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

Galileo and the telescope

Telescopes are instruments which use multiple lenses to produce magnified images of distant objects. It is unclear who invented the first telescope: lenses had been widely used in Europe to correct poor eyesight since the fourteenth century and I expect that, over time, the telescope was actually invented many times by different individuals, who discovered… Continue reading Galileo and the telescope

20 March 2018 – the equinox

Now that we are in the month of March, it is only a short time until 21 March, the first day of spring (or first day of autumn if you're one of my readers in the southern hemisphere). There is a commonly held view that 21 March is an equinox and that the equinoxes are the two… Continue reading 20 March 2018 – the equinox

Johannes Kepler

My latest post is about the work of the German astronomer Johannes Kepler (1571-1630).  He is most famous for his improvement to the earlier model of Copernicus by introducing the idea that the planets move in elliptical, rather than circular, orbits and that their movements in these orbits are governed by a set of laws,… Continue reading Johannes Kepler