Babe Among the Stars

1 Conversation

Galaxy Babe's column banner, showing a full moon and some little folk looking up at the sky

Mortal as I am, I know that I am born for a day. But when I follow at my pleasure the serried multitude of the stars in their circular course, my feet no longer touch the earth - Ptolemy

Babe Among the Stars 5 - 18 June 08

The Past

On 6 June, 1761, there was a transit of the planet Venus across the face of the Sun. This had been calculated by Astronomer Royal Edmond Halley (1656 - 1742), but he knew he would not live to see the event itself. Still, he left detailed plans and papers to ensure that expeditions were sent out in advance to the furthest reaches of the globe to witness and return precise recordings. As it was, the only successful observation from the southern hemisphere was by British astronomer Charles Mason at Cape Town, South Africa.

The Present

Last month saw the Phoenix Lander plunge to the surface of Mars. From a hitherto-unexplored region, the lander was able to start relaying video footage of the surface back to NASA almost immediately. The journey from Earth had taken ten months, so it was with much relief that the landing was successful. There is a British team involved and regular updates on the progress of the mission can be found at BBC News and also the NASA Phoenix homepage.

Outside of Time

The artistic impression of a giant black hole being ejected from its home galaxy at 2,650km/s looks rather like our 'flan' smiley, or possibly the 'ufo' one. Some scientists are claiming that evidence for this phenomenon exists, though others, including Astronomer Royal Sir Martin Rees, pooh-pooh the idea. The ejection is believed to be generated when two supermassive black holes venture too close to each other, and rather than merging, one boots the other more like a rugby player would deliver a kick to an ovaloid ball—the unleashed energy on a galactic scale releases a spectacular amount of gravitational radiation, and some researchers think this would cause an imbalance in space-time. Sounds like science fiction but if it's true it's not something you'd want a ringside seat for, this battle of the heavyweights is best viewed from far, far away.

The Future

The next transit of Venus will occur on 5 - 6 June, 2012, should you wish to plan your holiday around the event, Hawaii is recommended as the whole of the transit will be viewable from there. Although, don't be too disappointed if you can't get away, it will be possible to observe1 the last hour of the transit from the UK at sunrise on 6 June.

Diary Dates

Special thanks to Deke and Pailaway for providing me with information for this edition.

Babe Among the Stars Archive

Galaxy Babe

05.06.08 Front Page

Back Issue Page

1You should never look at the Sun directly. Please teach children this cardinal rule at the earliest possible opportunity.

Bookmark on your Personal Space

Conversations About This Entry



Infinite Improbability Drive

Infinite Improbability Drive

Read a random Edited Entry


h2g2 is created by h2g2's users, who are members of the public. The views expressed are theirs and unless specifically stated are not those of the Not Panicking Ltd. Unlike Edited Entries, Entries have not been checked by an Editor. If you consider any Entry to be in breach of the site's House Rules, please register a complaint. For any other comments, please visit the Feedback page.

Write an Entry

"The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is a wholly remarkable book. It has been compiled and recompiled many times and under many different editorships. It contains contributions from countless numbers of travellers and researchers."

Write an entry
Read more