Across The Universe: How to spot near-miss asteroid 2012 DA14

15 February, 2013

I have a new post on my Guardian blog:

“On Friday evening asteroid 2012 DA14 skims closer to our planet than any other known asteroid. Although invisible to the naked eye, binoculars can bring the space rock into focus. Or simply watch the webcast

Space rock 2012 DA14 is only 50 metres across. It will pass the Earth on Friday evening (UK time) just 17,100 miles above our heads. There is no danger of a collision. Nevertheless, this is closer to the Earth than many artificial satellites.

It will pass from the southern to northern hemisphere and set the record for the closest pass of any known asteroid since systematic surveys of the sky began in the mid-1990s. ...”

You can read the post here.

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The Guardian: Meteorite explodes over Russia: key questions answered

15 February, 2013

“Hundreds of people in Chelyabinsk have been injured after a huge meteorite flared in the sky above the city, but what is it? ...”

Like many, I woke up to the incredible news that a meteorite had struck Russia, injuring many people. As the events unfolded that morning, I put together this Q&A for the Guardian to place the impact in context.

Read the piece here.

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Across The Universe: Russian meteorite strike highlights asteroid danger

15 February, 2013

I have a new post on my Guardian blog:

“Friday's Russian meteorite strike highlights the need for a global strategy to deal with dangerous asteroids

In terms of human casualties, Friday's meteorite strike is the worst ever reported. Almost 1,000 are reported to have sought treatment after the fall. At least 34 of them were hospitalised, with two reported to be in intensive care.

Before this there were only stories of a dog being killed in Egypt by a meteorite in 1911 and a boy being hit, but not seriously injured, by one in Uganda in 1992.

The Russian Academy of Sciences estimate the fireball that streaked over the Ural mountains on Friday morning weighed about 10 tons. The speed of entry was at least 54,000 kilometres per hour (33,000 mph) and it shattered about 30-50 kilometres (18-32 miles) above ground, showering meteorites that caused damage over a wide area. ...”

Read the post here.

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New Scientist: How was Earth's life kindled under a cold sun?

13 February, 2013

I have a feature in New Scientist this week:

“WHY are we here? As questions go, it's a big 'un, beloved of philosophers and theologists in a navel-gazing, hand-wringing sort of way. Scientists often find themselves raising an objection before the others even start: we probably shouldn't be here to ask the question in the first place.

The existence of life on Earth seems to have been the product of many lucky turns of events. Take the sun's early history. According to everything we know about how stars like it develop, it should have been born feebly dim, only gradually warming to its present level. Earth, born with the sun 4.5 billion years ago, should have spent its first two billion years or so as a frozen ball of ice, devoid of life.

Yet in rocks laid down during this time we find sediments clearly deposited in aquatic environments, and ample fossil evidence of bacteria that indicate our planet was already a clement, inhabited world, perhaps within a billion years or so from the off. ...”

You can read the full article here.

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The Day Without Yesterday: Astrofest Pre-release signing

05 February, 2013

Only a few days to go now until European Astrofest and the first chance for you to get hold of The Day Without Yesterday, the concluding book in The Sky’s Dark Labyrinth trilogy.

The good news is the stocks have arrived (see picture), literally hot off the presses.. You can order copies of The Day Without Yesterday, and the two previous volumes in the trilogy at the online Astronomy Now Bookshop. They can be collected on the day and then do come and find me at the Astronomy Now stand.

I will be there on Friday from the start of the coffee break to the end of the lunch break. I’ll be back on Saturday, too, to sign and chat.
Looking forward to seeing you.

And don’t forget, you can read the first two chapters for free exclusively at Lovereading.

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Galileo on Science Weekly with Alok Jha

04 February, 2013

I had the pleasure of guesting again on the Guardian’s Science Weekly podcast. This time I was talking about the unique opportunity to work with the cast of the RSC’s new adaptation of Galileo. The interview was based on my blog entry.

You can listen to the podcast here.

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