Is this the Star that The Magi Saw?

Many explanations have been proposed for the Star of Bethlehem, the star that guided the Magi to Jerusalem. One of the most popular is that of the conjunction of Jupiter and Saturn that took place during 7BC. Although it is not exactly the same event that is repeating this Christmas, sky watchers can see an [...]

W(h)ither Artemis?

It is a while since I wrote something and, in the intervening time, important changes have happened. One of NASA’s biggest nightmares over the decades has been lack of continuity: one President, or party starts a programme, and the next cancels it. Again, we are going through a regime change in the United States. At [...]

A Return to the Moon, in More Ways than One?

NASA is gearing-up in a big way to return to the Moon. As of now, and COVID-19 permitting, the first flight of the new Artemis programme that will take astronauts back to the Moon will be in November 2021, with a Moon landing planned for October 2024. AArtemis I is planned to be a long-duration [...]

Microbes on Venus?

Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence Carl Sagan, 1980 [This is a quick-reaction piece that is being polished and updated constantly. Last updated: October 1st] Through the day today there have constant reports in social media and elsewhere in the Internet, leaking news of the discovery of evidence of microbial life in the atmosphere of Venus, [...]

How many Apollo launches were there?

This is a posting that is unashamedly for Apollo nerds. If you are over sixty years old, you probably remember Apollo and lived the Moon landings, at least the first one, as I did. People of my generation are bathing in a stream of glittering memories as we pass the fiftieth anniversary of one epic [...]

2001 a Space Odyssey: Good science fiction, but not perfect… the future that it imagined and the astronomy that the film got horribly wrong

If you are a space fan, almost certainly you have seen “2001 – A Space Odyssey”. I was too young to see its original release in cinemas but, more than ten years later, you could still find it projected somewhere in London. It is a remarkable film that coincided in release with the launch of [...]

Usain Bolt v the Saturn V rocket – who wins a race from a standing start?

If you are a fan of science fiction, one of the standard scenarios is the crushing weight that astronauts face on launch: the terrible pressure of terrific g-forces, suddenly slamming the helpless astronauts into their couches and the terrible effort to move that this produces. This is part of the legend of space flight. In [...]

Apollo 13: Fifty Years On – the known disaster and the unknown near-disaster

As the world faces arguably its greatest crisis since the Spanish ‘Flu of 1918-1920 and NASA gears up steadily for the first of its three, planned Artemis flights, which will take man (and almost certainly at least one woman) back to the Moon, there is a certain irony in the fact that Artemis 2, the [...]

Betelgeuse: the Mysterious Star in Orion’s Shoulder

If you are familiar with the night sky and have had some good weather recently, you may have noticed that something is wrong with the constellation of Orion. Normally, Betelgeuse, the bright, orange-red star, marking the left shoulder of the giant, is only a little fainter than Rigel, the blue-white star to the bottom-right of [...]