Out of Space

Lunar eclipse on Wednesday

Duncan Steel May 23, 2021

Lunar eclipse visible from NZ on Wednesday There will be a total lunar eclipse to be seen from throughout Aotearoa New Zealand on the evening of Wednesday May 26th, easily visible to all just as long as clouds do not intervene. An eclipse of the Moon occurs when it passes close to opposite to the Sun in the sky, … Read More

Great conjunctions and the star/comet of Bethlehem

Duncan Steel Dec 20, 2020

There have been many articles in the mass media about the ‘Great Conjunction’ between Jupiter and Saturn that will occur on December 21st. Some of them have been good, and informative. Many have been fairly poor. Others have been… well, weird. Some writers have imagined that there is something vitally significant about the conjunction (the close approach to each other … Read More

Big Eye Wide, But Shut

Duncan Steel Nov 23, 2020

A few days ago the US National Science Foundation (NSF) announced the decommissioning of the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. This story has been the subject of items in the mass media around the globe, and also in New Zealand. Cables supporting the massive horns and radio receivers above the dish have snapped, the actual dish surface has been … Read More

Water on the Moon?

Duncan Steel Oct 27, 2020

The space news this week is largely focused on an announcement from NASA regarding the discovery of water on the Moon. Not liquid water – the lunar surface is far too cold for that – but apparently ice deposits in the surface layers in near-polar regions, and perhaps deeper below the surface too. Finding water on the Moon in an … Read More

Science at the movies: The new comet impact film

Duncan Steel Oct 22, 2020

Disaster movies forever capture the public attention… but did you ever stop to think that the word disaster actually means bad star? That is, ‘dis’ implies a pejorative (as in disease, or disgust, or disrespect), while ‘aster’ comes from the Latin astrum, similarly the Greek astron. Obviously enough, this derives from old astrological beliefs. In modern science, asteroids are called that … Read More

Possible inter-satellite collision on Friday

Duncan Steel Oct 14, 2020

Two objects in low-Earth orbit may collide with each other on Friday, in a hyper-velocity impact which would lead to millions of fragments being left on-orbit, each potentially-lethal to functioning satellites. Fingers crossed (not that I am superstitious) that it is a miss, rather than a hit. One local media article is available here. Above I wrote ‘objects’ because … Read More

Small asteroid to make near-miss of Earth in NZ skies tonight

Duncan Steel Sep 24, 2020

Sorry for the late notice on this one, but I only just heard myself, in common with most of the human race. A small asteroid, somewhere between the size of a truck and the size of a house in dimensions, will hurtle past the Earth tonight, dipping closer to our planet’s surface than the altitude at which TV transmission and … Read More

The fate of the albatross

Duncan Steel Jun 19, 2020

Yesterday I wrote that I can find some reason to celebrate almost any date, and today (19th June) is no exception: it’s World Albatross Day. Unfortunately the day began with a news story concerning a commercial fishing boat killing four endangered Antipodean albatrosses off NZ’s East Cape. Even more unfortunately, such events are not unusual, with several … Read More