Juno: The spacecraft putting sling theory to the test

09 October, 2013

I have a new article published today on the BBC Future website:

“Why a probe passing our planet on its way to Jupiter might end a decades-old mystery, and reveal something completely new about gravity.

You may not see it, but sometime today, a spacecraft whizzing 350 miles (560km) above Earth is going to use our planet to slingshot its way towards another one. In the process, a group of scientists are hoping the craft will help reveal a mystery that has perplexed them for decades.

When Nasa’s Juno spacecraft arrives at Jupiter three years from now, it will investigate the planet’s origin and evolution by mapping magnetic and gravitational fields. But before it does that, the probe has an opportunity to contribute to a momentous discovery right here in our celestial backyard, and potentially pave the way for the discovery of entirely new physics. ...”

You can read the full article here.

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The Universe: The Story So Far

21 September, 2013


I have the cover story on BBC Focus magazine, issue number 260, this month:

“This year could go down in history as the one when a revolution in our understanding of the Universe truly began. The Planck space observatory, located 1.5 million km from Earth, is shedding new light on the story of the Universe, from its inception 13.8 billion years ago to the present day. In this month's Focus, find out how Planck's discoveries are rewriting the history of our cosmos.”

The magazine is available now.


More information can be found online here.

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New Scientist: Ear on the universe

20 September, 2013

I have a new article published in New Scientist [issue 2935 21 Sept 2013]


Gravity ripples: The race to catch the next wave


IT RESEMBLED the Oscars, only with physicists rather than actors. Three hundred of them were gathered in a ballroom in Arcadia, California; another 100 were connected by video link. All of them were waiting for the opening of an envelope.


What the event might have lacked in glamour (sorry, physicists), it made up for in drama. In contrast to the Hollywood awards, the note inside would either make them all winners, or all losers.


The drama had begun six months earlier when scientists around the world had noticed a peculiar signal.


They were looking for gravitational waves - ephemeral ripples in the fabric of the universe that are the last untested prediction of Einstein's general theory of relativity. It is thought they can be sparked by the collision of stars, the formation of black holes and the great violence of the big bang itself. By the time they travel ...

Read it online here

To continue reading this article, you'll need a subscription.

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Voyager 1 leaving solar system matches feats of great human explorers

13 September, 2013

I have a new post on the Guardian's Across the Universe
about Voyager 1 leaving the magnetic field of the Sun, defining the edge of the solar system:

Voyager 1 has left the building, by which I mean the solar system. A historic milestone in exploration has been reached and the hero is a spacecraft

It's official. Voyager 1 has left the solar system. While there will be little immediate benefit from this feat, it does represent a historic milestone of exploration.


Voyager 1's achievement is every bit as important as Roald Amundsen's party reaching the South Pole on 14 December 1911, or Edmund Hillary and Tenzing Norgay conquering Everest on 29 May 1953. The difference is that there is no human inside Voyager.

Read the whole story here.

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The 2013 European Astronomy Journalism Prize

12 September, 2013

On Wednesday 11 September I spent the evening in Newcastle at the Great North Museum: Hancock surrounded by The Royal Photographic Society's astounding international scientific photography exhibition. The images all around the walls were taken from medical, astronomical and environmental disciplines and are truly works of art.

During the reception, part of the British Science Festival, it was announced that I had been awarded the 2013 European Astronomy Journalism Prize and that Sandra Kropa and Jonathan Amos had been highly commended. The prize-winning article was When the dust unsettles, published by New Scientist, in August 2012 so I share this honour with the editors and subeditors who brought this to print and my PA who checks things before I submit them.


Sandra Kropa's piece was published on Paul Sutherland's Skymania. In the photo, Sandra and I are standing with Terry O'Connor from STFC.


The prize, which sadly is only for me, is a week in December visiting the telescopes in Chile. I have been there before in 2002 so I am hoping to see the progress achieved over the last decade.

Click the read more button below to see the press release.


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Tags: Astrophysics

Read more: The 2013 European Astronomy Journalism Prize


Starfest III

10 September, 2013

I am delighted that I will once again contribute to this successful function, now firmly established in the UK astronomical events calendar.


Organised by the North Essex Astronomical Society , it takes place all day (9-5) and this year it is in Colchester. There are stands selling all sorts of items, talks on a variety of subjects by some very interesting people and, most of all, hundreds of like-minded people to chat to about the night sky and the universe.


Do come along on Saturday 2nd November and I'll see you there. See my talks page for details.


Or go to the NEAS website, read all about it and book your tickets here.

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