July Delta Aquariids and their peculiar origin

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Delta Aquariids will peak on July 29th

There is no better way to start your Summer Holidays that to go stargazing! While we wait for the most reliable annual meteor shower, the Perseids, that will peak in mid-August (this year it will unfortunately coincide with a nearly Full Moon), July has some meteor showers to look out for too!  Aquarius constellation The… Read more »

Myths and facts about astronaut ice cream and other freeze-dried space food

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freeze-dried ice cream

Recently we’ve got to try something we wanted to sample for a long while: astronaut freeze-dried ice cream! After flashing the chalky crumbly room temperature thing down with lots of coffee and promising ourselves to never ever fly into space while that “I-scream” is on the menu, we’ve got curious. What is freeze-dried food? How do… Read more »

What if the Earth crashed into another planet?

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4.5 billion years ago the Earth crashed into a Mars-size object

Image credit: NASA/ JPL-Caltech So what if the Earth crashed into another planet? And…could that actually happen? Earth’s violent past One thing we know for sure: it did happen before! The young Solar System was a crowded place with lots of planet size objects flying about. One of the most favorable theories of the Moon formation… Read more »

Two classic astronomical experiments that you could (almost) easily do yourself

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Try some of the classic astronomical experiments yourself!

We love classic astronomical experiments with their intuitive core ideas, easy-to understand techniques and game changing results. Remember how Newton clapped his hands in the corridor of Cambridge, listened to the echo and measured the speed of sound? That’s it! It is hard to resist repeating some of the classic experiments ourselves! Are you, maybe, one… Read more »

How fast can an atmosphere travel around its planet? “Normal” rotation on Earth vs superrotation on Venus.

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superrotation is observed in the atmospheres of some planets

“The Earth spins around once every 24 hours. What about its atmosphere? Does it travel with our planet? Stays still? Or maybe goes faster than the Earth?” WonderDome Planetarium visitor, age 10   Wouldn’t it be wonderful to live on a planet with a non-rotating atmosphere to be able to travel places by just jumping… Read more »

What’s on this May 2019 half term: Space events and activities

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activities for the May 2019 half term school holidays

Knock-knock. Who is there? Half term holidays! Hurray! May half term holidays are coming up next week! That means (absolutely) no school, (hopefully) plenty of Sun and (definitely) seven days to keep our children entertained and occupied. Luckily, we’ve got it all sorted for you! Here is our list of top-pick family friendly space activities… Read more »

Enceladus, the icy moon that might harbour life

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Enceladus Moon

Image credit: NASA Imagine a small world somewhere in the Solar System. Its surface is made of water ice, in some places – smooth and shiny, in some – cracked and cratered. It is always chilly here, the average temperature is about -200 degrees, and the Sun looks small and dim. But if you are… Read more »

Tour of the 100m Effelsberg radio telescope

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Effelsberg telescope

One hundred meters is about the size of a football field. Or twice the length of an Olympic swimming pool. Or the diameter of the second largest fully steerable radio telescopes in the World, the Effelsberg radio telescope. We’ve been very lucky to visit the site of the telescope and learn about the research the… Read more »

Lyrid meteor shower will peak tomorrow! Don’t miss!

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Lyrid meteor shower will peak near Full Moon in 2019

It’s been awhile since the last meteor shower in January. But finally the shooting star showers are back! The first one to illuminate the spring skies is April Lyrid meteor shower: one of the oldest showers observed and one of the most reliable ones! Every year it rains Lyrid meteors from April 16 to April… Read more »

Seasons on Earth and other planets explained

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This week on March 20th the Spring has officially began! But wait a minute, how do we know when each season starts? Why do we even have seasons? And, most interestingly, are there the same seasons on other planets? Why do we have seasons? Many people think that the long-term variations in weather and daylight… Read more »

The search for Planet 9 goes on

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Planet 9

Counting objects in the Solar System How many planets are in the Solar System? Up until 2005 the answer was nine. Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune and Pluto were the nine known planets orbiting around the Sun. After the last one, Pluto, was discovered in 1930, our Solar neighbourhood remained unchanged for… Read more »

Orion up close

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Orion constellation

In March the observers in the Northern Hemisphere are saying goodbye to our favourite winter constellation Orion. But before the Great Hunter disappears from the view until the next Autumn, let’s take a close look at the stars that make up the famous hourglass shape. Note: we will describe Orion as we see it from… Read more »

How long is a day on the inner planets?

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day and night

This week we had a very interesting discussion with our primary school learners about the duration of a day on small planets: Mercury, Venus, Mars and…Earth. If you think you know the answers perfectly well, you might get surprised! But before we look at all the inner planets one by one, let us ask you… Read more »

The Night Sky in February 2019

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Many skywatchers insist that Winter is the best time for stargazing. Long periods of darkness, earlier sunsets, less hazy and therefore clearer atmosphere… What else can one ask for? Others argue all these advantages are not worth frozen fingers, red noses and icy toes and prefer warmer summer days. Whatever your view of winter stargazing… Read more »

Great disasters in the history of spaceflight

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Spaceflight disasters

Image credit: NASA This week in the anniversaries of three space disasters we are remembering the astronauts who have lost their lives pursuing our common dream for space exploration. Jan 27, 1967 On January 27, 1967 Apollo 1 astronauts Gus Grissom, Ed White and Roger B. Chaffee were killed in a fire that broke out… Read more »

Space themed Birthday party? You can do it!

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space party invitation

“Can I have a space party for my birthday? Pleeease!” If you hear these words, don’t panic. Repeat: don’t panic! You have a little astronaut or astronomer in your family, so consider yourself lucky. And as for the space themed party, you can totally do this!   Space party games When planning “out of this… Read more »

“Space” coding for children

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Coding might be one of the fundamental skills to teach our children

Some thoughts on coding for children It is a very popular idea that we should teach the kids how to code as early as possible. Many people think, that with the modern world turning more and more “techy” by day, coding might become one of the fundamental skills to learn, like reading and writing. But… Read more »

The anatomy of the Milky Way Galaxy

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Milky Way Galaxy

Image credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ESO/R. Hurt Our home, the Milky Way Galaxy, is a colossal flat structure that spans a distance of nearly 100 000 light years (and that’s 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 kilometers if you were about to ask). The Sun is just one of the hundreds of billions of stars populating the Milky… Read more »

Space activities on Christmas holidays

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Christmas holidays space activities

Christmas holidays are…long! We’re sure that after a week of munching, unwrapping and carol singing your brain will ache for information and your kids will be ready for the new experiences, some learning and lot’s of fun. And what can bring it all together better than a Space activity? Luckily, there are going to be many… Read more »

Weird Worlds 1: Planets in multiple star systems

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Kepler 16b is one of the first multiple star systems discovered

Imagine waking up in the morning to see not one, but two or even more suns rising above the horizon! Science fiction? Not quit!? Although we, the earthlings, are not likely to acquire another star to marvel at, some other planetary systems boast multiple stellar objects at their centers. We know that single stars make… Read more »

December 2018 meteor showers and where they come from

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Meteor showers in December 2018

There are going to be more meteor showers this month than the nights we will be willing to step out into the dark and cold to count the shooting stars. The best thing about meteor showers is that you don’t need any special equipment or training to watch them. Just warm clothes, a dark location… Read more »

The mystery of the North Star

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The North Star

  Visit one of our inflatable dome stargazing sessions and we will show you how to find your way around the night sky. You will find out how to spot the constellations that dominate the sky in different seasons. And, of course, how to identify the brightest and the most famous stars. Like the the… Read more »

The World’s biggest radio telescopes

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One of the big single dish radio telescopes

Telescopes are an amazing invention. They magnify everything we point them at, allowing us to see small features of the objects. They also collect more light than the human eye does, revealing faint and far-away celestial things. Because light is more than what we see, there are special telescopes that can detect the invisible to… Read more »

Where are the Sun’s siblings?

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The Sun was born in a cluster that contained thousands of siblings

Image: ESA and NASA Acknowledgment: E. Olszewski (University of Arizona) The stars are not born alone. They form among other stars in big groups, or star clusters, inside giant molecular clouds of gas and dust. That means that our Sun, just like any other star, came from a big family. But then where are all… Read more »

Are there rainbows on other planets and moons in Space?

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Rainbows need raindrops and sunshine

Out of sextilions (that’s 1 with 21 zeros) of planets that probably occupy the observable Universe there is only one little planet that we’ve studied in great detail so far. Our Earth! Therefore it is only natural that we wonder: are the other planets, at least the rocky ones, have features similar to those we… Read more »

Rings around gas giants in the Solar System

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planets with rings might be common in space

Whenever we ask our star dome visitors to name the Solar System ringed planets, a choir of voices immediately says “Saturn”. A few people mention Uranus and, occasionally, Neptune. In fact, all the gas planet in the Solar System, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, have rings around them. Maybe not as spectacular as those of… Read more »

3-2-1… How and where to see a rocket take-off.

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InSight Mission take-off

Credit: NASA/ Ben Smegelsky 3-2-1 BLAST OFF!!! Thanks to the modern technology, we can watch most of the rocket launches on our computers in real time. At our space dome we have a number of video clips featuring the rocket take-off. But it is not the real thing, is it? So.. where can we see… Read more »

The last days of Dawn spacecraft

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Dawn spacecraft

 NASA scientists say that we are about to loose our favourite Dawn spacecraft that has been studying the Asteroid Belt largest objects Ceres and Vesta for the past 11 years. In the next few weeks Dawn will run out of fuel needed to keep the spacecraft’s antennas pointed to the Earths and instruments to the target…. Read more »

Stargazing events in September 2018

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Stargazing in September 2018

Autumn is quickly approaching and the nights are getting longer, darker and, unfortunately, colder. Stargazing in September 2018 might not be as comfortable as in the Summer, but with the right gear (blankets and hot chocolate are a must!) it will be just as exciting.     In September 2018 there are: Constellations to spot… Read more »

Astronomy for blind and visually impaired

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Astronomy for visually impaired people

Image credit: Lrcg2012/ Wikimedia commons/ CC BY-SA 3.0   We think of Astronomy as a visual science. Spotting constellations on the night sky, admiring the Moon changing shape over the course of the month, watching the rings of Saturn with simple telescope… This is astronomy, isn’t it? Does that mean that blind or visually impaired person… Read more »

Do we really need to put telescopes in Space?

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NASA launched four Great Space Observatories: Hubble, Spitzer, Compton and Chandra.

This week we celebrate the Spitzer Space Telescope’s 15  years in Space. Inspired by this achievement, we would like to look at the four NASA Great Space Observatories and their main discoveries.   We all know that there is more to the light that meets the eye. The electromagnetic spectrum stretches from high energy gamma rays, through… Read more »

Quick guide to astronomical planet symbols

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Planet symbols

Planet signs: Sun, Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune Pluto, Moon. Did you know that astronomers have their own secret language? Yes, they have special symbols for all the Solar System planets, dwarf planets, asteroids and some other objects! Astronomers used those signs since ancient times and many of them are still in… Read more »

Perseid meteor shower 2018

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Perseid meteor shower

Perseid meteor shower is one of the most reliable and popular showers of the year. It decorates the dark Summer skies every year from July 13 to August 26. The shower peaks on August 12-13 when the hourly rate can reach 60 meteors or even more. In 2018 the shower will occur just after the… Read more »

Can I buy a star?

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Can you officially buy a star?

Every year a few of our little star dome visitors proudly tell us that their parents bought them a star (i.e. paid to name a star after the child) when they were born. Although it sounds beautiful, sadly it is not true. There are indeed commercial companies offering you “to name a star (visible in your… Read more »

Parker Probe: the mission to solve the mystery of the Sun

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Parker Probe

 Image credit: NASA   Whenever we ask our star dome visitors, where they would like to go on a space journey, there are always a few people who would say “the Sun”. And, to be honest, who wouldn’t like to get a closer look at our nearest star? Unfortunately, we, fragile humans, cannot withstand harsh… Read more »

Girls only: the Annie Jump Cannon Award in Astronomy

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Annie Jump Cannon Award is for female astronomers only

There are over fifty different prizes awarded in the field of Astronomy nationally and internationally. There are prizes for the achievements in a specific field of Astronomy, prizes for the outreach efforts, prizes for the best single piece of work and for the lifetime contribution. And, most interestingly, there is a prize that the American Astronomical… Read more »

Asteroids, friends or foes? Part 2: friends!

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two spacecrafts are on their way to the asteroids right now. This one is OSIRIS-REx, NASA mission to the asteroid Bennu

NASA OSIRIS-REx mission is on its way to the asteroid Bennu. Credit: NASA Asteroids are thought to be responsible for the dinosaurs extinction. Thousands of asteroids are lurking in the close proximity to the Earth, threatening the mankind with the same fate (you can learn more about asteroid monitoring and impact prevention in our previous blog… Read more »

Asteroids, friends or foes? Part one: foes!

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Asteroids are small rocky bodies

Credit: NASA If you grew up watching Armageddon, then you probably associate asteroids with catastrophes, explosions and world destruction. On the other hand, space scientists are very fond of asteroids. They hope that detailed studying of asteroids will help us learn more about the history and formation of the Solar System. Maybe even about the… Read more »

Exploring planet Mercury

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Courtesy: NASA How many planets can we see with a naked eye? Five! Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn can all be spotted from Earth without the aid of a telescope or binoculars. Though in principle all five are visible, some are easier to find than others. Mercury is the trickiest planet to observe thanks… Read more »

Learn about Space on May half term holidays!

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Our favourite May half term acrivity: learning how to be an astronaut

The countdown to May half term holidays has begun! It is perfectly all right to jump on your garden trampoline and eat ice-cream all week long if you ask me. But if you feel a bit adventurous, have a look at these family friendly space themed events and activities across the UK. Some of them… Read more »

Searching for life on Europa

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With so many exoplanet search missions in progress, on their way and under development it is hard not to get excited about the prospects of finding alien worlds and encountering extraterrestrial forms of life. But do we really have to look that far? Is there any chance that alien life flourishes somewhere in our own Solar… Read more »

Black Holes: the size matters!

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black holes

Black Holes are very peculiar objects. They first came into being as mathematical abstracts (thanks, Einstein!), then became a “maybe objects“ and finally the first one was discovered in 1971. Decades later, they remain the coolest (well, not literally) and the most mysterious objects out there. After all, have you ever seen a black hole?… Read more »

Mystery of the Moon: transient lunar phenomenon

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transient lunar phenomenon map

Thanks to our modern technology there is a lot we can see from Earth. We can watch Supernovae explode, exoplanets orbit their stars and even black holes feed on their stellar companions! But some things happening in the close proximity of our planet have been puzzling scientists for hundreds of years. And, despite all our… Read more »

Celebrating Hubble Telescope’s 28 years in Space

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Hubble Space Telescope

Today we celebrate Hubble Space Telescope’s 28th Birthday! On April 24, 1990 Hubble was launched into space aboard Space Shuttle Discovery. Today, 28 years and 5 crewed servicing missions later, the telescope is still working hard, uncovering mysteries of the Universe. Hubble’s data and pictures encouraged many people to study Astronomy and led to publications… Read more »

Women in Astronomy

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Women in Astronomy: Maria Mitchell

The Annual Edinburgh International Science Festival took place in the Scottish capital last week. And our space dome team was lucky to attend a very interesting talk called “Celebration of women in Astronomy” by an Astrophysicist Jocelyn Bell Burnell (the talk was based on the article that you can find here).   The speaker If… Read more »

Astrolabe, the world’s oldest astronomical computer.

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These beautiful instruments were spotted by our space dome team at the British Museum! Do you have any idea what they are? Any educated person from the 13-15th century could not just answer this question but also build the instrument themself! The device on the picture is called an Astrolabe. It was the first computer… Read more »

Salyut 7: movie and reality

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Salyut 7 Space Station

“Houston, we have a problem”. I am sure you all know this famous line from the “Apollo 13” movie. Or at least familiar with the story of the unfortunate lunar mission that inspired the film. Salyut 7, the movie In 2017 another space docudrama was released, a Russian movie “Salyut 7”, directed by Klim Shipenko…. Read more »

Research missions to launch in Spring 2018

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rocket launch

Three – Two – One …Blast off! With two very exciting launches scheduled for this Spring, scientists are getting ready to learn more about our own and other planetary systems. TESS orbiter is scheduled to take off on  April 16, 2018 and the InSight lander might start its space journey as early as May 5, 2018…. Read more »

Planetarium visit and classroom space activities

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classroom space theme

British science week 2018 is in a full gear. Many schools invite the mobile planetarium this time of the year to introduce the children to the wonderful world of Astronomy. Ok, you’ve been to the planetarium. Maybe you’ve had an after-the -session space discussion in your classroom. Probably you’ve told the kids many other space facts… Read more »

Stargazing in March 2018

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March will bring us warmer weather, shorter nights and lots of things to look for on the night sky. The Moon Watching the Moon go through different phases is a great family activity.  The children are always fascinated by the different shapes the Moon makes on the sky throughout the month.  Why not make or… Read more »

Nobel Prize in Astronomy. Part 2.

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Nobel Prize award ceremony

1983 Submanyan Chandrasekhar received the Prize for his research “on the structure and evolution of stars”. His work helped us understand how stars age and die. Chandrasekhar calculated what we now call Chandrasekhar limit, which is equal to 1.4 Solar mass. Chandrasekhar showed that if the dying star has a mass of 1.4 Solar mass… Read more »

Nobel Prize in Astronomy. Part 1.

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Nobel Prize

Nobel Prize in Astronomy? Nonsense, you will say, there is no such thing! And you will be right! Today I would like to talk about the Nobel Prizes in Physics awarded for the discoveries directly related to Astronomy. Of course, many scientific advances contributed to the modern understanding of Space. But let’s look at those… Read more »

Time zones: theory and practice

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standard world time zones

Time zones are the enemies of all long-distance travellers. They are held responsible for the jet-legs, logistic errors and even for the accidental night phone calls to our overseas friends. Theory You can blame the Earth’s rotation, of course. It spins on its axis showing different parts of the surface to the Sun. So we… Read more »

Satellite navigation and and how it works

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How satellite navigation works

“You have reached your destination!” Many of us hear these words if not on a daily basis. Honestly, I don’t even want to look back at the times before the satellite navigation. Those were the times of hand-drawn maps, road atlases and being lost. A lot. Now everybody has a satnav device for their personal… Read more »

Opportunity rover: 14 years on Mars and counting!

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Opportunity rover

Fourteen years ago today, on January 25, 2004, three weeks after its twin named Spirit reached the Red planet, the Opportunity rover landed on Mars. It was expected to work on the planet for about 90 days, collecting information on Martial geology. By analyzing Martian rocks and soil, scientists were hoping to unravel the mystery… Read more »

Early Astronomical measurements

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Early Astronomical observations and measurements

Modern astronomical measurements often require complicated methods and sophisticated equipment, like radars and spacecrafts. So I cannot help but admire those early astronomers who managed to measure things in space (with any accuracy at all) using nothing but simple geometry, primitive instruments and a basic understanding of the order of things in the nearby Universe…. Read more »

Webb Telescope to unravel the mystery of brown dwarfs

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brown dwarf

This week NASA has announced that its James Webb Space Telescope will be studying somewhat mysterious space objects – brown dwarfs. Neither especially big nor bright, these objects have been unheard of until 1960 and unseen all the way till 1995. Now everybody, professional astronomers and citizen scientists, are looking for them. And NASA’s biggest… Read more »

January 2018 stargazing

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stargazing January

Long dark January nights are ideal for stargazing. If you can brave the winter cold (and occasional snow) you will be rewarded with truly spectacular views! As always with starwatching, make sure to choose the open dark location, away from trees, houses and light sources. The interesting things to look out for on the night… Read more »

Where is my satellite?

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With the advanced technology at our disposal, it is hard to imagine that one can lose a satellite. But it does happen. And more often than you think. Back in 2003 I was visiting The Special Astrophysical Observatory in Russia. It is one of the biggest research centres in the country. The observatory houses two… Read more »

“The Jamie Drake Equation” book

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The book called "The Jamie Drake equation" by Christopher Edge

A trip to the local library is a bit like going on a treasure hunt. You never know when you will find your next great read. Recently, one book in the kids fiction section caught my attention. The book was called “The Jamie Drake equation”. It was written by Christopher Edge. I’ve never heard that name… Read more »

How do we know that the Earth is not flat?

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The turtle that carries the four elephants that carry the Earth

What is one of the most popular questions that our mobile planetarium visitors ask us after the show? “How do we know that the Earth is not flat?“ Many feel a bit silly asking this question since the fact that our planet is round was one of the first things we all learned at school…. Read more »

Space maths

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space maths: spheres in space

  The size of our Milky Way Galaxy is about 1 000 000 000 000 000 000 kilometers. The nearest galaxy to the Milky Way, Andromeda, is about 24 000 000 000 000 000 000 km away from the Earth. Our star, the Sun, weighs about 2 000 000 000 000 000 000 000 000… Read more »

Great astronomers of the 20th century: Chandrasekhar

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This October the astronomical community celebrated the 107th Birthday of a great scientist called Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar. Maybe you’ve even seen a cute Google’s doodle honouring one of his greatest achievements! That’s right, those little stars jumping on the scales! (if you have no idea what I am talking about, you can watch it here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5HitoMiZljc) If… Read more »