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

Lunar eclipse 21 January 2019

On the night of 20/21 January 2019 there will be a total eclipse of the Moon, which will be viewable from many areas of the world. This will be worth making the effort to see, especially for my readers in the western USA and Canada for whom it will occur at a sociable hour. The… Continue reading Lunar eclipse 21 January 2019

The darker mornings

As I complete this post from my home in Manchester, England, it is 4:30 pm and already fairly dark outside. Many people think that it will continue to get dark earlier each day in the afternoon until we reach 21 December, the winter solstice. This, however, is not the case. The evenings in fact start to draw out… Continue reading The darker mornings