Jocelyn Bell and the Breakthrough prize 2018

Pulsars were first detected in 1967 by a research student called Jocelyn Bell when she was taking observations for her PhD thesis. Her supervisor, Anthony Hewish, went on to win the Nobel prize in 1974 for the discovery, and her contribution was overlooked. Many at the time felt that Jocelyn Bell should have been given… Continue reading Jocelyn Bell and the Breakthrough prize 2018

Lunar eclipse 27 July 2018

On 27 July 2018 there will be a total eclipse of the Moon, which will be viewable from many areas of the world. This will be the first total lunar eclipse able to be observed in the UK for nearly three years and it will be worth making the effort to see, especially since, for… Continue reading Lunar eclipse 27 July 2018

Methane on Mars

I was very excited to read about the discovery published last week by NASA’s Curiosity rover of the seasonal variation in the amount of methane in Mars’ atmosphere. Curiosity found that the average methane concentration varied from 0.24 parts per billion (ppb) in the northern hemisphere winter to around 0.65 ppb in the summer. This… Continue reading Methane on Mars

June 21 2018 – the solstice

This year, the June solstice will fall on 21 June.  In the northern hemisphere, it is the day when there is the most daylight and when the Sun is at its highest in the midday sky.   Sunrise at the solstice at Stonehenge, England - image from Wikimedia commons The origin of the word solstice is… Continue reading June 21 2018 – the solstice

The anthropic principle

In his 1988 book 'A Brief History of Time' the British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawkins (1942-2018) stated: 'The laws of science, as we know them at present, contain many fundamental numbers, like the size of the electric charge of the electron and the ratio of the masses of the proton and the electron. ... The… Continue reading The anthropic principle

Jupiter at opposition 9 May 2018

On May 9 the planet Jupiter will be what is known as 'at opposition'.  This event, which occurs every 399 days, happens when Jupiter is at its closest to the Earth and at its brightest.  To the naked eye it will be a brilliant white object, three times brighter than the brightest star. Features such… Continue reading Jupiter at opposition 9 May 2018

The Rare Earth hypothesis

Ever since the pioneering work of Frank Drake (1930-) in 1960, astronomers have been looking for radio signals from extraterrestrial civilisations and have failed to find anything. This could be because Earth-like planets containing complex life forms (such as ourselves) are rare in the Universe and only a series of highly improbable events led to the… Continue reading The Rare Earth hypothesis