Looking on the bright side: Black holes

Here we go again. The world down here on earth is in dire straights, what with climate change and politics and all that. BUT there is something to be proud about. Scientists have managed to capture the first ever image of a black hole. This was achieved, not through people stamping their feet or ignoring …

When space becomes the last refuge for the soul

The last few years have been bad, in terms of climate, politics, humanity. I don’t expect this new year to be much better, unless we all pull our socks up, so to speak. Where once we were forward looking and outward looking, embracing the new, engaging with others, many are now more and more inward …

Collision, collaboration and communication

The other day I read an article on why academics are losing relevance in society. I noticed that it contained a picture of a celebratory cake with the inscription “Here’s to the first direct detection of gravitational waves” (after two black holes collided). This event happened in 2016 and was widely celebrated around the world, …

Jupiter’s Great Red Spot: Puzzles, pictures and participation

Creating new knowledge and reducing ignorance are two basic human needs. Science can help here, if we give it the freedom to do so and don’t chain it like Sisyphus to the rock of industrial production. Space missions are perhaps the prototype of humanity’s quest for knowledge, replacing more earth-bound adventures, expeditions and explorations, such as those undertaken by Alexander …

Juno, Jupiter and the art of citizen science

With political and moral life here on earth being in utter turmoil, images of/from Jupiter beamed down to our little planet by the Juno space probe have recently kept me sane (as far as that’s possible). They brought with them glimpses of beauty and moments of wistfulness. A year or so ago, I wrote a blog post …

Cassini: Space probes, history and women

I have just read a lovely article by Rebekah Higgitt on the various Cassinis that worked in France as astronomers. One of them was Giovanni Domenico (or Jean Dominique) Cassini (8 June 1625 – 14 September 1712), the first director of the observatory founded by Louis XIV, and discoverer, amongst other things, of four satellites of the planet …

Something for nothing

This is a blog post about nothing in particular. It’s more a stream of thoughts and associations… But in the end I’ll be talking about Kepler and snowflakes and Pluto and its moon. Nix The other day I was talking to my sister. She asked in German whether I had an idea for my next …

The mystery of the missing Martians

When the present is depressing and the future uncertain, it is sometimes nice to retreat to the past, especially to past futures. I recently tried to distract myself from the present by staring at Venus, Moon and Mars illuminating the evening sky. I then led my eyes wander around the internet and I inadvertently came …

Jupiter and Juno

Once in a while I write a blog post about space missions – and there have been quite a few recently. I especially enjoyed the Rosetta mission to 67P and the New Horizons mission to Pluto. Now another mission has crossed my horizons, namely the Juno mission to Jupiter. While Pluto was believed to be …

Ripples of rumour and ripples in space: LIGO and gravitational waves

For some days now I have been seeing announcements on twitter that the Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) would make an announcement about the detection of gravitational waves today. (The best description of these self-referential announcements can be found on Mark Hannam’s blog!) In 2014 I got a bit excited about an announcement that gravitational …