Hubble’s history of the telescope

One of the legacies of next year’s International Year of Astronomy will be the education of people from around the world about the history of the telescope and astronomy. As part of this, the team at ESA Hubble has just released a great new vodcast/mini-documentary about the history of the telescope’s invention, in preparation for next year. This first episode introduces the great players in the telescope’s design and invention – including Galilei, Lipperhay and the pioneers of early observational astronomy like Huygens, Herschel (whose house is just down the road from where I am writing this!) and the Earl of Rosse.

This vodcast is actually part of a series that the ESA Hubble team are making so look out for the next few episodes. It’s a perfect introduction to the history of the telescope if you’re learning astronomy, or if you’re simply interested in the halcyon days of leviathan telescopes and the great discoveries of those brilliant early astronomers. Check it out below, or download different formats of the video here.

Brilliant Noise and Magnetic Movie

I blogged a few months ago about an art exhibit, which I saw here in Bristol, about the Sun and magnetic fields. You can see what I thought of them here. Well (via Phil Plait) it seems they have now uploaded those films onto the web. The two films are both innovative, interesting and most of all educating. They’re called Brilliant Noise and Magnetic Movie and they are really worth watching.

Book news (Part II)

Today I began work on the final chapter of the book. It’ll probably take about 4 weeks of writing to complete as I’ve also got to write the captions for the images too – but the point is that I am nearly finished! The chapter I’m currently working on isn’t actually the last chapter, it’s an earlier one. It’s also one of my favourite subjects so that should make this last bit quite fun to write. I’ll keep the blog updated with how it’s going but if I don’t post for a while you’ll know what I’m doing!

Phoenix lands tonight!

The NASA Phoenix probe will come to the end of its journey to Mars tonight/tomorrow morning, landing on Mars at about 12:53am UK time. To keep up-to-date with how the probe is doing there are lots of blogs and live TV feeds for you to read and ‘tune’ into. NASA will have a live feed on NASA TV starting at 6pm EDT (or 11pm tonight if you’re in the UK).

The University of Arizona has a blog here, though they might be a bit to busy to blog during the landing phase! Emily at The Planetary Society has lots of info. here and will be at JPL for the landing and press briefings. Last but by no means least Chris and Doug Ellison have a dedicated Mars Live website about the Phoenix landing here.

I’ll also be updating my shiny new Twitter feed with updates on how Phoenix is doing throughout the night. Oh yes and if it hasn’t already got enough work to do, the Phoenix probe has its own Twitter feed here.

BBC Sky At Night magazine podcast – Episode 2

Episode number two of our podcast is out now. In this episode we have an interview with Stuart Clark about the Tunguska event that happened 100 years ago this June. It’s thought that a comet devastated large parts of Siberia when it exploded over a vast expanse of forest in 1908, felling 80 million trees! Stuart investigates the importance of this event and the mystery that surrounds it for our cover feature, in the magazine, this month. Lots more in the podcast too including my interview with Paul Money about June’s stargazing highlights, storms on Saturn and how to become and astronaut. Listen to it here.

Above: This light toned storm on Saturn has lighting 10,000 times more powerful than that seen on Earth. Find out about it on the podcast. Credit: NASA/JPL/Space Science Institute

WorldWide Telescope released

It’s finally here. Microsoft have just released the WorldWide Telescope, available (for computers with Windows only) on the Microsoft website. I’m on a Mac at the moment so haven’t had a look at it yet, but I’m very excited about it. From what I’ve seen it looks pretty impressive and I’m sure this will prove to be an important tool for astronomy education and outreach.

Herstmonceux Astronomy Festival 2008 lecture

I’m very pleased to announce that I will be giving a talk at this year’s Herstmonceux Astronomy Festival, held at the famous Herstmonceux observatory in Sussex. The subject of my talk will be the science behind the Hubble Space Telescope’s greatest images. To find out more about the festival, which will be held on the 5th, 6th and 7th of September, visit the Observatory Science Centre’s website here.

BBC Sky At Night magazine podcast released

Our new podcast is now out on its very own webpage here. In the first episode Sky At Night magazine’s editor Graham Southorn and I chat about the Royal Astronomical Society’s National Astronomy Meeting that I visited a few weeks ago.

If you listen to the podcast you can also find out what James Bond has been doing at one of the world’s largest observatories (the VLT in Chile), hear about the latest on the plans to upgrade Hubble this summer and the discovery of the youngest extrasolar planet ever found.