Saturday, January 17, 2009

Lunar influence

As storms start to batter the western seaboard of Ireland, there's little hope that the telescope will see much action over the coming nights. Rain and sleet are promised, all fine for blowing away the cobwebs but classic hibernation weather too. Living on the coast, as we do, then its hardly surprising that we're aware of the tides as they rise and sink and indeed it's been suggested by a couple of my readers that perhaps I might say something about that engine of the tides, the moon, in one of my little 'astronomy in five minutes' videos. So why not? Sure there are plenty of other topics to cover, but its nice to get suggestions and with so many blogs that have no readers/followers I'm grateful that I have a readership and so am happy to oblige! I'll look at some interesting and lesser known aspects as well as the basics. I also had it originally in mind to issue an episode on every full moon, but I'm out of sync thus far!

The video below shows the rotating Earth as the moon passes by viewed from a space probe some 31 million miles distant.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Podcast 2 - Venus

Well here's the second of our video episodes, focusing this time (as promised) on the planet Venus. I aim to upload a video each month, but since this is the start of the series I thought an extra bonus episode wouldn't go amiss. I'd like also to acknowledge permission from the astrophotographer Tunc Tezel (in Turkey) to use his amazing picture of the retrograde motion of Mars in this programme. Many thanks!

Venus is of course the object most responsible for supposed sightings of "UFOs" given its brightness and the effect of an apparent motion near the horizon if you watch it whilst driving! It's often reported that such sightings peak when Venus is visible.


Wednesday, January 7, 2009


Standing out in the cold and frosty nights that are around us, here in Galway at the moment, the most prominent evening object (apart from the Moon!) is the planet Venus. It's a fascinating object and one that played a pivotal role in the development of our view of the universe with Galileo's observations. In addition, it is a remarkable "sister planet" of the Earth, with its runaway greenhouse atmosphere perhaps a pertinent warning!! 

Anyway, it forms the subject of our next podcast episode (online later this week) but to whet the appetite, here's the picture of Venus (bottom series) that Galileo drew from his telescope observations, a series of sketches that had a profound effect at the time....but you'll have to wait for that!

Saturday, January 3, 2009

First Podcast/Vodcast January Skies - Orion

In this, the first of our series of short programmes I talk briefly about the Orion constellation and draw your attention to some of its interesting members. My approach is fairly simple and if you want to get the most out of these resources then:

(1) Get yourself a notebook and pencil
(2) Sketch the basic constellation layout 
(3) Jot down anything new or interesting you learn from the episode
(4) Try and answer the challenging questions I set, either by hitting "google" or looking at astronomy books.

Enjoy. Horizon/Nova it is not - but I'm aiming to pass on some basic knowledge rather than to dazzle with orchestral music, globe trotting reports and special effects!!!