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I have a new article published by ESA:

The SOHO spaceborne solar observatory today captured comet Lovejoy in its field of view for the first time, indicating that the icy body is on its final destructive plunge towards the Sun.

Announced on 2 December, the newly discovered comet Lovejoy is on a near-collision course with the Sun and is expected to plunge to its fiery fate late on 15 December. At its closest approach, it will pass just 140 000 km above the solar surface. At that distance, the icy comet is not expected to survive the Sun's fierce heat.


It's Tycho Brahe's birthday today!  He was born in 1542 in Svalöv, a municipality in what was Denmark then, but is now Sweden.  To celebrate I've got a guest post over on Amazon's Kindle Post Blog about Astronomers I'd Like to Drink With. 

What a great week it has been for The Sky's Dark Labyrinth.  All week book bloggers have been talking about the book and posting their reviews.  A huge thank you to my Canadian publisher McArthur & Co for organising this, and to the bloggers who have taken part.  It has been great to read your insights and connect with you on this project.

Thank you.

While I was in Sharjah at the International Book Fair I recorded a piece for the BBC Scotland’s BBC Books Café about my favourite ‘Winter Read’.  I received a tweet saying that the piece had been edited and was to be included on  today’s programme but unfortunately, it never showed up.

So, having promised on twitter and facebook that the piece would be on, I thought it only fair to post the original audio file that I sent to them.

Maybe it will be broadcast next week?

Use the comments to tell me what you like to read in the deep dark depths of winter and, if you can’t see the full story already, click the ‘read more’ below the tags to see a transcript of audio, and my one-line reviews of the first three Dune books.


I have a new article published by ESA:

New images from Mars Express show the Phlegra Montes mountain range, in a region where radar probing indicates large volumes of water ice are hiding below. This could be a source of water for future astronauts.

I have a new story published by ESA:

ESA's Cluster satellites have discovered that cosmic particle accelerators are more efficient than previously thought. The discovery has revealed the initial stages of acceleration for the first time, a process that could apply across the Universe.

I have a new story published by ESA:

The latest image released from Mars Express reveals a large extinct volcano that has been battered and deformed over the aeons.By Earthly standards, Tharsis Tholus is a giant, towering 8 km above the surrounding terrain, with a base stretching over 155 x 125 km. Yet on Mars, it is just an average-sized volcano. What marks it out as unusual is its battered condition.

Today I have been learning about Arab female empowerment and seeing the diversity of expression that the individuals here can manifest.  It begins with a visit to the American University of Sharjah to hear Fatemeh Fakhraie talking about her experiences of being an American Muslim woman.

She talks about the book I Speak for Myself, which is a collection of 40 essays written by American Muslim women under the age of 40, all of whom were born and raised in the US. Through these personal stories, Fatemeh and her co-authors highlight the diversity found within American Islam.

Now that I’m growing accustomed to things here, I'm starting to see diversity around me in Sharjah. ...


My Canadian publishers, McArthur and Co., are organising a blog tour for me to start in the week of 12th Dec.


If you are a blogger and would like to join the fun in some way, here over to their blog to read all the details.  I look forward to seeing you all ‘on tour’!

The bookfair is overrun today.  The noise hits you the moment you walk into the glass atrium of the airy exhibition halls.  As my new friend, the poet Yahia Lababidi, says later, “It was like a hive humming with bees. Only instead of bees it was little girls.”

Today is girls’ schools day at the Sharjah International Book Fair and they are here in force.  Against this vibrant backdrop, I meet Michael Rothenberg, founder of the 100 Thousand Poets for Change movement.

He explains to me that his project is uniting people from all over the world by giving them a platform to share their voices with others.  While others may talk about their wishes to unite the world, Michael has found a way to do it.  Okay, the numbers of people taking part are small compared to the global population but it’s a strong stitch in the wished-for global fabric.

The participants come from different backgrounds and cultures, political standpoints and religions, yet all can unite in a common goal of using the written word.

It’s a cliche to say that writing is about finding truth, yet it’s a cliche because there’s some – well – truth in it.  A human response or a feeling that resonates widely with others can be that essential grain.  Or perhaps, it is a new empathic way of looking at something.

Particularly for a poet, the challenge can be to distill a feeling, or an event, or a reaction, into its more potent, compact form.

I explain that I feel science is similar...





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