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Archive for May, 2016

The highlights in the sky this June are an opposition of Saturn on the 3 June and Mercury visible in the morning sky.

The Sun

As most of you know, June is the month when we have the longest day of the year, the Summer Solstice. This is when the Sun reaches as far north in the sky that it can go, and on this day it is overhead as seen from the tropic of Cancer. This year the solstice falls on the 20 June, and in Wales the days are quite long. On 20 June the Sun rises in Cardiff at about 4:55am and sets at about 9:30pm. This means that there is about sixteen and a half hours between sunrise and sunset. Compare this to the shortest day (the winter solstice), when there is only about eight hours between sunrise and sunset; the days are more than twice as long in late June compared to late December!

Although this means that the nights are at their shortest, June is still a good month to look at the night-time sky as there are several interesting things to see.

The Moon

In June the new Moon is on the 5th of the month, and the full Moon on the 20th. So, seeing the night-time sky in the days around the full Moon can be challenging, particularly trying to see any faint objects. On Saturday 11 June there is a conjunction between the Moon and Jupiter. A conjunction is when two bodies appear close together in the sky, and on this night they will be separated by 1.25 degrees from each other. For comparison, a full moon is 0.5 degrees across. They will become visible in south Wales by about 10pm when it is dark enough, over towards the west as they head towards setting at just after 1:30am.

Mercury

On 5 June Mercury will appear as far to the west of the Sun as it can get. Some of you may have been aware that on 9 May Mercury passed across the disk of the Sun, known as a transit. Less than a month after that, Mercury has moved in the sky as it orbits the Sun so that it is now visible before sunrise. On 5 June it will rise at 4:13am in Cardiff, with the Sun rising at 4:57, giving you just over half an hour to catch a glimpse of this elusive planet. On 19 June Mercury will rise at 3:58 in Cardiff, and the Sun at 4:54, giving you nearly an hour to see it. Although Mercury is fairly bright in June, it is still very tough to see it as it will be low near the eastern horizon and the dawn light will quickly make the sky too light to see it. But, it is worth a go!

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Mercury is visible before dawn in June. It reaches greatest western elongation on 5 June. By 19 June it will rise just under an hour before the Sun, so it is possible to catch a glimpse of it before the pre-dawn light gets too strong.

Saturn

On 3 June Saturn will be at opposition, this means we will be passing it as we and it orbit the Sun. On 22 May Mars was at opposition, and has become considerably brighter in the sky over the last several weeks. This does not happen with Saturn, it is so much further away than Mars that it doesn’t really get any brighter as we pass it. But, it is certainly easily visible, and you can use Mars to find it. If you imagine a clock face, Saturn is about about 8 o’clock from Mars on 3 June. Saturn will be visible over the next few months. If you get the chance to look through a small telescope you will easily be able to see Saturn’s rings; this is one of the highlights of the Solar System so if you get the chance it is well worth it.

When you look at Saturn through a small telescope you should see something like this. You may also spot a dot of light near Saturn, this is probably its largest moon Titan, the only moon we know of in the Solar System with a substantial atmosphere. The rings are tiny particles of icy rock, tens of thousands of them in orbit about the planet. The origin of the rings remains a topic of scientific debate, but what you may not know is that Jupiter, Uranus and Neptune also have ring systems, although they are much fainter than Saturn’s.

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Saturn as it might appear through a small telescope. The rings are easily visible through even a very modest telescope.


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Saturn as imaged by the Voyager 2 space probe which flew past it in January 1981.

 

Deep Sky Objects

One of the best deep sky objects (objects outside of our Solar System) to look for in June is Messier 13, one of the best globular clusters in the sky. A globular cluster is a huge collection of hundreds of thousands of stars which orbit the centre of our Milky Way galaxy. One of the most intriguing things about globular clusters is that they only contain old stars, and we believe that they were amongst the first structures to form when our Galaxy formed.

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The globular cluster Messier 13 in the constellation Hercules (image credit Rainer Zmaritsch)

Messier 13 is in the constellation Hercules, and can be found by using the bright star Vega. If you imagine a clock face, Messier 13 (shown as “Hercules Cluster” in this image) is at about 2 o’clock from Vega. The constellation Hercules is also relatively easy to see, it has six bright stars which actually form a letter “H”, very appropriate that it should be called Hercules!

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Where to find Messier 13 (the Hercules Cluster), a visually stunning globular cluster in the constellation Hercules. Hercules is an easy to find constellation, it has 6 relatively bright stars, and lies at about 2 o’clock from Vega. The 6 stars actually make the shape of a letter ‘H’.

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Tomorrow (Sunday 29 May), Wales take on England at Twickenham in a warm-up match before the two countries’ tours of New Zealand and Australia respectively. Quite what the value of this match will be remains to be seen. Many of the England first choice team are not available as Saracens are involved in the play-off to determine the winner of the English Premier League, and Wales are missing their talismanic captain Sam Warburton through injury.

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Sam Warburton is injured for Wales’ warm-up match against England at Twickenham tomorrow (Sunday 29 May).

 

It is true that Wales seem to start every series of matches very poorly, be it the 6 Nations or a tour series, or the Autumn tests series. So, knowing this, Warren Gatland felt his team should  play a warm-up match before embarking on their daunting 3-test tour of New Zealand. As none of the Welsh regions qualified for the Pro-12 playoffs, some of the Welsh players have not played any competitive rugby in the best part of a month; certainly not ideal preparation for touring New Zealand.

It is strange to think of winning a Wales v England match as not being the main concern of Welsh rugby fans; but it is true that for this game we just want to see the Welsh team avoid any injuries and blow off a few cobwebs before we head to take on the All Blacks. If we manage to sneak a win we won’t be complaining, but for once that is not the main goal.

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One of the reasons I enjoy watching Britain’s Got Talent is for moments like this one. Last Saturday’s show had 15-year old Jamie Gilpin and his mother Mel perform an amazing version of “Say Something” which brought them a standing ovation. 

Not surprisingly, Jamie has been bullied at school. Sadly this seems to be par for the course for anyone who is a little ‘different’, and singing as a teenage boy is considered by some Neanderthals as reason to bully someone. I just really hope that he makes it big, then the bullies will be less dismissive of his obvious talent. 

Say something, I’m giving up on you
I’ll be the one, if you want me to
Anywhere, I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on you

And I am feeling so small
It was over my head
I know nothing at all

And I will stumble and fall
I’m still learning to love
Just starting to crawl
Say something, I’m giving up on you

I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
Anywhere, I would’ve followed you
Say something, I’m giving up on you

And I will swallow my pride
You’re the one that I love
And I’m saying goodbye

Say something, I’m giving up on you
And I’m sorry that I couldn’t get to you
And anywhere, I would have followed you

Oh, oh, oh, oh say something, I’m giving up on you
Say something, I’m giving up on you
Say something

Here is a video of their performance 

http://bgt.tellybug.com/content/link/bgt2016/video/416295

Here is the original version by A Great Big World with Christina Aguilera. Aguilera has one of the best voices in music, truly extraordinary. 

Which is your favourite Christina Aguilera vocal performance? 

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At number 21 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “All You Need is Love”. This song was released as a single in July 1967, with “Baby You’re a Rich Man” on the B-side (which is much less well known but also a great song). “All You Need is Love” was written by John Lennon after the Beatles were chosen to take part in the first global live-TV show, Our World. Lennon said that he wanted to write a song with a message which would be understood by everyone.

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At number 21 in Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 100 greatest Beatles songs is “All You Need is Love”.

Although the lyrics are quite simple, they are deceptively profound. Lines such as “Nothing you can see that isn’t shown” and “Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be” are quite philosophical. Not surprisingly, the song was a world-wide hit, reaching number 1 in many countries including the Disunited Kingdom, the USA, Austria, Australia, Canada, the Netherlands and Norway.

Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love

There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done
Nothing you can sing that can’t be sung
Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game
It’s easy

Nothing you can make that can’t be made
No one you can save that can’t be saved
Nothing you can do but you can learn how to be you in time
It’s easy

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

Love, love, love
Love, love, love
Love, love, love

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

Nothing you can know that isn’t known
Nothing you can see that isn’t shown
Nowhere you can be that isn’t where you’re meant to be
It’s easy

All you need is love
All you need is love
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

All you need is love (All together, now!)
All you need is love (Everybody!)
All you need is love, love
Love is all you need
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Yee-hai! (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)

Yesterday (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Love is all you need (Love is all you need)
Oh yeah! (Love is all you need)
She loves you, yeah yeah yeah (Love is all you need)
She loves you, yeah yeah yeah (Love is all you need)

When the lyrics switch from “All you need is love” to “She loves you (yeah yeah yeah)” towards the end of the song, it of course immediately takes you back to their 1963 song, and one cannot help but think of how much the band has changed and evolved in those four years.

Here is a brief clip of the song. It looks like the full version has been removed from YouTube, but the full song can be listened to via your favourite streaming service. Enjoy!

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On May 10, NASA announced that the Kepler mission had discovered and confirmed 1,284 new extra-solar planets (exoplanets). This is the largest trawl of exoplanets ever announced at one time, and takes the total of known exoplanets to over 3,000. It is sometimes hard to remember that the first exoplanets were only being discovered in the mid-1990s; we have come a long way since then.

 

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On 10 May, NASA announced that the Kepler mission had discovered and verified 1,284 new planets, taking the total of confirmed exoplanets to well over 3,000

 

Kepler discovers planets using the ‘transit technique’. This involves staring at a particular patch of the sky and looking for a dimming of particular stars. If the dimming of a particular star happens on a regular basis, it is almost certainly due to our seeing that star’s planetary system edge-one. It is a safe bet that repeated and regular dimming is caused by a planet passing across the disk of the star. This is similar to the effect Mercury would have had on the Sun during the recent Transit of Mercury (see my blogpost here about that event).

Kepler was launched in March 2009 and put into an Earth-trailing orbit. In July 2012 one of the four reaction wheels used for pointing the telescope stopped working. In May 2013 a second one failed, and in August 2013 NASA announced that they had given up trying to fix the two failed reaction wheels and Kepler ceased operation. It used the reaction wheels to keep it pointing at the same patch of the sky, a nearly square patch which covered parts of the constellations Cygnus, Lyra and Draco. This field is shown in the diagram below.

 

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The patch of sky observed by Kepler, covering parts of the constellations Draco, Cygnus and Lyra. The field of view covered 115 square degrees; the Full Moon would fit into this area over 400 times. Within this area there are over half a million stars, with about 150,000 being selected for observation.

 

Although the first exoplanets were discovered using the parallax technique (see my blog here for details of that method), Kepler has led to a huge increase in the number of known exoplanets. In fact, since its launch in 2009, Kepler has slowly become the dominant instrument for detecting new exoplanets. It took a few years for it to do this, as so much data were acquired during its mission that it has taken several years for the results to start coming out.

 

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The growth in the number of exoplanets discovered between 1995 and 2016. Since Kepler’s launch in 2009 the numbers have boomed, with Kepler being responsible for the majority of new discoveries since 2013.

 

Incredibly, in addition to this announcement of 1,284 more confirmed exoplanets, Kepler has found a further 1,327 which are more than likely to be exoplanets but require more study to be confirmed. Of the nearly 5,000 planet exoplanets found to date, more than 3,200 have been verified and 2,325 of these have been discovered by Kepler. Based on their size, nearly 550 of the newly announced 1,284 exoplanets could be rocky planets like the Earth. Nine of these 500 orbit their star in the habitable zone, the zone around a star where we believe it is possible for liquid water to exist. This means that we have discovered a total of 21 exoplanets in the habitable zone.

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The rumours seem to have been true. José Mourinho is going to be at Old Trafford next year. Or, at least, that is what the BBC is saying. But both Manchester United and José Mourinho are, so far, refusing to confirm what now seems inevitable.

 

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José Mourinho looks set to replace Louis Van Gaal at Manchester United, although no official announcement has yet been made.

 

As a number of people have been saying with tongue in cheek, what could possibly go wrong?! We shall see, but having the special one back in the English Premier League certainly adds to the entertainment value; his press conferences are usually great listening. His success will be determined by whether he can return Man U to their former glory, particularly in the Premier League and the Champions League.

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Last Friday, I blogged about Paul Simon in Rolling Stone Magazine’s  list of the 100 greatest songwriters. They place him at number 8. Before I move on to number 7 next week, I have decided to share one of the songs I mentioned in that blog – “Late in the Evening”. This song was released in July 1980 and is from his album One Trick Pony. It got to number 6 in the US singles charts, and number 11 in the Netherlands. In the Disunited Kingdom it only got to number 58.

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Paul Simon’s song “Late in the Evening” was released as a single in July 1980. It is from his album One Trick Pony.

I adore this song. It has such an infectious latin rhythm, and there are also some great lyrics in it too. I bought One Trick Pony when it came out, and this was my favourite song on the album.

 

The first thing I remember
I was lying In my bed
I couldn’t of been no more
Than one or two
I remember there’s a radio
Comin’ from the room next door
And my mother laughed
The way some ladies do
When it’s late in the evening
And the music s seeping through

The next thing I remember
I am walking down the street
I’m feeling all right
I’m with my boys
I’m with my troops, yeah
And down along the avenue
Some guys were shootin pool
And I heard the sound
Of a cappella groups, yeah
Singing late in the evening
And all the girls out on the stoops, yeah

Then I learned to play some lead guitar
I was underage In this funky bar
And I stepped outside to smoke
myself a “J”
And when I came back to the room
Everybody just seemed to move
And I turned my amp up loud and I began
to play
And it was late in the evening
And I blew that room away
The first thing I remember
When you came into my life
I said I’m gonna get that girl
No matter what I do
Well I guess I’d been in love before
And once or twice I been on the floor
But I never loved no one
The way that I loved you
And it was late in the evening
And all the music seeping through

Here is a video of this great song. Enjoy!

 

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Fifty years ago yesterday (17 May 1966), one of the seminal moments in 20th Century popular culture took place in the Manchester Free Trade Hall. Bob Dylan, who had burst onto the folk scene a few years before, was playing to a packed crowd towards the end of his gruelling 1966 World tour. The first half of his set was vintage Dylan, just the man (poet) and his guitar. The crowd were enraptured.

But, it all turned sour in the second half, when Dylan was joined by his band, The Hawks, and proceeded to do an ‘electric’ set. The crowd became restless. Many left; others booed, stamped their feet or started chanting. When he came back on to do his encore, things came to a head.

“Judas!” a man shouted.

“I don’t believe you.” Dylan replied. Then he started getting ready for the encore song. A few seconds later Dylan added

“You’re a liar!”

Then, he turned to his band and said “Play it fucking loud”,  and they ripped into an angry version of Like a Rolling Stone. This is the moment as captured on film, it forms the closing scene of Martin Scorsese’s fascinating documentary No Direction Home.

 

There is also a very interesting in-depth audio documentary about this whole seminal incident, Ghosts of Electricity, made by Andy Kershaw for BBC Radio 1 and broadcast in 1999. It is available here on Andy Kershaw’s website.

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Andy Kershaw’s fascinating documentary about the Bob Dylan “Judas” incident, which was originally broadcast in 1999 on BBC Radio 1.

 

The whole concert was recorded and circulated as a bootleg for many years. For some reason, it became known as the Royal Albert Hall Concert, even though it had happened at the Manchester Free Trade Hall; possibly because the 1966 World tour ended at the Royal Albert Hall on the 26 and 27 May. Dylan sanctioned an official release of the concert in 1998.

 

 

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The cover for Bob Dylan’s “Royal Albert Hall Concert” CD, which includes the “Judas” heckle. In fact, the concert was recorded at the Manchester Free Trade Hall on 17 May 1966.

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On Sunday 22 May, Mars will be at opposition. This is the time when Earth passes Mars in their respective orbits around the Sun, and so Mars is at its closest to us. Because it is at its closest to us it is also at its brightest; an opposition of Mars usually presents the best time to see the planet. Earth, of course, takes 365.25 days to orbit the Sun. Mars takes 687 days, this is known as is its sidereal period. The time between each opposition is 779.96 days, which translates to 2 years and 49.5 days, or just under 2 years and 2 months. This is known as the synodic period for Mars.

For this particular opposition, Mars is between the constellations Libra and Scorpio. Below is a diagram showing where Mars will be at 23:00 BST (11pm) on the night of Sunday 22 May as seen from Cardiff. Unfortunately, for places as far north as Cardiff (which is at a latitude of 51.5 degrees north), this part of the sky never gets particularly high above the horizon. In this diagram, at 23:00, Mars only has an altitude of 11 degrees above the horizon, which is quite low. The highest Mars will appear in the sky during this opposition is at around 1am, then it will  be about 17 degrees above the horizon. This is still quite low but, thankfully due to Mars’ brightness, it should be easily visible.

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The position of Mars at 23:00 on Sunday 22 May as seen from Cardiff. Mars is in the constellation Scorpio, at about 1 o’clock from Antares if you imagine a clock face. At about 8 o’clock from Mars and about 10 o’clock from Antares is Saturn. On Sunday, the Moon will also be nearby, and as it is near full it may impede viewing Saturn.

Although the opposition happens on Sunday 22 May, do not worry if you are not able to see Mars that night (due to cloud or some other reason). Mars will remain bright in the sky for the next several weeks. In fact, if you have been looking at Mars over the last few months you will have noticed that it has brightened considerably as it has approached opposition. Of all the planets, Mars is the one which shows the biggest change as the Earth approaches it, far more than the others.

For example, in late January Mars was nearly 20 times fainter than  it will be on 22 May. Even in late March it was nearly 6 times fainter, now it has brightened to outshine everything else in that part of the sky. But, it will still be pretty bright for the rest of May and into June. If you are lucky enough to be going away anytime between now and mid-June to more southerly latitudes, then Mars will appear much higher in the sky. People in the Southern Hemisphere are getting a much better view of this opposition than those of is in northern latitudes.

Because Mars will be so bright, it should be very easy to find. It has a distinctive red appearance, but not quite as red as Antares, the red giant star in Scorpio. You can use Mars to find other objects nearby. Imagining a clock face, Antares is at about 8 o’clock from Mars, and about 20 times fainter. At about 9 o’clock from Mars and 10 o’clock from Antares is Saturn, which is currently about 8 times fainter than Mars. On the night of Sunday 22 May, the Moon will be quite close to Saturn, and it will also be nearly full. Although this shouldn’t affect your being able to see either Mars or Saturn, you may find that you get a better view of both if you look a few days before or later, when the Moon won’t be nearby.

By late June Mars will have faded to being about 2 times fainter than it will be at opposition, but still a lot brighter than it was in March or April. By July it will have faded further, being about 3 times fainter than when at opposition, and about the same as it was in late April. But, if you are waiting for your summer holidays to get to southern latitudes, Mars will be easily visible in late July and August, and will still be brighter than either Antares or Saturn.

Do oppositions vary?

But, not all oppositions are equal. The planets do not orbit the Sun in circular orbits, but rather in elliptical orbits. We measure how far from being circular an ellipse is by something called an ellipse’s eccentricity; an eccentricity e=0 means that the ellipse is a perfect circle (a circle is just a special case of an ellipse), an eccentricity greater than this means it deviates from a circle. The eccentricity of the Earth’s orbit is e=0.017, pretty close to being a circle. However, Mars has a more elliptical orbit, the eccentricity of its orbit is e=0.09. The only planet with a more eccentric orbit is Mercury. The eccentricity of Mars’ orbit means that the distance between Earth and Mars when they are at opposition varies. For this particular 2016 opposition the distance will be 76.3 million kilometres (about 47 million miles). The figure below shows the distance between Earth and Mars for all the oppositions between 2001 and this one in 2016.

 

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Oppositions of Mars from 2001 to this current 2016 opposition. The figure shows the dates of these oppositions, and also the distance in millions of miles. For this 2016 opposition, the distance will be about 47 million miles, or about 76 million km

During the August 2003 opposition, Mars got to within 55.8 million kilometres. This was, in fact, the closest opposition for many thousands of years; it has been calculated that the last time Earth got this close to Mars was in the year 57,617 BC! The next opposition which will be as close as the 2003 opposition will be in 2287, quite a wait.

Oppositions from 2012 to 2027

Below is a table of the dates of oppositions of Mars from 2012 to 2027, showing for each opposition the constellation in which Mars appears, its distance from Earth (in both Astronomical Units and millions of kilometres), and its apparent magnitude and apparent angular size (in arc seconds). Remember, apparent magnitude is a negative system, a lower number means brighter. As the figure above shows, the closest opposition that has occurred recently was in August 2003. Close oppositions happen when Mars is near its perihelion (closest to the Sun), because this will also mean that it is closer to Earth. These are called perihelic oppositions, and the time between perihilic oppositions is either 15 or 17 years (it alternates).

As the table below shows, the opposition in July 2018 will actually be better than this 2016 opposition, with Mars getting to within 57.5 million kilometres and brightening to a magnitude of -2.8 (which is twice as bright as during this opposition). However, it will be in the constellation Capricorn, which is even further south in the sky than Scorpio; so even lower in the sky for those of us living in northern latitudes.

 

Oppositions of Mars from 2012 to 2027

Opposition Date

Constellation

Distance (AUs)

Distance (million km)

Apparent magnitude

Apparent size 

(arcseconds)

2012 March 3

Leo

0.6745

100.5

-1.2

13.9

2014 April 8

Virgo

0.6219

92.7

-1.5

15.1

2016 May 22

Scorpio

0.5101

76.3

-2.0

18.4

2018 July 27

Capricorn

0.3862

57.5

-2.8

24.2

2020 October 13

Pisces

0.4181

62.3

-2.6

22.4

2022 December 8

Taurus

0.5492

81.8

-1.8

17.0

2025 January 16

Gemini

0.6435

95.9

-1.4

14.5

2027 February 19

Leo

0.6780

101.0

-1.2

13.8

How has Mars brightened over the last year and how will it fade over the coming months?

For those of you who have been looking at Mars over the last few months, you will have noticed how much it has brightened. Here is a table showing the apparent magnitude of Mars on the 21st of each month. If you do not manage to see it during May do not worry, it will remain fairly bright well into June and July and, even in August, it will be outshining Antares and Saturn. If you are heading further south during the summer months, then it would be an ideal time to see Mars.

 

The distance, apparent magnitude and size of Mars from June 2015 to December 2016

Date

Constellation

Distance 

(AUs)

Apparent 

Magnitude

Apparent Size 

(arcseconds)

2015 June 21

Taurus

2.58

+1.5

3.6

2015 July 21

Gemini

2.58

+1.7

3.6

2015 August 21

Cancer

2.54

+1.8

3.7

2015 September 21

Leo

2.43

+1.8

3.9

2015 October 21

Leo

2.27

+1.7

4.1

2015 November 21

Virgo

2.04

+1.6

4.6

2015 December 21

Virgo

1.78

+1.4

5.3

2016 January 21

Libra

1.48

+1.0

6.3

2016 February 21

Libra

1.16

+0.4

8.1

2016 March 21

Scorpio

0.88

-0.2

10.7

2016 April 21

Scorpio

0.63

-1.2

14.8

2016 May 21

Scorpio

0.51

-2.1

18.4

2016 June 21

Libra

0.54

-1.6

17.3

2016 July 21

Libra

0.67

-1.0

14.0

2016 August 21

Scorpio

0.84

-0.4

11.2

2016 September 21

Scorpio

1.01

0.0

9.2

2016 October 21

Sagittarius

1.19

+0.3

7.9

2016 November 21

Capricorn

1.38

+0.6

6/8

2016 December 21

Aquarius

1.57

+0.8

6.0

 

Hopefully you will get a chance to see Mars over the next few weeks or months. If you get a chance to look through a small telescope or binoculars you may be able to make out white near the poles of Mars, these are polar ice caps and are mainly frozen water, with some frozen carbon dioxide. The frozen carbon dioxide has been measured to sublimate into the atmosphere when that particular polar region is in summer, but the water remains permanently frozen. When the pole loses its sunlight, some of the carbon dioxide in the atmosphere freezes again, forming part of the polar cap.

 

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Mars during the January 2010 opposition. Image credit Alan Friedman.

Here is a picture I took of Mars over Cardiff City Hall on Sunday night/Monday morning (15-16 May), at 01:30. For details of the exposure time and aperture etc., see the caption.

 

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Mars over Cardiff City Hall on Sunday night/Monday morning (15-16 May 2016). Mars is just to the right of the clock tower. To the left at about the same height is Saturn, and to the left and low down is Antares. This picture was taken at 01:30 and is a 10s exposure with f/4.4, 44mm focal length and ISO 100 using a Nikon D3200 DSLR.

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Tomorrow (Sunday 15 May) sees the final day of the English Premier League. Unlike every other weekend, when matches are spread out over Saturday, Sunday and Monday, on the final weekend all matches kick off on the Sunday at 3pm.

Leicester City have already won the Premiership title, which is a refreshing change and a remarkable achievement. Last season, Leicester were struggling to avoid relegation, and only a few years ago, in the 2008-09 season, they were in the third tier division (confusingly known as League One). From 2009 to 2014 they were in the second tier (the Championship), gaining promotion to the Premier League at the end of the 2013-14 season. Since the inception of the Premier League in the 1992-93 season, Leicester are only the second team outside of the ‘big four’ (Manchester United, Manchester City, Chelsea and Arsenal) to win the Premiership title; the other time was Blackburn Rovers in 1993-94.

Some of you may know that the team I support is Chelsea, who as defending title holders have had a terrible season. They look set to finish 9th, although if they lose and Stoke win they could finish 10th. Even if Swansea City win and Chelsea lose, Chelsea’s goal difference is so much better than Swansea’s (16 better) that it is nigh on impossible for Swansea to finish above them.

Fittingly, Leicester City play their final game of the season at Chelsea, last year’s champions. Another twist to this story is that Leicester’s popular manager, Claudio Ranieri, was Chelsea’s manager from the 2000-01 season until the end of the 2003-04 season, when he was replaced by José Mourinho. I expect both the team and Ranieri will receive a good reception at Stamford Bridge. Mourinho, of course, started this season as the Chelsea manager on his second spell at the club, but after a string of disastrous results he left in December 2015, and Chelsea have been managed since by interim manager Guus Hiddink.

But, probably the  most intriguing story of this weekend will be whether it is Manchester City or Manchester United who finish in 4th place and get the last Champions League spot. Manchester City play away at Swansea, and Manchester United have a home game against Bournemouth. Man U not only need to win their match, but they need Man City to lose to Swansea in order to finish 4th. If Man City draw and Man U win, both teams will finish on 66 points, but Man City have a much better goal difference. On paper, Man U should beat Bournemouth. Although Swansea are down in 11th place, they have won their last two games, so will be no push over for Man City. It is conceivable that Man U will get the dream results that they crave. 

 

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Leicester City were crowned as champions a few weeks ago, and last year’s champions Chelsea cannot finish higher than 9th, and could finish as low as 10th. The big fight tomorrow is which team in Manchester will get the coveted 4th place spot.

Should Man U fail to finish in 4th I anticipate that their manager, Louis van Gaal, will be sacked. They are in the final of the FA Cup, but this competition has become so much less valued in the last decade or so that I don’t think winning it will save his job. If, on the other hand, Man U do get 4th place then I think van Gaal will hang on to his job, even though he is quite unpopular with the fans. Since Mourinho was sacked from Chelsea in December there have been persistent rumours that he would be replacing van Gaal at Old Trafford. We shall have to wait and see.

Whether it is Man U or Man City who fail to qualify for the Champions League, it will be deemed a disaster for the club that misses out. Man U have the most prolific record of any English team over the last few decades, and Man City have won the Premier League title twice in the last few seasons, and this year got as far as the semi finals of the Champions League. The rivalry between the two Manchester clubs has been intense over the last few seasons, but this weekend one side of the city is going to be very disappointed and the other side will be relieved, if not elated. 

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