Sunday, 25 October 2015

Jupiter, Venus and Mars dance

Watch the planets dance with each other near the constellation Leo.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Sunday, 17 February 2013

Finally found it...back to 1976...

What a pleasure to find this video on Youtube!!

I vividly remember watching this (and sharing it with many friends) with great joy, though none of the material was new information. These were happier times for William Shatner too, before he changed in more ways than one :(

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

More exo-planets.....

There is no shortage of exo-planets now - next step - finding intelligent life elsewhere!

See BBC (and the original articles in Nature)

Sunday, 26 December 2010

Look up at the sky

It is time to look up at the sky again with clearer nights ahead (hopefully)....

Some excellent ideas below.

Saturday, 19 December 2009

And now lakes on Titan...

The Cassini spacecraft has found evidence of liquid in the nothern lakes on Saturn's largest moon Titan though this would be probably liquid methane rather than water. Cassini captured reflection of sunlight from the southern edge of the 150,000 square mile Kraken Mare (NASA).

Reflection of Sunlight off Titan Lake: Picture courtesy NASA

There is a rather interesting suggestion, by Dr Stofan from University College London and her team from Proxemy Research, of taking a TiME "boat" to Kraken Mare or Ligeia Mare on Titan." The Titan Mare Explorer (TiME), as it is called, may even possibly be "diving in" less than 14 years from now, if only it could hitch a rideto Saturn.

Titan's atmosphere may have some similarities with those of Planet Earth, except that it is methane that replaces water on Titan.

There is no chance of three men in a boat (and to say nothing of the dog) as yet...

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Water on the Moon and Mars

The Indian Chandrayaan-1 ("Moon vehicle") has on board a NASA mineralogy mapper which found small amounts of water closer to the poles, in higher lattitudes. The blue colour in the reflected near-infrared radiation picture represents water, the green the surface brightness and the red is pyroxene (rock-forming silicates containing iron).

Although it is not a lot of water, it is really exciting news which changes our views of moon fundamentally. Close on the heels of finding ice buried on Mars (exposed by impacts of meteorites), there are interesting implications for travel to Moon, Mars and beyond.

Back again....

It has been a rather long hiatus., but I am back again....

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Now this is an interesting way to present stats..

Back after a hiatus.
Just seen the 2006 TED talk delivered by Hans Rosling - stats with humour and visual impact. Wow!

Monday, 3 November 2008

........and the EAS fell on Monday

The EAS is reported to have re-entered over the Indian ocean (south of Tasmania) today morning at 04:51 UTC/GMT. I guess no one saw the fireball.....

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Space Junk to "fall" on Monday

This brings back memories of Skylab re-entry on 11 July 1979.

The Early Ammonia Servicer (EAS), which was International Space Station's 1400-lb never-used cooling system (size of a double refrigerator) and was jettisoned by Clay Anderson on 23 July 2007, is going to fall to Earth tomorrow.

There appears to be lack of clarity regarding where and when (uncertainty of +/- 15 hours from 0300 UTC) it is going to fall. Whenever and where-ever it does, it will change from its current brightness of a second or third magnitude star to burn with a rather bright blaze shining like the moon.

The Space Weather website, which also monitors the Potentially Hazardous Asteroids (PHAs) for Planet Earth, will publish updates. One can also check flybys over one's local areas.

Saturday, 27 September 2008

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? It is the "Jet man".

Yves Rossy, a swiss man better known as Jet man or Fusion man, has improved the previous record set by Felix Baumgartner of gliding/flying over the English Channel by using a jetpak.

Here is the possibility of man flying as a bird in the future...though for now it needs a jump from a plane. Amazing.......

Copyright: YvesRossy @ Youtube

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

LHC Work Delayed Further...

Make that delayed till Spring 2009.

Saturday, 20 September 2008

LHC Work Delayed

The search for Higgs (amongst other work) at the CERN is delayed for approximately 2 months, due to a large helium leak following melting of a possible faulty electrical connection between two magnets.

The return to work is likely to be longer (than usual) for LHC, to ensure very cold conditions and to ensure safety after a full investigation.

Saturday, 6 September 2008


A very simplistic version of the forthcoming CERN events.....not bad actually.

Courtesy: Kate McAlpine

Saturday, 9 August 2008

Watch them with "both eyes"

Originally called the Columbus Project, the LBT (Large Binocular Telescope) is now operational and it is back to moutain-top telescoping. The LBT is located on top of Mount Graham in South-East Arizona.

Image Courtesy: Aaron Ceranski & John Hill @ LBTO

The binocular ability give better image quality in watching the fourth dimension (which is actually what we are looking at ... events back in time). I initially thought that binocular vision would also provide a sense of depth (third dimension) but John informs me that at such distances there is no practical sense of depth.

It is currently the world's best resolution optical/infra-red telescope, with better resolution than the Hubble in the infra-red domain. It has two very large primary mirrors with 8.408m aperture diameter, which can provide resolution equivalent to a 22.8m (i.e. ~75 foot) aperture telescope.

See also the July Episode of Sky at Night for details.

Courtesy Stevebd1 @ Youtube

Thursday, 7 August 2008

Practice for a date with Higgs Boson?

The LHC goes to work the day after, i.e. 9th August and early September (10th September) should see some interesting results. We can see the webcast on 10th of September.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

On the verge of finding life elsewhere (or the evidence of past life anyway)

...or did they find oil on Mars ? :-) (thanks, Kevin)

It seems that Phoenix has finally found evidence of water on Mars and with this the speculation for possibility of (or potential for) life has become stronger than ever (NASA). The mission has been extended and there is a surprise announcement expected with ...what... some surprises!

And of course, Titan still remains a candidate with its ethane lakes and electrical storms. Although a satellite of Saturn, it is bigger than Mercury in size (see the report in today's Nature).

Friday, 1 August 2008

Solar Eclipse

Today was the solar eclipse day ... see pictures on the NASA website.

The eclipse was not total in the UK; 36% of the sun was blocked by the moon whilst watching from the Shetlands. In Newcastle, it began at 9:26 AM, with the maximum eclipse at 10:18 AM. The eclipse reached totality in northern Canada, Greenland, Russia and northern bits of China.

The next eclipse coming our way is the partial (reaching 80%) lunar eclipse on the evening of 16th August 2008.

Eclipses occur in cycles called as the Saros series. Read about it in the new Newsletter of the Newcastle Upon Tyne Astronomical Society.

Saturday, 19 July 2008

Almost zero Kelvin: Now that is COLD!

With help from liquid helium, the temperature in most parts of the LHC at CERN is down to 1.9 Kelvin (i.e -271 degrees C) just below the temperature in outer space (about 2.7 Kelvin). Such low temperatures would enable superconductivity and at these temperatures helium behaves like a super-fluid. The cooling down to such temperatures takes 3-6 weeks.

Courtesy: Ryanhaart@youtube

Read the story on the BBC online and the bigbangtheory whiteboard.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

The two imposters

Watching the amazing Wimbledon Men's Singles final between Nadal and Federer brought back memories of "If" by Rudyard Kipling, appropriately so, as a part of the poem (in bold below) stares one at the entrance of the Centre court at Wimbledon.

If (from

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you
But make allowance for their doubting too,
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated, don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise:

If you can dream--and not make dreams your master,
If you can think--and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build 'em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it all on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breath a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with kings--nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you;
If all men count with you, but none too much,
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And--which is more--you'll be a Man, my son!

--Rudyard Kipling

Friday, 27 June 2008

Time off...

Just a lull in the proceedings. Shall be back soon :-)

Saturday, 24 May 2008

The Worldwide Grid: The Next Level of Internet?

About 7000 CERN scientists at the LHC will use the Worldwide LHC Computing Grid to share data over the net. Grid computing is already being used in several other projects, e.g. weather forecasting.

As LHC begins to work, data will be tranferred to 11 large servers (linked with 200 smaller centres worldwide) at rates of up to 10 gigabits/second. CERN is linked with the 11 large hubs via fibre-optic links but the smaller centres use research networks and "common" internet. It is able to tranfer 2.3 terabytes, i.e. 2.3 million million bytes in a week and will handle the 15 Petabytes (15 million Gigabytes) of data annually planned to be generated by the LHC.

These large Grids are likely to substitute the previously planned supercomputers. The SETI programme (SETI @ home), Carl Sagan's brainchild, has already provided evidence for successful use of multiple PCs in completing a single task. The SETI programme has incidently set up an Arthur C Clarke tribute page.

The real difference between the Internet and the Grid is that the Grid not only shares information like internet, but is also able to allow sharing of computing resources (e.g. computing power, storage, running of programmes).

However, publically available (Read: for most of you and me) use of such high speeds, with immensely fast download speeds (about 10,000 times faster than today's broadband speeds), is possibly sometime in the future. This has some interesting parallels with the evolution of Asimov's multivac.

The word "Grid" is akin to its use in electricity grid and was used for the first time in a book by Ian Foster and Carl Kesselman (see their second book above).

Some of these Grids resemble maps for metros/local city trains and the current plans are almost worldwide. For such a high-speed, dedicated network, security is a major concern [not unlike some of the newly weds who key-in a padlock and throw the key in to the Tiber :-)]. But seriously, it is absolutely vital that this data is safe from any prying hackers.

Photo courtesy of Brunico Bridge Padlocks: Peter Casier.

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Search for Higgs Boson

Part 1 of a 3-part video. The date has of course changed from November 2007 to (?) last week of May 2008.

Sunday, 18 May 2008

Friday, 16 May 2008

Wikisky and the Youngest Supernova

Close on the heels of Google Sky follows the Microsoft World Wide Telescope (WWT) (Thanks Richard) though my favourites remain Google Sky and Wiki Sky. Hopefully the race between the three will proved us with the ultimate "laptop telescope" (dream on!).

Photo Courtesy: Chandra X-Ray Observatory

The youngest known supernova in the Milky Way Galaxy which is only 140 year old and has expanded clearly since 1985, is called G1.9+0.3. The expansion is occurring at an amazing speed of 5% of speed of light (about 35 million miles per hour!). The supernova is located in the constellation Sagittarius (RA: 17h 48m 45s; Dec: −27d 10m) and is about 25,000 light years away from us (i.e. the explosion occurred nearly 25,000 years in the past).

The expansion was confirmed by the space-based NASA Chandra X-Ray Observatory. Due to its close location to the centre of the Galaxy, it is hard to see it visually due to dust though it can be "observed" by the emitted X-rays and radio waves.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Higgs Mechanism and Boson

So, what is Higgs boson? There is the long answer but it is harder to come up with a short answer. A 1993 challenge to physicists to find an A4 sheet answer yielded 5 answers.

Professor Roger John Cashmore, CMG (Companion of the Most Distinguished Order of St Michael and St George), Principal of Brasenose College and Professor of Experimental Physics at Oxford University (UK) provided a very elegant summary and I quote, ".....Peter Higgs.....proposed that the whole of space is permeated by a field, similar in some ways to the electromagnetic field. As particles move through space they travel through this field, and if they interact with it they acquire what appears to be mass. This is similar to the action of viscous forces felt by particles moving through any thick liquid. the larger the interaction of the particles with the field, the more mass they appear to have. Thus the existence of this field is essential in Higg's hypothesis for the production of the mass of particles."

Professor David J Miller, Department of Physics, University College London, explains as to how Higgs mechanism can exist with or without a Higgs boson actually present (using an interesting example of a certain lady ex-Prime Minister in the room).

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Quantum Cafe

Scientific experimentation has presumed that clear answers to questions (hypotheses) are needed to arrive at meaningful answers. However, the Quantum Cafe clearly disregards any such rules and any answer is possible in the Quantum World. It states that all of the universe is a game of chance.

Angelus Silesius was a 6th century philosopher and poet. He stated:

Time is of your own making;
its clock ticks in your head.
The moment you stop thought
time too stops dead.

In one of the very lucid books on quantum physics, "In search of Schrodinger's Cat", John Gribbin writes, "it is interesting that there are limits to our knowledge of what an electron is doing when we are looking at it, but it is absolutely mind-blowing to discover that we have no idea at all what it is doing when we are not looking at it".

In Quantum physics, the observer can not only influence the results of what he/she is observing but also determine whether the observed phenomenon (reality) happens or not in the first place.

Friday, 9 May 2008

Our place in the Universe

Just a reiteration (in Carl Sagan's voice) of the how insignificant our lives must seem in the larger scheme of things, if there is any.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Look up at the sky....

Picture Coutesy: Google Sky (Note that the picture is almost South facing with West to the right)
As the nights become shorter, it is harder to find time to watch the stars/planets (not that I am complaining about the arrival of spring). Both Mars and Saturn are easy to spot near nightfall, with Mars near Pollux and Castor (Gemini constellation) and Saturn near Regulus (in Leo constellation).

Mars-Pollux-Castor form almost a straight line in Gemini (with Pollux in the middle) and are seen highup in the West. Saturn is also seen high in the South at nightfall.

There are no clouds tonight (I hope) and I might just catch the nightfall on my way back from my run.

Incidently, the star cluster Pleiades (also called M45 or Messier object 45) in constellation Taurus (to your left) appears to have 6 stars in it. It was called as the "7 sisters" (or also called "7 sister-in-laws and one brother-in-law" !!) though really only 6 stars shine brightly. The Talmud refers to about 100 stars in this cluster and Pleiades is now known to have at least 1000 stars.

Pleiades were of course the 7 daughters of Atlas in Greek mythology and they were pictured in the sky as being pursued by Orion. Not surprisingly, the stories about Pleiades vary in different parts of the world.

In the older days, you needed to count atleast 6-7 stars in to qualify for a job on a ship (to be a pirate!). It is interesting to note that several cultures have used this as a test of vision. If your eyesight is 6/5, you might be able to count upto 9-10 with the naked eye.

And it is now time to test my vision.....without my glasses, I mean ;-).

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Flat universe and Cosmic microwave

He has still got it. Thats right; even in his mid-80s, Sir Patrick Moore is still clearly enthused by his favourite subject. In the 666th episode of the Sky at Night, he plays the 'devil' in an interesting debate entitled "we just don't know".

This is one of the best episodes ... ever! It seems that dark matter is not dark afterall, but is instead "transparent" matter. Otherwise, we would not be able to see through it as we can not through the dense microwave radiation that prevents observation of events closer to the big-bang, if there was ever one.

Earth was thought to be flat first and then found to be round (well, nearly). And now, the geometry of our universe seems to be flatter than it was thought originally.

Monday, 5 May 2008

Particle physics recap

I found these interesting video and powerpoint resources to brush up on my current understanding of the sub-atomic (and pre-historic astronomical) cafetaria.

There is an introductory video at Youtube and a BBC Horizon report on LHC at CERN (the date has changed to May 2008 though).

An introduction to particle physics provides very good powerpoint introduction to the topic and this is the Link to several excellent powerpoint slides.

But nothing beats the fab website The Particle Adventure at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL). They even had the time to make the quarks dance :-).

Picture courtesy: Particle Data Group

And now about Higgs...

Peter Ware Higgs was born in Newcastle upon Tyne in 1929. He is currently Professor-Emeritus at University of Edinburgh. Read his story at the Physics World website. Widely acclaimed as the 'next' Noble Prize winner, he was inspired by Paul Dirac in his early years.

Stephen Hawking has offered £100 in wager if Higgs-boson (or God particle, as it often called) is ever found.

Since the particle was discovered by Robert Brout and Fran├žois Englert at the same time as Peter Higgs, it is probably more appropriately called as Higgs-Brout-Englert boson.

Read the story in Guardian and watch Peter Higg's interview on youtube.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Bose and Bosons

Bosons (and Fermions) are causing much excitement these days, thanks to the much anticipated experiments planned at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) at CERN later this month.

You can read here the remarkable story of Satyendra Nath Bose after whom bosons are named.

The last question

If you enjoyed the O'Henry ending Isaac Asimov so successfully employed in his tale of the Last Question, then you can ask multivac yourself the same question at

You can read the original story at the site There is also a link to with Google replacing AC in a minor variation of the story.