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Archive for March, 2015

Later today, at 2:30pm, Wales will take on Ireland in one of the most eagerly anticipated matches of this year’s 6 Nations. After a poor start to our 2015 6 Nations campaign, with a loss to England at home, Wales have now won two matches away from home to Scotland and France. We are now back in the hunt, and if we can pull of a win against Grand Slam-chasing Ireland, we are certainly in good shape to win 4 our our 5 matches and possibly even the 2015 6 Nations Championships.

However, Ireland present formidable opposition. They are not only unbeaten so far in this year’s 6 Nations, but are unbeaten in their last 10 matches! As I have mentioned before, they beat both South Africa and Australia in their Autumn test series, and easily beat England two weeks ago in Dublin. Of course I want Wales to win, but realistically we are going to have to play as well as we did against South Africa in November to stand any chance of overcoming a very good Ireland team.



Today's match between Wales and Ireland is a huge game for both sides.

Today’s match between Wales and Ireland is a huge game for both sides.



With all respect to Italy, whom we should beat next Saturday, today’s match is our last real test before the World Cup. So a win over a very good Ireland team would do wonders to the Welsh team’s confidence, as well as giving us a chance of winning the 6 Nations.

As the match kicks off, I will be on a bus from Valparaiso to Santiago in Chile, at the end of the cruise on which I have been giving astronomy lectures. I am hoping we get to Santiago in time to see the second half (it is being shown on the US Sports Channel ESPN2), but I am also going to look into getting a Chilean SIM-card for my phone so I can follow the match on-line on the bus! Fingers crossed that the Welsh boys can lift themselves and get what would be an unexpected win against all-conquering Ireland. I can only imagine how big the anticipation is in Cardiff today.

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At number 59 in BBC Radio 2’s 100 best guitar riffs is “Good Times” by Chic. It was written by Chic band members Bernard Edwards and Nile Rogers, and released in 1979. To me it is very typical of the kind of disco music so popular in the late 1970s, but what makes it better than many others of that genre is the really funky bass line played by Nile Rogers.



At number 59 in BBC Radio 2's 100 best guitar riffs is "Good Times" by Chic.

At number 59 in BBC Radio 2’s 100 best guitar riffs is “Good Times” by Chic.




Good times, these are the good times
Leave your cares behind, these are the good times
Good times, these are the good times
Our new state of mind, these are the good times

Happy days are here again
The time is right for makin’ friends
Let’s get together, how ’bout a quarter to ten
Come tomorrow, let’s all do it again

Boys will be boys, better let them have their toys
Girls will be girls, cute pony tails and curls
Must put an end to this stress and strife
I think I want to live the sporting life

Good times, these are the good times
Leave your cares behind, these are the good times
Good times, these are the good times
Our new state of mind, these are the good times

A rumor has it that it’s getting late
Time marches on, just can’t wait
The clock keeps turning, why hesitate
You silly fool, you can’t change your fate

Let’s cut the rug, little jive and jitterbug
We want the best, we won’t settle for less
Don’t be a drag, participate
Clams on the half shell and roller skates, roller skates

Good times, these are the good times
Leave your cares behind, these are the good times
Good times, these are the good times
Our new state of mind, these are the good times

Good times

A rumor has it that it’s getting late
Time marches on, just can’t wait
The clock keeps turning, why hesitate
You silly fool, you can’t change your fate

Let’s cut the rug, little jive and jitterbug
We want the best, we won’t settle for less
Don’t be a drag, participate
Clams on the half shell and roller skates, roller skates

Good times, these are the good times
Leave your cares behind, these are the good times
Good times, these are the good times
Our new state of mind, these are the good times

Good times, these are the good times
Leave your cares behind, these are the good times
Good times, these are the good times
Our new state of mind, these are the good times

Good times, these are the good times
Leave your cares behind, these are the good times
Good times, these are the good times
Our new state of mind, these are the good times


Here is a video of this disco funk anthem. Enjoy!



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At number 13 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest songs of all time is “Yesterday” by The Beatles. This song is also the most recorded song of all time, having been covered by thousands of other artists. Although credited to Lennon and McCartney, as was their agreement throughout The Beatles’ time together, the song was written by McCartney on his own, possibly the first Beatles song to have been composed exclusively by just one of the song-writing pair. It was even apparently recorded by just McCartney, without the other Beatles present, in June 1965. It was included on their album “Help”, and to me is McCartney at his best. He apparently woke up with the melody in his head, and when he started playing it on the piano he thought he had stolen it from someone else as the melody seemed so familiar to him. McCartney has referred to it as “the most complete song I have ever written.”



At number 30 in Rolling Stone Magazine's '500 Greatest Songs of all Time' is "I Walk the Line" by Johnny Cash.

At number 13 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s ‘500 Greatest Songs of all Time’ is “Yesterday” by The Beatles.



It was never originally released as a single in the Disunited Kingdom (although it subsequently was in 1976), but it was in many other countries and it got to number 1 in the United States. It went on to become one of the biggest selling singles by The Beatles.


Yesterday, all my troubles seemed so far away
Now it looks as though they’re here to stay
Oh, I believe in yesterday

Suddenly, I’m not half the man I used to be
There’s a shadow hanging over me.
Oh, yesterday came suddenly

Why she had to go I don’t know she wouldn’t say
I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday

Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday

Why she had to go I don’t know she wouldn’t say
I said something wrong, now I long for yesterday

Yesterday, love was such an easy game to play
Now I need a place to hide away
Oh, I believe in yesterday
Mm mm mm mm mm mm mm


Here is a video of this wonderful song. Enjoy!





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Continuing my blogs on the five top facts about Jupiter which were posted as a tweet during my appearance on BBC Radio 5’s morning show a few weeks ago, at number 4 in my list was –


It [Jupiter] has more than 60 moons, four of which were discovered by Galileo in 1610


The four Galilean moons were the first moons to be discovered orbiting another planet, back in January 1610 when Galileo first turned his newly-fashioned telescope to look at Jupiter. Initially he thought the four bright dots he could see near Jupiter were background stars, but as he observed Jupiter over a period of several weeks he saw that not only did these bright dots follow Jupiter as Jupiter moved against the background stars, but they appeared to “dance” around it. He realised quite quickly that he was seeing moons orbiting another planet.



The actual sketches that Galileo made in January 1610 in his notebook of the moons of Jupiter

The actual sketches that Galileo made in January 1610 in his notebook of the moons of Jupiter



The four Galilean moons are called (in order of distance from Jupiter) Io, Europa, Ganymede and Callisto. The usual pneumonic for remembering this is I Eat Green Carrots, or In Every Good Class 🙂 I will do a series of blogs about each of these moons, as each one is fascinating and have been studied in detail by the Galileo space probe in the 1990s. But, one thing I will mention here is that you can see this four moons with just a pair of binoculars or a low powered telescope, you do not need any highly sophisticated equipment. If you are trying to see them with binoculars then the trick is to steady your elbows on something like a wall or the roof of a car, and lean against something to reduce any wobbling.



How Jupiter appears through a small telescope. On a good night with steady air the bands should be visible, and the Galilean moons are easy to spot.

How Jupiter appears through a small telescope. On a good night with steady air the bands should be visible, and the Galilean moons are easy to spot.



Another thing I will mention in this blog is that Io only takes about 2 days to orbit Jupiter, and so in the matter of just a few hours you can see a change in its position. If you look at Jupiter at e.g. 8pm and then again at e.g. 2am, or even midnight, you will see that Io has moved. The best way to know which moons are where is to go online and do a search for “jupiter moons positions” or something similar, and you should be able to find a chart which shows which moons are where (east of west of Jupiter, or behind or in front of it) on which nights.

Jupiter has many other moons, and more are being discovered, but they are all tiny compared to the Galilean moons. The Galilean moons and Jupiter form what is, in many ways, a mini Solar System, and I will talk more about that when discuss Io and Europa in more detail in future blogs.

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At number 75 in BBC Radio 2′s 100 best guitar riffs is “My Sharona” by The Knack. This song was released in the summer of 1979, and I remember it very well. It got as high as 6 in the Disunited Kingdom singles charts, and in the US it got to number 1. It has an incredibly infectious guitar riff, and is one of those songs that just sticks in your head when you hear it a few times.

At number 75 in BBC Radio 2's 100 best guitar riffs is "My Sharona" by The Knack.

At number 75 in BBC Radio 2’s 100 best guitar riffs is “My Sharona” by The Knack.


This song is not sophisticated in any way, but it has a driving repetitive beat and repetitive lyrics, all that is needed for a hit song!

Ooh, my little pretty one, my pretty one
When you gonna give me some time, Sharona
Ooh, you make my motor run, my motor run
Got it coming off o’ the line, Sharona

Never gonna stop, give it up, such a dirty mind
I always get it up, for the touch of the younger kind
My, my, my, aye-aye, whoa!
M-m-m-my Sharona

Come a little closer, huh, a-will ya, huh?
Close enough to look in my eyes, Sharona
Keeping it a mystery, it gets to me
Running down the length of my thigh, Sharona

Never gonna stop, give it up, such a dirty mind
I always get it up, for the touch of the younger kind
My, my, my, aye-aye, whoa!
M-m-m-my Sharona
M-m-m-my Sharona

When you gonna give to me, a gift to me
Is it just a matter of time, Sharona?
Is it d-d-destiny, d-destiny
Or is it just a game in my mind, Sharona?

Never gonna stop, give it up, such a dirty mind
I always get it up, for the touch of the younger kind
My, my, my, aye-aye, whoa!
M-m-m-m-m-m-m-my, my, my, aye-aye, whoa!
M-m-m-my Sharona
M-m-m-my Sharona
M-m-m-my Sharona
M-m-m-my Sharona

Ooooooo-ohhh, my Sharona
Ooooooo-ohhh, my Sharona
Ooooooo-ohhh, my Sharona

Here is a video of this great song. Enjoy!


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One of the lectures I will be giving on my cruise from Buenos Aires to Santiago is how the sky as seen from the southern parts of South America will look considerably different to the skies that Europeans and people from North America are used to seeing. Let me explain some of the obvious differences. First of all, although the Sun rises in the East and sets in the West in both the northern and southern hemisphere, if you are as far south as the southern parts of South America you need to look north to see the Sun. This means that you are facing north, and the Sun will appear to move from right to left across the sky, not from left to right as we northerners are used to seeing it. This can be quite disorientating.

Jupiter, and all the other planets, are visible from the Southern Hemisphere but again, one needs to look north to see them, not south. Just as in the Northern Hemisphere, Jupiter will dominate the evening sky for the next several months, and is in the constellation Cancer, slowly moving eastwards into Leo over the next 6-12 months.

The evening sky from Buenos Aires on the xx of March 2014. Jupiter is clearly visible, and will dominate the evening sky for the next several months. Notice up (further south) from Jupiter is the bright star Canopus, which again cannot be seen from Europe or North America

The evening sky (7:15pm) from Buenos Aires on the 5th of March 2014. Jupiter is clearly visible, and will dominate the evening sky for the next several months. Just as with the Sun, from this location you need to look north to see Jupiter, not south as in the Northern Hemisphere.


This next diagram below shows Orion and Sirius, two very well known things in the winter sky, but as you can see from the Southern Hemisphere everything looks upside down! We are used to seeing Orion with Betelgeuse in the top left and Rigel in the bottom right, but from Buenos Aires this is flipped; Betelgeuse is in the bottom right, and Rigel in the top left (just imagine looking at Orion from the Northern Hemisphere but standing on your head to do so!). Just as confusingly, we are used to seeing Sirius (the brightest star in the sky) below Orion, closer to the horizon, because it is to the south of Orion. But, from Buenos Aires, it is above it, further away from the horizon. Very confusing!

This shows how confusing the southern skies can be to someone from the Northern Hemisphere. Orion is upside down, and Sirius is above (further south) Orion, not below as we see it in the Northern Hemisphere.

This shows how confusing the southern skies can be to someone from the Northern Hemisphere. Orion is upside down, and Sirius is above (further south) Orion, not below as we see it in the Northern Hemisphere.


During the cruise, the other very bright object that people cannot miss is Venus, which is dominating the early evening sky. Venus will be at greatest eastern elongation on the 6th of June, which means that between now and then it will be moving further and further to the east of the Sun as seen from Earth (remember both we and Venus are moving in orbit about the Sun as this is going on), and as it moves further and further east the time between sunset and Venus setting gets bigger and bigger. On the 5th of March the Sun sets at 7:25pm from Buenos Aires, and Venus will set at 8:46pm. This gives a good hour to see Venus after sunset.
By early June, from the same location, the Sun sets at 5:50pm and Venus will set at 9:04pm, giving about three hours.



Venus is the evening sky as seen from Buenos Aires on the 5th of March at 7:14pm. At the moment Venus and Mars are close, and Uranus is near them too.

Venus is the evening sky as seen from Buenos Aires on the 5th of March at 7:14pm. At the moment Venus and Mars are close, and Uranus is near them too.



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At number 14 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s 500 greatest songs of all time is “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan. This song was written by Dylan in early 1962, recorded in July 1962 and released as a single in August 1963. It also appears on his second album “The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan” which was released in May 1963.



At number 30 in Rolling Stone Magazine's '500 Greatest Songs of all Time' is "I Walk the Line" by Johnny Cash.

At number 14 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s ‘500 Greatest Songs of all Time’ is “Blowin’ in the Wind” by Bob Dylan.



This plaintive song became an anthem of the protest movement of the early and mid-1960s. For me it is difficult to conceive of how Dylan could write such a masterpiece when he was just turning 21 years of age. Here are the spellbinding lyrics of this song – an announcement at the time to the World that Dylan was a poet and songwriter of the highest calibre.

How many roads must a man walk down
Before you call him a man ?
How many seas must a white dove sail
Before she sleeps in the sand ?
Yes, how many times must the cannon balls fly
Before they’re forever banned ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, how many years can a mountain exist
Before it’s washed to the sea ?
Yes, how many years can some people exist
Before they’re allowed to be free ?
Yes, how many times can a man turn his head
Pretending he just doesn’t see ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Yes, how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky ?
Yes, how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry ?
Yes, how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died ?
The answer my friend is blowin’ in the wind
The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

Here is a wonderful video of Dylan performing the song live on TV in March 1963. Enjoy!





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