Looking East: The rise of the Chinese Space Programme

Melanie Davies looks back at ancient Chinese rocketry and delves into the impressive emergence of the space industry in China Some might argue that the birth of the space age can be traced back to 3rd century China when the word ‘rocket’ first appeared during the Three Kingdoms period (220 - 280). In 228 the … Continue reading Looking East: The rise of the Chinese Space Programme

Big telescopes: the future is nearly here

European Extremely Large Telescope in its Enclosure

For over 400 years, stargazers have aspired to see ever more detail of celestial wonders and ever deeper into space. Melanie Davies reports on a new breed of giant telescopes that will deliver tantalising astronomical data to a new generation of astronomers. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, a raft of 8-meter class, single … Continue reading Big telescopes: the future is nearly here

The Pleiades

the pleiades

Bringing a little sparkle to the autumn nights. The Pleiades is an open star cluster in the constellation of Taurus. This enigmatic group of stars is known by many names; the Seven Sisters, Messier 45, and Melotte 22 to name but a few. The Pleiades rise in the east just after sunset from the beginning of … Continue reading The Pleiades

Chasing the eclipse

partial solar eclipse

Melanie Davies writes about the 2015 solar eclipse - the last one visible from Europe for more than a decade On the morning of Friday 20th March 2015, we’ll be in for an astronomical treat… an eclipse of the Sun. A total solar eclipse happens roughly once a year somewhere in the world, but we … Continue reading Chasing the eclipse

Rosetta: The comet chaser

There are not many space missions that have touched the hearts and minds of people throughout the world as much as Rosetta. Named after the Rosetta Stone - a slab of volcanic basalt responsible for revealing the mysteries of ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics - this intrepid comet chaser has inspired a generation of science explorers, uncovering mysteries bound up in its icy companion, comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Close encounter of the first kind

Finally, a much-anticipated astronomical event that didn't leave us disappointed! The close encounter of Comet Siding Spring with Mars on 19th October 2014 resulted in some great imagery and, hopefully, some interesting science to come. Siding Spring passed a mere 87,000 miles above the red planet: less than half the distance between the Earth and … Continue reading Close encounter of the first kind

Supernova: A blast from the past

Have you ever wondered where the expression “we’re all made of stardust” came from? Well, I’m not sure who first coined the phase, but we are indeed made of stellar stuff. Carbon-based lifeforms (us), silica in the rocks, and oxygen in the atmosphere – all of the elements found within our bodies and in the … Continue reading Supernova: A blast from the past

The Eleven Dwarfs

The International Astronomical Union (IAU) caused a cosmic stir when it kicked Pluto out of the planet gang, demoting it to 'dwarf planet' status. The decision by the IAU - the body responsible for naming and categorising astronomical objects - was, and still is, hotly contested. The trouble started in 2005 when Mike Brown, professor of planetary astronomy … Continue reading The Eleven Dwarfs

The fluctuations of our super star

We've all been enjoying the summer Sun, but how many of us stop to think about the dynamics of our local star? Throughout history, the Sun has been worshipped and celebrated with rituals and festivals throughout the world. And there's good reason for celebration; sunshine gives us light and heat - vital ingredients for life … Continue reading The fluctuations of our super star

Strange New Worlds

Until fairly recently, it was generally thought (and taught) that the planets in our solar system were formed more or less where they currently reside on their solar orbits. Within the the last few decades, planetary scientists have had to re-think this theory. Once we'd all got used to the idea, proposed by Copernicus in … Continue reading Strange New Worlds