Posted in Astronomy at 8:26 pm on 28 November 2013
This is a video of comet ISON which, since it has now passed within about one solar diameter of the Sun, may have broken up and faded by now but otherwise promised to become a very bright object in the night sky. The video featured on Astronomy Picture of the Day yesterday.
The sun gives out light across the visible spectrum (the colours of the rainbow) and beyond. We see the sun itself as yellow or red according to its position in the sky and what we experience as “white” light is made up of all the colours. If that light is passed through a prism or difraction grating it splits up into these colours.
It starts with the familiar view from Earth – a side which has an abundance of dark areas known as maria which are relatively low-lying – then the rotation shows the “far” side as much lighter in colour. This lightness is due to lunar highlands.
I watched the latest episode of The Sky At Night only a week or so ago and he did look frail. It has been obvious for many years now that Chris Lintott was being lined up to take over the presentation duties but Patrick will be sorely missed.
He was one of Britsh TV’s glorious eccentrics – who else in the modern world wore a monocle? – and as well as his scientific credentials he could play a mean xylophone.
As a child I may have been aware of him as a late-night TV presenter (his record for continuously hosting a show will surely never be surpassed) but I certainly remember reading his Science Fiction – from that Children’s Section at Dumbarton Library accessed down the external stairs – where, along with the SF of Captain W E Johns (yes, the author of Biggles; whose WW1 adventures led me to other books coming from the same hands) I gained my introduction to the genre. Blame the pair of them.
Patrick must almost single-handedly have contributed to several generations of British astronomers taking up their trade and won a new set of admirers when he appeared on GamesMaster which is where my own sons came to know him well.
I have a particular debt to him myself as I drew on one of his astronomy books, which contained a reasonably detailed map of Mars that I found fascinating and invaluable, for the background of my first published story, The Face of the Waters.
Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore, CBE, FRS, FRAS: 4/3/1923-9/12/2012. So it goes.
Posted in Astronomy at 11:07 pm on 19 November 2012
This is the Red Spider Planetary Nebula from Astronomy Picture of the Day for 29/10/12. What a weird apparition. I don’t think it looks much like a spider, though, more some sort of weird jellyfish or flying creature or maybe an alien spacecraft like those in Star Trek, not a Klingon Bird of Prey but close.