Tag Archive: astronomy

midpoint of partial solar eclipse, 85%

midpoint of partial solar eclipse, 85%

… actually it was 85% coverage of the sun by the moon in a solar eclipse. At our latitude we saw a partial eclipse. To see a total eclipse, assuming that the weather was kind, would involve a trip to the Faroes, which was out of the question for us. Still, I was able to take a few photos using a homemade solar filter. (I should add that the paper was high quality specialist film which I had bought previously when I thought we might see the transit of Venus. As it was, the weather was inconvenient then).

Given that I was using a bridge digital camera (mid-way between point-and-shoot and, say, a digital single lens reflex (DSLR) camera) and filter holder made from a “Pringle’s” tube, I think I did quite well.

Sir Patrick Moore 1923 – 2012

With Arthur C. Clarke, Isaac Asimov and Carl Sagan, Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore helped foster my interest and understanding of astronomy. I’m not an avid fan of “The Sky at Night” partly because it lives up to its title and is generally broadcast late at night. However, it is a notable achievement to present a TV program every month (bar one) for over 55 years. He wrote many books and it is some of those which have informed me over the years more than the TV series.

Having never met him I’ll leave it to others to describe his life in more detail: see The Guardian, The Daily Telegraph and the BBC websites for example. There is a brief autobiography on this BBC web page from 2008. He was an eccentric and an enthusiast. However, he was not just a respected amateur astronomer. He wrote books, included scientific ones as well as fiction, he composed and played music, appeared in comedy and children’s TV programmes and as a young man served in the RAF during World War II. It was then that he loved and lost his sweetheart during an air raid. Subsequently he never married.

Sir Patrick met many amateur astronomers, young and old, as well as famous scientists and pioneers including Orville Wright, Alert Einstein, Yuri Gagarin and Neil Armstrong. His detailed maps of the moon were used by both Russia and America in their lunar missions of the 1960’s. They were also used by the Apollo missions.

Sir Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore OBE FRS, born in Pinner, Middlesex, 4th March 1923, died in Selsey, Sussex, 9th December 2012

I still haven’t got the hang of taking night-time photos but these two pleased me given that I’m using a bridge camera (not a DSLR). Jupiter is a bit blurred but that is because of the trail caused by a 1 second exposure without any kind of tracking. The Moon has some discernible detail – also a 1 second exposure. For the rest of the settings I chose “landscape” from the scene menu and hoped for the best for things like focus and aperture. So really it’s “well done” to the camera!

Jupiter and four moons

A gibbous moon

National Space Centre

We took a few photographs when we visited the National Space Museum in Leicester but most of the time was spent looking, pressing buttons, driving a space rover and the like. We also saw the show “We are astronauts” in the newly renamed Sir Patrick Moore Theatre. The show was OK but much of the content was already familiar to us.

National Space Centre, Leicester


Inside the National Space Centre


Blue Arrow (UK) and Thor (USA)

A more perfect heaven

Or “How Copernicus revolutionised the Cosmos”, by Dava Sobel (who also wrote “Longitude”).

This book centres on a meeting between Nicolaus Copernicus and Georg Joachim Rheticus after which Copernicus agreed to publish his theory and astronomical observations. In it he puts the sun at the centre of the observable universe instead of the earth. A revolutionary idea not least because it meant a fundamental shift in understanding how the universe works. With his insight it could be realised that the earth moves, revolves, contrary to common sense (we see the sun rise and set) and contrary to the common understanding of parts of the Old Testament ( see Joshua chapter 10 and Psalms 93 and 96).

The book is in three parts. The middle section is a play based on the author’s historical research and speculates on Copernicus’ meeting with Rheticus. The other two parts give some “before and after” historical details. I had forgotten, for example, that Copernicus was a contemporary of the Reformation: a time rife with controversy between Lutherans and Roman Catholics. I learned some of the complicated history and geography of Poland and Germans states; and I discovered that Copernicus was a Canon in the service of the Roman Catholic Church.

Having said that, I am sorry to say that this book shared a characteristic of “Longitude” (also by Dava Sobel). By being reasonably thorough it was not exactly a gripping read and I nearly gave up reading it more than once. It accompanied me while I ate my breakfast porridge and while both have been reasonable food for body and mind it was by no means obvious which was the stodgier. The play was OK – probably better seen than read – but if shown on TV then a couple of scenes are best placed after the watershed.

For general interest I would probably rate this somewhere between 3 or 4 stars; for style only 2. As I don’t expect to read it again (I’ve since returned it to the local library) I give it 2 stars overall or 5 out of 10.

Nonetheless, this churchman, Nicolaus Copernicus, did not set out to challenge the Faith he had inherited although he did challenge some of the assumptions people made about it. He is significant for the advances in understanding our universe that his book and heliocentric universe helped to make; credit must be given to him for that.

For this post I’ll let him have the last word.

“So vast, without any question, is the divine handiwork of the most excellent Almighty”, Nicolaus Copernicus

Global Mean Temperature

Came across this today. Posted just as a matter of interest

%d bloggers like this: