First Man and the Accidental Moon

Left: A Saturn 1 test with a dummy payload on October 27th 1960. Right: the Apollo 4 launch on November 9th 1967. Images: NASA. In previous Blog entries I have explored some of the lesser-known aspects of the Apollo Moon landings. Some of these are explored by the excellent film “First Man”. Still more are [...]

Haroldswick Rock: more (unlikely) claims of Martian fossils, show that the debate won’t quite go away

The Red Planet has fascinated man for centuries, ever since the first telescopic observations that revealed pole caps, seasonal changes and signs of atmosphere. A new study is likely to re-open the debate about the possible presence of fossils in Martian rocks, even though it is unlikely that the claims made will be accepted. For [...]

Fake Gravitational Wave Signals?

Of course not! I don't believe that. I was, like thousands of others, watching the press conference with excitement and amazement at the announcement of the most important scientific discovery of the last 100 years, and maybe of all of time. I never doubted any of the results and claims for a second. But after [...]

The Strange Case of 1I/’Oumuamua

Some months back I made some from the hip comments about ‘Oumuamua, that strange little visitor from outside the solar system. Some of them were superseded by later events, others are certainly debatable. However, in the last week or so, ‘Oumuamua has been in the spotlight due to renewed speculation that it could be artificial, [...]

Stand-by for Comet Wirtanen… but don’t get too excited

December 16th. The day that the comet that could have been famous will fly by Earth at only 30.4 times the distance of the Moon. Could have been famous? Yes, had things worked out differently, a generation of space fans would have been learning to say “Wirtanen” (it is Vir-tanen) instead of “Churyumov-Gerasimenko” (Chury to [...]

Is it Really Fifty Years?

Remembering History We are starting what is going to be an emotional period of time. We have just passed the fiftieth anniversary of the first of the manned Apollo flights – Apollo 7, although the mission badge showed it as Apollo VII – which launched on October 11th 1968 and landed, after a fraction under [...]

What Makes Tonight’s Lunar Eclipse Remarkable? The total lunar eclipse of July 27th/28th 2018

By now, just about everybody must have heard of tonight’s total lunar eclipse. It is a particularly unusual one for many different reasons, so it is not one to miss. A whole number of phenomena coincide to make it unusual: The eclipse is the longest of this century – it is predicted to last for [...]