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 Some of them were superseded by later events, others are certainly debatable.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?

This stunning view of the 64km (40 mile) crater Goclenius, taken by the Apollo 8 astronauts, is possibly the image that has most impacted me in my life. Above Goclenius is the triplet formed by Magelhaens, Magelhaens A, and Colombo A, while Gutenberg D is the crater at the top right.   Remembering History We [...]

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 [...]

The Spectacle of a Blood Moon and Mars: the total lunar eclipse of July 27th/28th 2018.

If you live in Western Europe, moonrise on Friday July 27th will be particularly unusual. For the inhabitants of Madrid, Paris and Stockholm, the Moon will rise just about at the same moment that the Moon is totally eclipsed. To the west of this line – for example, London, Dublin or Oslo – totality will [...]

Whatever Happened to the Mercury Seven?

Although the first astronaut class was not formally introduced to the public until April 9th 1959, the Mercury programme started in 1958: sixty years ago. Many people are familiar with the Mercury astronauts through The Right Stuff, based on Tom Wolffe's wonderful book, although that film concentrated principally on just three members of the group: Alan [...]