Tagged: astronomy

Astronomy on Bloomsday - Out of Space

Duncan Steel Jun 16, 2019

The name of Michael Faraday is well-known in science, for his pioneering work in both chemistry and physics (in particular electricity and magnetism; hence the name of the SI unit of capacitance, the farad). As a postgraduate student at the University of Canterbury I spent many hours working on experimental radio receivers sat inside a large metallic box … Read More

Connecting comets and rubber - Out of Space

Duncan Steel Jun 11, 2019

Comet Grigg-Skjellerup was one of the first such celestial bodies to be visited by a spacecraft, the Giotto probe which was sent on to encounter it in mid-1992 after having first visited the famous Comet Halley in 1986. Comet Grigg-Skjellerup was discovered about a century ago, independently by a New Zealander (John Grigg) and an Australian (Frank Skjellerup). The younger … Read More

The 250th anniversary of Cook’s observation of the transit of Venus - Out of Space

Duncan Steel Jun 02, 2019

On June 3rd occurs the 250th anniversary of the transit of Venus across the face of the Sun, the observation of which was the prime purpose behind the expedition of HM Bark Endeavour to the South Pacific, under the command of Lieutenant James Cook. Following the measurements of the transit made by Cook and the mission’s scientists in Tahiti, the … Read More

The Great Eclipse of 1919 - Out of Space

Duncan Steel May 29, 2019

Measurements of photographs obtained during the total solar eclipse of 29th May 1919 were pivotal in demonstrating the veracity of Einstein’s General Theory of Relativity, turning him into a household name. The centenary of that event is now upon us, and well worthy of being remembered.  As I sit here typing on my keyboard, my favourite photo showing myself and … Read More

Happy New Year (and a missed Easter) - Out of Space

Duncan Steel Mar 25, 2019

As I write it is March 25th, which was the date of New Year in Great Britain and its colonies until 1752. Indeed, throughout history it was a common date for the start of the civil year in a wide range of European states and principalities, being the traditional date of the vernal equinox, and so the beginning … Read More

Does Earth have a natural prime meridian? - Out of Space

Duncan Steel Mar 20, 2019

We are generally habituated to using the Greenwich meridian as the global standard for mapping and time-keeping, despite it being only 135 years since its adoption. As I show here, if the Catholic Church had adopted in 1582 a more-precise calendar in terms of year length then a natural prime meridian results, in a location that might appear surprising. Read More

It’s crowded at the edge of the solar system   - Out of Space

Duncan Steel Jan 01, 2019

Looking out at the stars it would be easy to think that the solar system is mostly empty, bar the handful of planets circuiting the Sun and the occasional comet we see passing by. The reality, we now know, is that the edge of the solar system contains a vast population of substantial objects orbiting just beyond Neptune, one of … Read More

And so this is Christmas… - Out of Space

Duncan Steel Dec 19, 2018

The date of Christmas is a matter many find confusing, and yet the adopted anniversary is easy to understand if you follow through the history, astronomy and human biology that are involved.  Why is the Nativity commemorated on December 25th, when it is clear Jesus was not actually born on that date? And how can a year be termed “Before … Read More

Skywatching southerners have chance to see selenelion this Saturday morning - Out of Space

Duncan Steel Jul 26, 2018

A few minutes after 8am this Saturday those further south in New Zealand will have a once-in-a-lifetime chance to witness a rare celestial event: a selenelion (or selenehelion). What is that? It’s when the eclipsed Moon can be seen on one horizon, whilst the rising Sun can also be observed near the opposite horizon. One might think … Read More