Given that he seems to have appeared in an xkcd strip the other day, and given that he's obviously part of the team who are going to destroy the Earth, this kind of had to be done... ;-)

And, yes, really, that's Professor Brian Cox to you.


Sometime in the very near future...

Dr Brian Cox #3xkcd tells it like it will be. ;-)

And, is it just me, or is the one with the black hair Dr Brian Cox?


Another Lubitel Star Trail

Further to my last attempt at some star trails with my Lomo Lubitel 166B I've now received a scan of the developed film of one I did I did during a session on 2008-02-09.

This time I was using Ilford HP5+ 400. Conditions were less than ideal, the sky was rather hazy for the whole observing session and everything got rather damp pretty quickly (hence the reason there's only one trail for the whole session). However, despite all of this, it's turned out better than I thought it would.

Thanks once again go to Tim Haynes for processing and scanning the film.


Google Sky Map is Here

Yay! Finally! Google Sky Map is here!

I've had a quick 5min play and so far so good.

I really must pull my finger out and go and have a play with the API and see how I could possibly use it on my own site.

Edit: There's a Google blog entry discussing the history of the project and, of course, a YouTube video:


Jodrell Bank: Future Funding

Save AstronomyThe Jodrell Bank website now has a handy page that outlines the problems that could be caused by any cuts in funding. Head over there and bookmark it, it might be useful to refer back to at some point.


Jodrell Bank: Petitions

Via Stuart's twitter:

[10:40:26] astronomyblog: Just found a Downing Street petition to save @jodrellbank http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/jodrellfunding/
[10:40:57] astronomyblog: There appear to be two petitions http://petitions.pm.gov.uk/RadioAstronomy/


Jodrell Bank: Article on the BBC website

The BBC are now carrying an article about the possible threat to Jodrell Bank.

Jodrell Bank: Article on The Guardian website

More news about worries over Jodrell Bank, this time from The Guardian.

Choice quote:

"If Merlin does not run, Jodrell Bank does not exist"

Jodrell Bank: Official Response

Via this tweet on Jodrell Bank's twitter: an official response the STFC Programmatic Review.

Jodrell Bank is faced with closure?

Even more bad news under the save astronomy banner: The Times is running a story today suggesting that the famous telescope at Jodrell Bank faces closure.

I'd gathered from the list of possible cuts on the Save Astronomy website that Merlin was under threat but I hadn't even considered the idea that this might mean that the Lovell Telescope itself would be under threat.

This whole STFC nonsense was depressing to start with, it's almost impossible for me to find the right word to describe my mood now.

Is this it? Has this country given up on physics and astronomy? Has this government now decided that it's really not worth the time or money? I disagree. I'd try and say why I disagree but there's little point when Nigel Hawkes at The Times has done a far better job:

Do any of these discoveries matter? To most people their significance is as remote as the objects they describe. But astronomy is not meant to be useful. It is not a science designed to give us new products or better devices, but to help us to place ourselves in space and time. The understanding of the cosmos begun by the Greek astronomers and carried on by Kepler and Newton has fallen in this generation to astronomers who use radio and X-rays and satellites to deepen our knowledge.
As a parent I can't help but wonder what the trickle-down effect of all of this is. If this carries on it has to have a negative effect on the understanding and teaching of science in our schools. If we, as a country, fail to encourage and support physicists and astronomers who will be around to do the outreach? Who will be around to inspire parents and children alike? Is my son facing a future where only the mundane is taught, where only those things that help him become a good little worker and consumer matter? Will I be left with more of what I experienced yesterday when the main thing he could tell me about his day at school was that he'd been taught a first century zombie story, complete with all the gory details, as if it were fact and as if it were important?

I worry for people like Stuart and Megan. These two (to pick two examples who are associated with Jodrell Bank) people have, one way or another, been an inspiration and have provided lots of encouragement to me personally, even if they didn't know they were doing it. Just the simple fact of knowing that professionals were reading my silly little blog, and were evening linking to it, gave me more confidence to natter on about my small interest in the subject. That in turn encouraged me to try and get more involved in promoting a popular interest in astronomy (to the point that I help out where and when I can with the Society for Popular Astronomy).

I can only see one positive in this news of possible closure. Us Brits like our icons. You don't mess with our icons. You get rid of a British icon at your peril. Jodrell Bank is one such icon. I can only hope that any suggestion of closing Jodrell Bank is akin to a suggestion that funding should stop for the Red Arrows.

Please, somebody tell me this isn't happening. Please, somebody tell me I don't really live in such a short-sighted country.