Friday, December 21, 2012

Hallgrimur's Church

This is and amazing piece of of archetecture in Reykjavík, Iceland. It looks just like a Space Shuttle!

Well, it seems that the Mayan Calendar didn't mean that the world would end today after all. I guess they just ran out days.
The story of the Mayan Calendar is very interesting, today ends a 5,125-year "Long Count" Mayan calendar. A new cycle starts tomorrow for another 5,125 years. Time measurment was complex and relied on observations of the heavens. It is said that today all the planets line up on the same plane in the Solar System. I'm not sure about that, but there has been a lovely planetary alignment just before dawn on the 10th and 11th December. From my front window I could see Mercury, Venus and Saturn together in a line in the Eastern sky and a beautiful cresent Moon. I got up at 6.30am with my binoculars to look at this spectical. Mercury could be seen easily with the naked eye. As the Sun started to rise Mercury faded leaving a very bright Venus and and Saturn. I didn't have my camera set up, which is a shame. I would like to have captured the image.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Compact Ranger 30x30 telescope

This is my very first telescope that I got for Christmas when I was nine years old.
When I was at primary school one of my friends was Steve McGuffie. He was in my class and new lots of facts about astronomy. I remember that he told me that the Sun was 93,000,000 miles away. He had a lovely little telescope with proper glass lens' and had a magnification of 30x30. I was amazed when I looked through it and how clear everything was. I asked my father to buy me one for Christmas and was sooo pleased when on Christmas morning I had one just like the one that Steve had with proper tripod and case.
I loved it and use it lots of times looking at the Moon, Venus and Jupiter from my bedroom window. It was a wonderful instrument!
Then, one clear night, I set up my telescope to look at Venus from my bedroom window. It was quite tricky to see it, so I had to balance the scope onto the edge of the windowsill. I was so determined to see Venus that I knocked the scope over and it fell out of the window with a crash to the concrete floor below.
The primary lens was smashed! I was so upset that I cried, it would never work again. I kept it for quite a while, hoping that maybe I would be able to find another lens. As well as the lens, the metal thread also got damaged and kept falling out. Such a shame...a lovely telescope!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

Patrick Moore

Sad new today about the death of Sir Patrick. An honourable man who inspired many from different generations.

Last night I stayed up late watch 'Sky at Night' about Mercury and Apollo 17. The last programme as we know it.
I have watched Sky at Night since I was little back in the 60's and 70's. When I was about 9 years old my Dad bought me a telescope for Christmas. It was a lovely little telescope!
I watched the Apollo 11 landing and walked on the Moon with Patrick Moore and his team. I now have the DVD of the whole thing.  Patrick was an eccentric scientist a bit like the Doc in 'Back to the Future' but he was able to explain even the most complex systems into language that even children can understand. He also had an amazing sense of humour, I remember the Christmas 'Morcambe and Wise Show' with Patrick in it.

Eric Morcambe once said "You can see Patrick Moore on a clear night" Now you can...look to the stars!

Patrick died during the 40th anniversary of Apollo 17 and also in the same year as Neil Armstrong.

The life of Sir Pat:

Sir Patrick Moore

"My education was disjointed. The plan was Prep. School, Eton, Cambridge - I never made any of them. During my boyhood I was handicapped by heart trouble; I managed my Cambridge entrance exams externally, but then came the war, and I joined the RAF as a navigator with Bomber Command (I admit that I wasn't 100% honest about my age or fitness, but when I was found out it no longer mattered, and Flight-Lieutenant Caldwell-Moore was not even told that he had been a naughty boy). At the end of the war I returned home, then to East Grinstead. Cambridge was still open to me, but it meant taking a Government grant, which went against the grain. I prefer to stand on my own feet.

My interest in astronomy went back to the age of 7, and I had several slices of luck; a small observatory was near me, I was able to use it, and I published my first paper (about the Moon) when I was 13. After the war, I wrote a book about the Moon; it caught on, and writing took over my life - farewell, Cambridge! I set up my own observatory, first at East Grinstead and then Selsey, and since then I have been a freelance writer.

My aim was to spread interest about astronomy; in 1957 I began my TV series The Sky at Night, now in its 54th year of an unbroken run. Many leading astronomers and astronauts have joined me. I hope I have achieved my object, but that must be left for others to judge. I have been over most of the world, from Antarctica to Death Valley, so I have seen a great deal.

I won't bore you with personal details. Suffice to say that Lorna, whom I was to marry, was killed by a German bomb when we were both twenty (1943!) and so I remain, very sadly, a bachelor. My mother, to whom I was devoted, stayed with me; she died in 1981. I am now 88, and not very mobile, again thanks to the War. But until the age of 78 I was still playing cricket. I am well looked after in my Selsey home - and do not forget my two all-important cats, Jeannie and Ptolemy!"

Friday, December 07, 2012

Apollo 17..40 years ago today!

Today was a sad day 40 years ago, the very last Apollo mission, Apollo 17 launched at night to the Moon for the very last Moon landing. I wonder if we will ever go back to the Moon?

This morning when I came to work I could see the Moon shining brightly. It was almost smiling at me saying "When are you coming back again!" The Moon is so important, a staging point for longer journeys. A laboratory on the Moon instead of the ISS. One day we will return...but with peace...not money!

The launch is awesome to watch and listen...