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

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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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The new equation for estimating alien life across the universe

04 September, 2013

There's a new piece on my Guardian online blog, Across the Universe:


How many other inhabited planets are there? It's a question that fascinates scientists and lay people alike. A new equation may help weigh up the possibility

 

Many of us have glanced upwards at the stars and wondered whether there is other life out there somewhere. Few, however, have then tried to write down an equation to express the probability in numbers.

 

Sara Seager of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has done just that. Her equation collects together all the factors that could determine how many planets with detectable signs of life may be discovered in the coming years.

 

The factors include the number of stars that will be observed, the fraction of those stars with habitable planets, and the fraction of those planets that can be observed. First presented at a conference earlier this year, the equation is written as N = N*FQFHZFOFLFS. It was published yesterday in the online Astrobiology magazine...

Read the whole piece here.


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New Scientist: Star Burst

10 August, 2013

I have an article published in this week's (2929 10 August) New Scientist magazine:

Solar superflares: A new danger from the sun


SOMETHING with almost unimaginable power hit Earth in AD 775. Europe was in the grip of the dark ages, yet the skies were alight. "Fiery and fearful signs were seen in the heavens after sunset; and serpents appeared in Sussex, as if they were sprung out of the ground, to the astonishment of all," recorded the 13th-century English chronicler Roger of Wendover.

 

We don't just have his word for it. In the past year, new evidence has come to light confirming that something cataclysmic took place in the solar system that year. But what? There are no signs of a mass extinction or an environmental disaster which would normally accompany such an event. More mysterious is that no trace of it appears in the heavens today.

 

The only clues to what happened are found locked inside ancient tree rings. What they reveal is shocking. A supremely powerful blast of radiation ...

Read it online here.

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


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Perseid meteor shower: how to get the best view

09 August, 2013

I have a new post on the Guardian online Across the Universe blog:

The Perseids, the year's most spectacular meteor shower for viewers in the northern hemisphere, have arrived.

One of the year's best astronomical events will light up the sky for the next five nights. Best of all, it's really easy to observe. You don't need telescopes or cameras, just a deckchair, blankets and a hot thermos to keep you company.

Read the whole piece here.



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Sun's quiet spell not the start of a mini ice age

24 July, 2013

 

I have written a piece for New Scientist and they have published it online:

 

Sun's quiet spell not the start of a mini ice age

 

Those hoping that the sun could save us from climate change look set for disappointment. The recent lapse in solar activity is not the beginning of a decades-long absence of sunspots - a dip that might have cooled the climate. Instead, it represents a shorter, less pronounced downturn that happens every century or so.

 

Read the whole story here:


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