brian's soapbox
     
FEBRUARY 2013

EXPERT OPINION - LETTERS

 

As always, the opinions expressed in these pages are purely and personally those of myself, Brian; they are not the official views of Queen, or of any other organisation or individual.

Reference:
- Lame Claims
- Stereo and Freeview Notes

 

 

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**Fri 15 Feb 13**
ASTEROID !!! CAN BE SEEN TONIGHT !!!
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Sorry it's a bit short notice, folks, but if you're lucky enough to have clear skies tonight, and have a half-decent pair of binoculars, you might get to see an asteroid passing damn close to the Earth !!

It's called (as if it mattered) 2012 DA 14 - and this is a pretty unusual event. The object, an NEO, or Near Earth Object, will be less than 28,000 km from the Earth at its closest. And it's the brightest of such objects to be seen in our lifetimes.

28,000 km might seem a long way … but in Astronomical terms, that's a hair's breadth away from a pretty catastrophic collision. That's closer than our geo-stationary man-made satellites, which handle communications around the world these days. And much closer than Moon. So, although there is no cause for alarm this time, there is no room for complacency as far as Earth-Strike is concerned. Astronomers have only recently been on the case as far as looking for possibly dangerous objects on a collision course with Earth. So far, the news is good, but nobody is quite sure that we have seen every possible candidate.

So this is quite an exciting thing to see. It's only 7th magnitude, so binoculars will be needed (on a firm tripod, or forget it !) - but if we know where to look at the right time (about 9.30 pm), we ought to see a star-like object moving at the rate of two Moon-diameters per minute - quite fast - through a constellation most of us know how to find, looking towards the North - THE PLOUGH.

Click here to see the BAA's blog on the subject …

http://britastro.org/blog/ <No longer available>

And here is their very useful map, showing the path of the asteroid. The best time to find it might be about 9.35 pm when it crosses over the 'handle' of the Plough.

http://www.britastro.org/~rmiles/Images/2012DA14_UKchart_2100-0100UT.png <No longer available>

Here is my hastily coloured version - which might be easier to use at night … the Plough is in Green.


Click image for larger

Good luck !

Cheers !

Bri

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**Thu 14 Feb 13**
MYTHS AND TRUTHS QUESTION REGARDING CONSTELLATIONS

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[See LETTERS - HERE]

Well, Rory, thanks for writing. As I understand it, your info on constellations is pretty much correct.

The stars that we see in our skies are at all different distances from us ... from just a few light years to hundreds, or at most a few thousand. The most distant object we are ever likely to see with the naked eye is the Andromeda Galaxy, at about 2.5 million light years, which of course is well outside our own Milky Way Galaxy, which contains ALL the separate stars we see in the sky.

Since the stars are fairly randomly distributed along any line of sight, it's pot luck as to what shapes, or constellations, they form as seen from Earth.

The stars of the Plough, for instance, though forming a nice group in our skies, are at all different distances from us, and moving in different directions, so in a few million years the Plough will look very different.

However, as you say, some groups we see actually ARE close together in space. This is certainly true of the Pleiades, which are a genuine stellar cluster situated at about 440 light years from us. The core of this cluster is only 8 light years across. And most (though not all) of the stars in Orion are also close to each other in space. Looking at the list, the major stars in Orion are anything from 243 to 1,360 light years from us. So this is a real group, but not nearly so compact as the Pleiades.

I'm not alone in finding the shape of the Orion constellation inspiring; it was seen by almost every ancient civilisation as the representation of a strong man in the Heavens. A pure accident? Well, if so, a happy one at least. It has certainly given me strength at times of doubt.

Here's a stereo picture to free-view, a schematic 3-D representation of Orion, giving an idea of the relative distances of its component stars. Note that the fuzzy patch around the centre star in Orion's belt is NOT a galaxy, but a nebula - a cloud of gas and dust, out of which stars are being born - which itself is about 1,500 light years away from Australia !

Cheers
Bri

Orion in stereo

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**Mon 11 Feb 13**
BERE REGIS - RESTORING AN ANCIENT FOREST

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Brian May talks one of two Bere Regis public meetings 11 February 2013

We had a great day in Bere Regis today, and that little village so colourfully named Shitterton, or, to the more coy visitors, Sitterton! It was a public meeting, to enable me to explain our plans to restore an ancient woodland in this area, and also to seek advice and comments from the local folks. It's a beautiful area, a wonderful place to bring up your children, and at the time I was contemplating purchasing, there was a threat of the surrounding area being built on to the tune of hundreds of houses. This was a horrific prospect for the villagers. Having purchased the farmland in question, we then set about evolving a plan to return the whole site to its ancient glory as original British woodland. My hope that, under the advice of experts who have been working in this district for generations, is to evolve better ways of Husbandry of the woodland, more humane, with no Culling, no pesticides no herbicides, and of course no hunting for pleasure. This will be a safe place for all creatures, and an environment in which the local people can interact with animals in a way which will benefit everyone. Well, that's my hope anyway.

The reaction I got today was incredibly positive. The place was packed to overflow, and in fact we had to make two presentations instead of one. We got great comments, great ideas and a real feeling of a community moving forward in an exciting new project. I'm very excited myself. I think my favourite memory will be a tiny little girl in purple, who came up to me afterwards and said, "Thank you for doing what you're doing".

I hope we get this right. My feeling, and my hope, is that in 100 years time people will be sitting around in Bere Regis discussing this project and saying - "Our grandparents did the right thing for us!"

The only sour note of the whole day, was an article in the Daily Telegraph ["Brian May upsets farmers with his latest plan to save badgers"] which was pitifully misinformed, mistakeny describing this project as a 'badger sanctuary' - with one of those quotes from NFU boss Peter Kendall saying that a rock star should not be interfering with Farmers' affairs. Mr Kendall is such a nice man that I'm sure he would not be slagging me off unless he's been misinformed. The project, of course, has nothing whatsoever to do with the Badger Cull. And I should perhaps mention that we will not be bringing any animals in from other areas – that would be a very irresponsible thing to do, especially as this is a TB affected area. The purpose of this project is to provide care for the animals who already inhabit these parts, a corridor where they can enjoy life, and enrich the lives of the local people. For me it's also an opportunity to learn.

More soon - and the plans will be on full view to the public.

Cheers - and my big thanks to all who attended the meeting today with such positive energy.

Bri

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**Sun 10 Feb 13**
ASTROFEST
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Had a great day at Astrofest. Thanks to all for being so nice. It's one of my favourite days of the year.

This year was sad without Patrick. But I think we gave him a fitting tribute.

Great pictures from Jamie Cooper --- thanks Jamie.

Cheers

Bri

Remembering Patrick Moore - Jamie Cooper

P.S. amazing poem recital by Jon Culshaw. Touching tribute to Sir Patrick.

Bri

Jon Culshaw
"A snap shot of Jon's very touching and clever poem at the end
- not a great picture from the back of a dark auditorium" - Jamie

More photos HERE

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**Thu 07 Feb 13**
QUEEN VON LICHTEN AT THE SUPERBOWL
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I feel proud of this -

Queen & Helmut VonLichten (E.S. Posthumus): We Will Rock You [Super Bowl...] - http://youtu.be/wgAt6aTGgywy

and here's the music …

We Will Rock You VonLichten
- http://youtu.be/1n8a0JNtBDg

Enjoy, folks !

You know, I miss you, America.

love
Bri

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**Wed 06 Feb 13**`
RIP REG

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Very sad to hear of the passing of Reg Presley.

The Troggs gave us all cause to smile and rock out.

And Reg was a great character
- as well as a damn decent songwriter.

Condolences to all his family and friends.

RIP Reg.


Bri

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**Sun 03 Feb 13**
JAMIE'S AURORAE

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SEE GREAT AURORAS !

http://www.flickr.com/photos/jamie_cooper_pics/

Bri

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