Rosetta comet rendezvous is a triumph for the European Space Agency

06 August, 2014

I have a new article on my Guardian blog, Across the Universe:


"Rosetta has arrived at Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. One of the most audacious space missions in decades, it is designed to reveal clues to the origins of the solar system, our home planet and life itself


This morning, a thruster burn brought Rosetta into “orbit” around its target comet, signalling the start of its main science phase. The spacecraft will now track comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko for a year, following it through its closest approach to the sun to monitor how the extra heating affects the icy surface.


Nothing about this mission is ordinary, and these are no ordinary orbits. The weirdly shaped comet, which some have likened to the shape of a rubber duck, does not produce enough gravity to fully hold the spacecraft. Instead, the flight team will “drive” the spacecraft in triangular-shaped orbits, gradually lowering the altitude from today’s 100km to around 30km. ..."


Read the full article here.

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Tags: Comet Rosetta

Nasa's Curiosity rover finds large iron meteorite on Mars

16 July, 2014

I have a new article published on my Guardian blog, Across the Universe.


"The iron meteorite discovered by the Curiosity rover must once have been at the heart of a growing planet that was shattered aeons ago.


The meteorite is made of iron and about 2 metres long, which is about the width of the Nasa rover that found it. It is the first meteorite that Curiosity has found on Mars. Scientists have named it Lebanon – presumably because of its shape.


Meteorites are lumps of rock and metal that fall from space and impact the surface of a planet. They are time capsules, usually representing the shattered fragments of doomed worlds from the beginning of our solar system. ..."


you can read the full article here.

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Tags: Mars

Mountain top blown up to make way for world’s largest telescope – watch again

19 June, 2014

I have a new article published on my Guardian blog, Across the Universe.


"Construction of the E-ELT monster telescope starts on Thursday with the blasting of a million tonnes of rock from a mountain top. Watch the livestream below.


It was one of the last places on Earth I expected to get a mobile signal. And in a few hours' time it won't exist at all.


Between 17:30 and 19:30 BST, the European Southern Observatory will blast the top off Cerro Armazones, a 3,000-metre-high mountain in the Chilean Andes. And the world can watch it happen live via the player embedded below.


Almost a million tonnes of rock will be blown away in the detonation. This will lower the mountain top by 40 metres and provide a plateau on which to build the world’s largest telescope."


Read the full article and watch the livestream recording here.

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Apparent pause in global warming blamed on 'lousy' data

13 June, 2014

I have a new article published by the Guardian.


"European Space Agency scientist says annual sea level rises since 1993 indicate that warming has continued unabated.


A widely reported "pause" in global warming may be an artefact of scientists looking at the wrong data, says a climate scientist at the European Space Agency.


Global average surface temperatures rose rapidly from the 1970s but have been relatively flat for the past 15 years. This has prompted speculation from some quarters that global warming has stalled.


Now, Stephen Briggs from the European Space Agency's Directorate of Earth Observation says that surface air temperature data is the worst indicator of global climate that can be used, describing it as "lousy"."


You can read the full article here.

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Could World Cup football be played on other planets?

11 June, 2014

I have a new article published on my Guardian blog, Across the Universe.


"Fifa president Sepp Blatter has joked that one day football could be played on other planets. Here’s my unofficial guide to interplanetary football.


In his address to the Fifa Congress the day before the Brazil World Cup kicks off, Fifa president Sepp Blatter said: “We shall wonder if one day our game is played on another planet? Why not? Then we will have not only a World Cup we will have inter-planetary competitions. Why not?”


Why not? Let me tell you."


You can read this little piece of fun here.

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Shortlisted for the 2014 Association of British Science Writers 2014 Awards for Journalism

10 June, 2014

It is with great pleasure that I announce I have been shortlisted in the Association of British Science Writers 2014 Awards for Journalism.

My work features in the category of best feature. Called Ear on the Universe, the piece was edited by Valerie Jamieson and published by New Scientist on 21 October 2013. You can read the article here.

The winners will be announced at the ABSW Science Writers' Awards Ceremony on 18th June in London. I am humbled to be listed among writers whom I admire so much.

Read more about the awards and see the other category short-listers here.

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