University Challenge

In case anybody happens to read this in the next five minutes, Jodrell Bank are on University Challenge on BBC2. I missed the filming as I had just got back from Poland when it was done so I haven't actually seen it yet. Lisa has a picture of the team on her website.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 26th Jul 2004 (19:31 UTC) | Permalink

To fund or not to fund

The Particle Physics and Astronomy Research Council (PPARC) have until 30th September to decide whether the UK should join ESA's Aurora programme. This would be Europe's version of manned exploration of the solar system, specifically the Moon and Mars. Although the PPARC press release only states that funds for research are limited, the BBC claims that a large telescope could be at risk if we decided to go ahead. So what will it be; ground based astronomy/science or manned missions?

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 21st Jul 2004 (21:30 UTC) | Permalink

Moon Landings

Today is the 35th anniversary of the Apollo 11 Moon landing. On 21st July 1969, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed in the Sea of Tranquility on the lunar surface and made history. I feel sorry for Michael Collins who had to stay in the Command Module in orbit and never got to walk on the Moon. Still, flying round the far side of the Moon isn't bad!

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 21st Jul 2004 (00:11 UTC) | Permalink

Double pulsar paper

When I see a paper by people I know on astro-ph - a sort of great big electronic interlibrary loan(ref) for astronomers - I do find it quite strange because I actually know them and may have even had a conversation with them. The latest one is a paper submitted to Astrophysical Journal (ApJ) by Maura McLaughlin. Her paper is about the double pulsars that were discovered at the end of last year (even if they weren't announced until January).

Talking of pulsars, papers and people I know (oooh that sort of illiterates), I see that George Hobbs - actually at ATNF now but can still be found logged into Jodrell computers - and Andy Faulkner et al. have got a paper in Monthly Notices (MNRAS).

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Friday 16th Jul 2004 (00:19 UTC) | Permalink

Logarithmic Universe

Talking about logarithmic plots, I stumbled across a great logarithmic representation of the scale of the Universe on Mario Juric's website. Mario is a graduate student working with the Sloan Digital Sky Survey SDSS and he has a paper on astro-ph about it.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Sunday 11th Jul 2004 (15:18 UTC) | Permalink

Winds on Saturn

The Cassini website has some nice graphs showing wind and temperature in the troposphere and stratosphere on Saturn. It looks as though the winds are strongest near the equator which isn't too surprising really. The plots themselves are far better than misleading graphs on shampoo bottles as they manage to put tick marks on both axes (they even use a logarithmic scale on the altitude axis). Interestingly, the stratosphere at the poles is actually warmer than near the equator.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Sunday 11th Jul 2004 (15:05 UTC) | Permalink

Send in the machines

Although Megan really disagrees with me, I think that Robert Park's article in the Guardian Life section, last Thursday, was pretty good. Sending robots to explore the Solar System produces much cheaper science than sending people and arguably produces more as they can do things we can't. Just look at the Mars Express/Spirit/Opportunity/Cassini missions compared to the ISS. Plus, if a lander goes splat, it doesn't matter as much as an intelligent being going splat.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Sunday 11th Jul 2004 (14:37 UTC) | Permalink

Eroding Rings

According to the ABC, Saturn's rings may be eroding and could disappear within 100 million years! Do we have to start a "Save Saturn's Rings" campaign? I don't think we have to worry too much just yet. This is just one of many stories to have come out of the Cassini mission that has just arrived at Saturn. Current moon count is 31.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 05th Jul 2004 (16:09 UTC) | Permalink

Dark Energy in the Lab?

For many years astronomers have known about dark matter - matter that is out there but we can't see it - because of the rotation of galaxies. Although more trendy people might say it is due to MOND (fiddling about with gravity). In the last few years, observations of the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) by instruments such as Boomerang, MAXIMA and WMAP, have shown that dark matter makes up less than 25% of the Universe. The rest - about three quarters - is in the form of dark energy which we have even less of a clue about.

The Institute of Physic's PhysicsWeb reports on an astro-ph paper by Beck and Mackey.They basically say that dark energy could be related to the energy of the vacuum and suggest that this could be tested in the lab in the future.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Thursday 01st Jul 2004 (02:53 UTC) | Permalink
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