The Guardian: Geminid meteor shower begins: watch out for fireballs

13 December, 2013

I have a new article on Across the Universe, for The Guardian:

 

"Nasa says the Geminids will be the most intense meteor shower of the year – and almost everyone can see it

 

The mysterious Geminid meteor shower lights the skies of Earth between 12 and 16 December and is visible from almost anywhere on the planet. This year the peak rate is estimated to be 100-120 meteors per hour, rivalling the August Perseids, which are usually the most spectacular meteor shower of the year. ..."

 

Click here to read the full article.


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New Scientist: Ultimate selfie: Space megacamera will map Milky Way

13 December, 2013

I have a new feature published this week in New Scientist:

 

"The Gaia space telescope is preparing to launch, promising a celestial self-portrait of a billion stars that will revolutionise astronomy


IT WILL be the biggest selfie of all time. When the Gaia space telescope launches next week, it is set to map a billion stars in our galaxy with unprecedented accuracy – and fundamentally transform our understanding of the cosmos around us.

 

If all goes according to plan, the European Space Agency's bold mission will blast off from French Guiana on a Russian Soyuz rocket and travel 1.5 million kilometres into space. Far beyond the glow of Earth's atmosphere Gaia will hover in orbit around the sun and start to spin slowly, capturing every celestial object that falls within its gaze for the next five years. As well as charting 1 per cent of the stars in the Milky Way – around one billion of them – the telescope will l ocate planets around other suns, warn us of asteroids in our solar system and pinpoint hundreds of thousands of new and distant galaxies beyond our Milky Way. It is a journey of discovery. "Gaia is going to revolutionise astronomy and I don't say that lightly," says Peter Allan of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Didcot, UK, who is part of the Gaia team. ..."

 

To read the full article, click here.

 

 


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The Guardian: Comet Ison appears to survive close encounter with the sun

29 November, 2013

I have a new story published by The Guardian today:

 

"Solar visit threatened to vaporise the comet but the remnant may be visible from Earth in December

 

Comet Ison appears to have survived a close encounter with the sun that had threatened to vaporise it. The remnant could now go on to be visible from Earth in December, but astronomers do not know how bright it might become.

 

Travelling at more than 200 miles per second, Ison passed 730,000 miles above the sun's 6,000C surface on Thursday evening. This would have heated the comet to almost 3,000°C, enough to vaporise rock as well as ice.

 

"It would be an absolutely hellish environment, there's never been a better time to use the words 'snowball's chance in hell'," said Tom Kerss, astronomer at the Royal Observatory in Greenwich, south-east London. ... "

 

Read the full story here.


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The Guardian: Comet Ison: how to spot it

28 November, 2013

I have a new article for Across the Universe, published by The Guardian:

 

"Some advice on how to see the comet if it survives its fiery encounter with the sun on Thursday. Even it breaks apart it should provide a spectacular, but brief show

 

If Comet Ison survives its trial by fire as it buzzes the sun on Thursday, it should light up night skies during December. Pete Lawrence, the BBC's The Sky At Night presenter, sent through the following advice for those in the northern hemisphere wanting to see the comet. Unfortunately, the comet will not be visible from the southern hemisphere. ..."

 

Read the full article here.


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The Guardian: Comet Ison to light up morning skies in the run-up to Christmas

25 November, 2013

I have a new article published by The Guardian:

 

"The best time to see Ison in the UK will be the first two weeks of December – if it survives a close encounter with the sun.

 

If it survives an encounter with the sun this week, comet Ison will put on an impressive early morning display in the run-up to Christmas. But anyone hoping for a Bethlehem-style celestial sign on the big day will be disappointed. By then the comet will probably be too faint to see with a naked eye.

 

Ison is currently speeding towards a fiery encounter on Thursday, which could destroy it. It will pass 720,000 miles above the solar surface, 130 times closer than our planet ever reaches.

 

The intense sunlight will heat the comet to about 2,700C, speeding up its evaporation. In the past some comets have been seen to vaporise under such an onslaught. ..."

 

Read the full story here.


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Habitable Planets Cover Story: Science Uncovered Issue 1

22 November, 2013

I am extremely pleased to announce that a new popular science magazine has started in the UK and that I've been working with them for several months because they kindly asked me to write their very first cover story.  Science Uncovered is a monthly magazine from Future Publishing. Their website says, "Science Uncovered brings together renowned scientists from around the globe to explain how the world around you works. From the far reaches of the Universe to the inner workings of your brain, these experts will provide you with a window into the very boundaries of our knowledge. You'll be able to peer into the future and see how today's breakthroughs will change how we live."

 

My cover story is titled Closing in on alien life: discover the planets most likely to host our neighbours. Issue 1 is available now from newsagents and supermarkets, or online. Best of all, the first issue only costs £1.


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