at the moment. So what does this mean for observing it?

The planet itself, although a large gas giant. With a radius of over 25k miles it was discovered by Sir William Herschel in 1781. Its day is just over 17 hours and takes just over 84 years to make one orbit of the Sun! However through a telescope it is a difficult object to be candid. It is never going to really appear as more than a point of light making it difficult to detect even through telescopes. However, if up for the challenge it rises as the Sun sets in the constellation of Pisces. Please see the chart (courtesy of Starry Night).


The Lagrange Points

Lagrange points are named in after Italian-French mathematician Joseph-Louis Lagrange.

There are five special points where a small mass can orbit in a constant pattern with two larger masses. The Lagrange Points are positions where the gravitational pull of two large masses precisely equals the centripetal force required for a small object to move with them. This mathematical problem, known as the “General Three-Body Problem” was considered by Lagrange in his prize winning paper (Essai sur le Problème des Trois Corps, 1772).

Of the five Lagrange points, three are unstable and two are stable. The unstable Lagrange points – labeled L1, L2 and L3 – lie along the line connecting the two large masses. The stable Lagrange points – labeled L4 and L5 – form the apex of two equilateral triangles that have the large masses at their vertices. L4 leads the orbit of earth and L5 follows.

Gravitational Waves – greatest discovery of 21 century?

Perhaps, perhaps not but to this discovery opens up a who new set of eyes on the Universe. As every object orbits another it generates a graviational wave. Now scientists have been able to detect two black holes orbiting one another moving faster and faster as they slowly convege and ultimately mergy.

This discovery could assist in the study of other black holes, even the study of dark matter.

More on it here

Jupiter at oppostion Announcement from BAA Circular

Jupiterwill be at opposition on March 8, and thus above the horizon all night long. Onestriking phenomenon for a day or so around opposition is that the galileanmoons can transit directly in front of their shadows on Jupiter’s disk. This year, on the night of March 7/8, therewill be a very rare opportunity to see both Europa and Io doing this at thesame time! Europa and its shadow moveonto the disk at 23:09-12 UT; Io and its shadow, at 00:28-29 UT, while Europais in the centre of the disk; Europa and shadow leave at 01:57-58, and Io andshadow at 02:43. This will be very wellplaced for observers all over Europe including the UK. Asecond dual phenomenon occurs on March 9 at 18:54-58 UT: Ganymede ends a transit just as Io and itsshadow begin a transit. Ganymede’sshadow remains on the disk till 19:10; Europa is hidden behind the planet. This event will be visible from America, butwill be very low in the sky for European observers. You cansee hi-res images of moons transiting in front of their shadows (one at a time),at the last 4 oppositions, on our web site at: Jupiter’smoons have coupled orbits, so dual transits of Europa and Io will continue tooccur at intervals of 3.5 days right up to mid-April, as well as dual transitsof Ganymede and Io on March 16, 23/24, and 31. Times are given in the BAA Handbook, and simulated views can be producedin WinJUPOS. Onemore notable and rare event occurs on April 12: Jupiter will occult a 7th-magnitudestar. Ingress is at approx. 14:45 UT,visible from the Far East and Australia. Egress is at ~17:45 UT, visible from western Asia and south-easternEurope. Although the star will be ratherfaint relative to the planet, observers with large telescopes may be able totake videos of the event, which can involve irregular fading and multipleflashes as the star passes behind the planet’s atmosphere. Details can be found in: A. A. Christou & E. Kardasis,‘Stellar occultation by Jupiter and Ganymede’, from the last stellar occultation, on 2009 Aug.3/4, see the Journal ofthe BAA (2016 Feb), vol.126, p.37.

The Next Einstein?

Sabrina Gonzalez Pasterski was only 14 years old when she stepped foot into MIT’s campus offices seeking approval one morning for the single-engine plane she built.

Fast forward eight years and the 22-year-old is now an MIT graduate and Harvard Ph.D. candidate interested in answering some of the most complex questions in physics, according to Yahoo.

The first-generation Cuban-American woman has already received job offers from Jeff Bezos, the founder of, and aerospace developer and manufacturer Blue Origin. NASA has also shown interest in the young physicist. Pasterski’s study seeks to explore black holes and spacetime and she is particularly concentrated on explaining gravity through the context of quantum mechanics.