Rosetta and the comet

The Rosetta space craft
July 23, 2014

  Rosetta is a robotic spacecraft built by the European Space Agency which is due to reach comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko in August. It’s the first mission designed to both orbit and land on a comet. The Rosetta space probe orbiter, which features 12 instruments, will orbit 67P for 17 months and is designed to complete the most detailed study of a comet ever attempted. In November 2014 the Philae robotic lander,…


A Photo of the Canaries wins Tournament: Earth 2014

The Canary Islands from NASA’s Terra satellite on June 15, 2013
April 9, 2014

Every year NASA holds a competition to chose the best photo of Earth. The Canary Islands won this year’s Tournament: Earth is again. (Last year’s winner was a photo of the submarine eruption off El Hierro.)   The Canary Islands sit in the trade winds and the Canary current, both of which come from the north east. This photo, taken by NASA’s Terra satellite on June 15, 2013, shows long…


SuperWASP, the Planet-Hunter

Superwasp open for business, Roque de Los Muchachos
April 4, 2014

Most of the telescopes at the observatory here look spectacular even from the outside. SuperWASP looks like a big garden shed. It’s the white thing at bottom left. Even when it opens up, it still doesn’t look like a professional telescope. To me, it looks more like a small missile launcher. The equipment isn’t that spectacular either. As modern telescopes go, it was built for peanuts. It has eight cameras,…


A Supernova near Ursa Major

January 30, 2014

  A new supernova has been spotted just 12 light years away in M 82, the Cigar galaxy, which is between Ursa Major (the Great Bear or Big Dipper) and Ursa Minor. It’s a type 1a supernova, which is what happens when a white dwarf sucks gas from a companion red giant, until the white dwarf reaches 1.4 solar masses (the Chandrasekhar mass) when the core becomes hot enough to…


An astrophotography exhibition

Astrophotography prizes
January 18, 2014

  Every year La Palma holds an astrophotography contest, and the winning entries from the 2013 contest are now on display in the island’s museum. The inauguration was held on Friday night, and the winners received their prizes. It’s well worth a visit, because the photos are wonderful, and the rest of the museum is interesting too. The museum (and the exhibition) is open from 10 am – 8 pm…