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 Some of them were superseded by later events, others are certainly debatable.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

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 [...]

The Sunspot Cycle and its Possible Effects on Future Manned Spaceflight

We have known for more than a century that solar activity shows a pronounced cyclic variation with an 11-year period. About every 11 years there is a maximum in activity and sunspots become very prominent and very common. Back in my younger days, I was a keen solar observer during one particular holiday around the [...]

Where is Starman Heading: Will it be observable to future Martian astronauts?

JPL has produced a further update for the orbit of the Tesla, although the rate of arrival of new observations has slowed. With the Tesla now below magnitude 20 and, with the Moon close to full, it is unlikely that there will be a new orbit update for at least another week or ten days. [...]

The Super Blue Blood Moon: not so super, nor so rare!

A recent phenomenon that seems to excite the media time and again to the astonishment of astronomers is that of the supermoon. This week though, we hit the jackpot with a Moon that was simultaneously super, blue and blood. All kinds of photos appeared in the media, some of which most definitely were not of [...]