Seven years of Solar Dynamics

It seems like only yesterday that I was noting First Light on Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory [SDO], and the early hours of this morning for ‘three years in three minutes‘ and ‘SDO Year 4‘.  In fact the SDO was launched on 11 Feb 2010, with First Light in April of that year. [Seven long years… – Ed]  Nasa’s Goddard Space Flight Centre have produced a short [3 min 22 sec] video marking the solar sunspot cycle during that time. [Credit: NASA’s … Read more

Another view…

Vote… don’t vote…  In the meantime, here’s another in an occasional series of wondrous views from the International Space Station, via the Nasa Crew Earth Observations videos – Sunglint over the Ocean.  [Video courtesy of the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, NASA Johnson Space Center] This video was taken by the Expedition 47 crew on board the International Space Station. The sequence of shots was taken on March 25, 2016 from 11:45:02 to 11:57:17 GMT on a pass over … Read more

New Horizons: Live Briefing

Having survived yesterday’s fly-by, follow the live-briefing from the Nasa New Horizons mission to Pluto as they reveal the first hi-resolution images from the dwarf planet system nearly 5 billion km away. Adds The big news is that Pluto, and Charon, may still be geologically active. There are 3,500metre (11,000feet) high water-ice mountains on the surface of Pluto in a region now called Tombaugh Regio after Pluto’s discoverer, Clyde Tombaugh – some of his ashes are on-board the New Horizons … Read more

New Horizons: Countdown to Pluto

Nasa’s New Horizons mission spacecraft is now within two days journey time to the dwarf planet Pluto and its complex system of 5 moons.  [Image credit: NASA, ESA, and M. Showalter (SETI Institute)]   Travelling at 14km/s, New Horizons’ swift fly-by of the dwarf planet is scheduled to take place on Tuesday 14 July, at exactly 11:49:59 GMT (12:49:59 BST; 07:49:59 EDT), when it will be a mere 12,500km from the surface. At a distance of 4.7 billion km, New … Read more

ISS Night-time Compilation

A brief musical interlude, accompanied by a selection of wondrous time-lapse videos, old and new, from the International Space Station, by NASACrewEarthObs.  Full-screen mode recommended.  Enjoy! [Credit: Image Science and Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center.] The final video clip shows the surprisingly robust sun-grazing Comet Lovejoy as it emerged triumphant from its close encounter with Sol in December 2011. Pete Baker

Raise a glass to Hubble! – Redux

The Hubble Space Telescope celebrates its 25th Anniversary in space today, 24th April, with the release of this wondrous image of the giant star-cluster, Westerlund 2, in the stellar nursery, Gum 29, located 20,000 light-years away in the constellation Carina.  [Image credit: Credit: NASA, ESA, the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA), A. Nota (ESA/STScI), and the Westerlund 2 Science Team] From the accompanying text to the image. To capture this image, Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3 pierced through the dusty veil shrouding … Read more

In case you missed the eclipse…

Or, like me, cloud cover obscured the solar eclipse of 20 March 2015.  Here’s probably the best view of this morning’s event, from ESA’s Sun-watching Proba-2 mini-satellite.  [Image credit: ESA/ROB] And via ESA on YouTube. As Europe enjoyed a partial solar eclipse on the morning of Friday 20 March 2015, ESA’s Sun-watching Proba-2 minisatellite had a ringside seat from space. Orbiting Earth once approximately every 100 minutes, Proba-2 caught two eclipses over the course of the morning. Proba-2 used its SWAP imager … Read more

Stargazing the 20 March 2015 Solar Eclipse

The BBC’s Stargazing Live returns tonight, 8pm BBC 2, with three consecutive nights of live programmes to coincide with the total solar eclipse on Friday 20 March 2015.  [It is an annual series! – Ed].  Stargazing Live is, yes.  Not necessarily total solar eclipses, though.  And this solar eclipse is the only one, total or otherwise, to be visible from Europe for the next few years.  ESA’s mini-satellites will have a better view.  But not as good a view as this…   The BBC … Read more

NI Science Festival (19 Feb-1 Mar): enough STEM to shake a stick at …

The inaugural NI Science Festival starts this week and over 11 days it will explode 100 events in venues across Belfast, Derry, Armagh, Glengormley and beyond. Festival Director Chris McCreery jumped from a career in lobbying and public affairs to set up and run the science festival. He told me that being able to programme so many events in its first year “reflects the vibrancy of Northern Ireland’s tech sector, universities and the real interest amongst the general public as … Read more

“There’s no place like home…”

I didn’t ‘Wave at Saturn’ on 19 July when the Cassini probe, orbiting the gas giant, was taking a high-definition image of the view back home.  I don’t think it encouraged a proper sense of perspective…  But the resultant image is stunning. [Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Space Science Institute] It’s not the first time Cassini has looked home.  Nor is it the only stunning image the probe has provided.  But, as those involved pointed out “We can’t see individual continents or people in this … Read more

Voyager: “We are approaching the solar system’s final frontier”

Here’s a short informative video from Science at Nasa on the indications that Voyager 1 is about to enter into the vastness of interstellar space.  (Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech) Space, remember, is very very big. And on that note, because I can, here again is some wondrous time-lapse video of the night-sky above the ESO Very Large Telescope array [VLT], in Chile, from NikoBustos. [Video credit: ESO/José Francisco Salgado (] Or even this [Video credit: ESO/S. Guisard ( ESO/José Francisco Salgado (] And, of course, the Milky … Read more

Transit of Venus 2012: The Movie

Were your skies not favourable for viewing?  Did you miss the live online coverage of the last transit of Venus until 2117?  Well, there’s a Flickr group.  Or you could take in the stunning views from Nasa’s Solar Dynamics Observatory.  Video from NasaExplorer.  [Credit: Data courtesy of NASA/SDO, HMI, and AIA science teams].  Enjoy! On June 5 2012, SDO collected images of the rarest predictable solar event–the transit of Venus across the face of the sun.  This event happens in … Read more

Transit of Venus 2012: “marvel at the solar system in motion”

As I mentioned back in March, tonight one of the rarest predictable astronomical events will occur – a transit of Venus.  [I’m washing my hair! – Ed]  What hair?  ANYhoo… Since the invention of the greatest human innovation, the telescope, at the beginning of the 17th century, not by Galileo, there have been only 7 such transits.  The next time it will happen will be on 11 December 2117.  Nasa’s Sun-Earth Day website will be providing a live web cast during the more than … Read more

Aurora Borealis over Europe

Another wondrous view of the Aurora Borealis as captured by the crew of the International Space Station.  This time as a backdrop to the equally wondrous sight of Ireland and the United Kingdom under night-time conditions [0-18s].  Video via NasaCrewEarthObs. This video was taken by the crew of Expedition 30 on board the International Space Station. The sequence of shots was taken April 5, 2012 from 00:44:21 to 00:50:07 GMT, on a pass from the North Atlantic Ocean, west of the Celtic … Read more

“A billion stars revealed”

A stunning image was unveiled last week at the UK-Germany National Astronomy Meeting NAM2012 in Manchester. [All images courtesy of Mike Read (WFAU), UKIDSS/GPS and VVV] The BBC’s Spaceman, Jonathan Amos, helpfully provides this combination image, with a partial zoom-in on the Galactic center. But to really appreciate the scale and detail of the image you need to use the online interactive viewer here. From the University of Edinburgh press release Astronomers have today released a picture containing more than one billion … Read more

“awe, curiosity, wonder, joy, amazement”

After a brief scientific explanation of the phenomena, this video from LittleSDOHMI delivers some wondrous recent views (March 3, 4 and 10) of the Aurora Australis from the International Space Station.  With music! [Video credit: NASA ISS/JSC/ Science@NASA] And here are those stunning clips by themselves. [All videos courtesy of the Image Science & Analysis Laboratory, NASA Johnson Space Center (] From Kenya to the Aurora Australis This video was taken by the crew of Expedition 30 on board the International … Read more

“…and marvel at the solar system in motion”

Here’s a date to mark in your diary [really? – Ed].  On the 5/6 June this year one of the rarest predictable astronomical events will occur – a transit of Venus.  [Can’t wait… – Ed]  Since the invention of the greatest human innovation, the telescope, at the beginning of the 17th century, not by Galileo, there have been only 7 such transits.  And, although the last one was in 2004, the next will not happen until 11 December 2117. [I’ll catch it then! … Read more

The Universe at a glance…

Well, several glances actually…  As spotted by the Guardian blog’s Tom McCarthy, NASA has released a new atlas and catalog of the entire infrared sky “showing more than a half billion stars, galaxies and other objects captured by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer (WISE) mission.”  And an impressive view it is. [Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/UCLA]   From the Nasa press release The sky can be thought of as a sphere that surrounds us in three dimensions. To make a map of … Read more

“Opportunity on Mars – 8 years and counting!”

Nasa’s Mars Exploration Rover Opportunity landed in Eagle Crater on Mars on Jan. 25, 2004, Universal Time, three weeks after its rover twin, Spirit, had landed halfway around the planet.  Opportunity completed its three-month prime mission in April that year, everything else has been bonus, extended missions.  Spirit is no longer with us.  But Opportunity carries on. [Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/Cornell/Arizona State Univ.] This mosaic of images taken in mid-January 2012 shows the windswept vista northward (left) to northeastward (right) from the location … Read more

Stargazing, and [exo]planet hunting…

The last three nights saw the return to BBC2 of popular astronomy show Stargazing Live – presented by Brian Cox and Dara O’Briain.  Hopefully it will become, at least, an annual fixture. [Image credit: ESO/Y. Beletsky] The three hour-long programmes are still available, for now, on the iPlayer.  The entertaining ‘after-show’ shows, Back to Earth, appears to be missing are also available. If you’ve been paying attention you’ll have recognised some of the material – for example, the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter’s images … Read more