we’ve just returned from scouting out locations for our upcoming fieldtrip to Tenerife. expect volcanoes, stars, whales, lava tubes, galaxies, dolphins, planets, sea turtles, BBQs, birdlife, botany and more – details coming real soon


in the  vastness of space, fascinating discoveries can be made even when you’re not even looking for them. this is the case for a team of European astronomers who uncovered a new type of pulsating star whilst scouring the skies for planets beyond our solar system

the star, named J0247-25B, is the rarely observed remnant of a stellar collision caused by an expanding red giant smashing into its binary companion star, shearing away up to 90% of the red giant’s mass and leaving behind a hydrogen burning core. using the ULTRACAM high-speed camera the team, led by Dr Pierre Maxted of Keele University, were able to take up to 500 pictures a second to study eclipses of the surviving star in detail, discovering a pulsating, fluctuating luminosity caused by sound waves bouncing around inside the star

in this sound clip you can hear the eerie, quivering pulsations, which reach into the centre of the of the surviving star, pitch shifted up a whole 19 octaves in order to make them audible to the human ear. the moog-esque ‘dial tone’ is caused by interruption during eclipse, whilst the background rumble is produced by the larger SX-Phe type star

writing in the jounal Nature last month, Maxted hopes further observations of this study will go on to reveal insights into stellar collapse and the creation of white dwarfs: “we have been able to find out a lot about these stars, such as how much they weigh, because they are in a binary system. this will really help us to interpret the pulsation signal and so figure out how these stars survived the collision and what will become of them over the next few billion years”



the world’s newest, largest and most complicated telescope is now officially open for astronomy. located high in the deserts of Chile, the European Southern Observatory’s Atacama Large Milllimetre/submillimetre Array (ALMA) is made up of a series of interlinked antennas stretching across an ultra-arid plain 5000m above sea level read more

PopUp Astronomy Club


a series of impromptu astronomy sessions around East London – staring up at the rings of Saturn, Jupiter’s moons, the lunar seas, Uranus (ha ha) and other stuff in space. sign up to the club’s Twitter feed or visit our project page to find out more


Summer Solstice Party

Wednesday 20 June 2012 / 8pm

join us on the longest day of the year for an extended evening of music, conversation and sky worship on the roof of Shoreditch House in East London. Dr Andrew Gregory of University College London will be on hand to discuss what the summer solstice is and what it meant for ancient astronomers while pagan music will come courtesy of The Lovely Jonjo. if the sky is clear we’ll also take a look at Mars and the rings of Saturn through the telescope as the sun slowly sets beyond the western horizon

free for Shoreditch House members. our ticket allocation is now used up – to hear about future events why not subscribe


in our most recent The Scientist column for Topman Generation, we look at the monolith on Phobos and other space oddities…

read more

mars / nudes

we don’t often show nipples on super/collider, but it’s not often that an internationally-renowned artist simultaneously exhibits two shows based on photographs of porn stars and the surface of Mars read more


when seen side by side with, say, the planet Venus, our sun looks pretty huge – but lurking out beyond our solar system are millions upon millions of much bigger stars read more

twice in a lifetime

artwork by Wolfgang Tillmans

pay attention folks – this is the most important heads-up we can give you for the next 105 years. this June, the planet Venus will be visible as it passes in front of the sun for the second – and last – time in our lives

the first transit of our era took place in 2004, but thanks to the way the planets turn the next one won’t take place until 2117. watching a small disc pass in front of the sun may not sound all that thrilling, but seeing this rarest of cosmic alignments unfold gives you a true sense of our place in space. indeed, it was from observations 17th and 18th century transits that we first able to measure the distance between the earth and the sun, and modern observations have helped researchers learn more about how to detect exoplanets orbiting distant stars

Turner Prize-winning artist Wolfgang Tillmans captured seven images of the 2004 transit of Venus, one of which formed the cover of his book Truth Study Center – recently re-released by Taschen as part of a three volume boxset. writing recently in The Guardian, Tillmans called it his favourite shot, and recalled that “observing the 2004 transit through my telescope, which I still have from my astronomy-obsessed teenage days, had no scientific value, but it was moving to see the mechanics of the sky”

read more

The Moon at Luminous Books

Friday 25 November

East London’s loveliest and tiniest bookshop takes its name from the luminous orb in our sky, and celebrates the moon each year with a night of literary-leaning lunar worship. this year’s soirée will see readings by James Atlee (author of Nocturne: A Journey in Search of Moonlight) and Steve Moore (comic book guy and author of Somnium), alongside up close films and images of the lunar surface supplied by us

The Moon at Luminous Books / 6-9pm / free / 3.5 Frederick Terrace, London E8 4EW


Seana Gavin: cosmic worlds

on distant moons and remote mountaintops, crystals slowly grow starwards, while lichens, mosses and funghi creep across the landscape. mushroom clouds bloom on the horizon, while planets and insects hover under orange skies. as strange figures dance on hilltops, expressways cut through canyons made of rock and cities

this is the strange and wonderful world of collage artist Seana Gavin’s mind and art: a surreal set of worlds composed of images from our world, but utterly different. with her first three dimensional work opening this week at b store, and being fans of a good diorama, we thought it high time we caught up her to talk all things cosmic…

read more


if you missed Katie Paterson‘s 100 Billion Suns in Venice there’s another chance to see it at Constellations in Manchester, where a canon will fire 3261 pieces of confetti whose colours correspond to specific gamma ray bursts – the brightest explosions in the universe. for us non-Mancunians, July 4 is a good day to go thanks to a screening and Q&A exploring the special effects that went into creating Brian Cox’s Wonders of the Universe

Space Camp: Kielder


July 2015

a group of explorers spent a weekend discovering the universe amid the darkness of Kielder Forest – which boasts some of the darkest skies in Europe and comprises the third largest protected Dark Sky reserve in the entire world. beyond the chance to escape the city and spend the weekend camping with a bunch of like-minded creative folks, this trip included:

• a late night observing session on Friday at the stunning Kielder Observatory – where we observed galaxies, clusters and nebulas as well as comets and other denizens of the outer solar system using the Observatory’s powerful telescopes
• a visit to Cat Cairn: The Kielder Skyspace by James Turrell
• an Aurora viewing at Kielder Observatory on Saturday
• a daytime solar astronomy session at Kielder Observatory
• free time for creative projects, photography, exploring, relaxing etc


with the days stretching long into the night, summer solstice is nearly upon us – a traditional time of celebration and worship. but what causes this annual change, and why was it so important to the ancients? come find out on Monday as Science Fair™ delves into the fascinating world of archaeoastronomy with Professor Andrew Gregory of UCL for our first outdoor event of the summer



opening today at London’s Sumarria Lunn Gallery, David Rickard’s Time+Trace centres on Exhaust – a 24-hour experiment during which the artist collected his exhaled air for an entire day in a series of foil bags. other science-leaning works include mediations on constellations and pigeon droppings, random chance and, in Stored Capacity #1, the transmutation of lead into gold on heavily-laden shelves



at its brightest, the full moon reaches an apparent magnitude of –12.92, casting shadows and illuminating the ground here on earth. fitting then, that East London’s lovely Luminous Books is celebrating this weekend’s full moon – known in folklore as the Hunter Moon – with an evening of rare books, lunar maps, art by Nahoko Kudo and, of course, hula hooping


_cover detail from The Moon In Focus by Thomas Rackham, courtesy of Luminous Books


just a quick one this week as we’re sending this from the top of a volcano on the Spanish island of La Palma, in the Canaries. we’re at the European Northern Observatory high above the clouds, where some of the world’s most advanced telescopes are based, to shoot a film as part of the 24 Hours, Here series. after a disastrous first night in which high winds claimed our camera (!) we’re heading back to the summit now to try again tonight. you can see more pictures and follow our progress here


_the Gran Telescopio Canarias at sunset


on now at Matt’s Gallery in east East London, Alison Turnbull’s Observatory show takes starcharts, graph paper and the architectural plans for Thomas Jefferson’s observatory as starting points. painstakingly recreating pages from Czech astronomer Antonín Bečvář’s sky atlases, Sea the Stars and Observatory are masterfully hand-painted reminders of an era before digital sky mapping, when artists and astronomers alike relied on the connection between our eyes and the stars


_detail from Observatory, 2010. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 150x180cm

_detail from Observatory, 2010. Oil and acrylic on canvas. 150x180cm


strange goings on in the atmosphere high above Jupiter of late, with ghostly flashes and disappearing clouds spotted by amateur astronomers in recent weeks. it all began in June, when a small bright spot appeared briefly in the clouds. another followed in August, which professional and amateur astronomers have now identified as comets or meteors hitting the gas giant – the first such impacts ever observed. meanwhile, one of the famous planet-wide storm belts that ring the planet has suddenly faded, leaving Jupiter looking markedly different. when – and whether – it reappears remains a mystery


_images by amateur astronomers Anthony Wesley (left) and Masayuki Tachikawa (right)



Turner Prize-winning artist Wolfgang Tillmans’ long-term interest in astronomy led him to photograph the 2004 transit of Venus (pictured), a twice-in-a-lifetime event that next happens in 2012 – and then not again until 2117! as part of a retrospective of his work at Serpentine Gallery, Tillmans and Professor Dimitar Sasselov of the Harvard Origins of Life Initiative will be in conversation next Friday as part of a night of astronomy in the park. you can read our interview with Professor Sasselov on Dazed Digital

image: Venus, transit 2004 C-type print 40.6 × 30.5 cm / Courtesy the artist and Maureen Paley, London. this work has been rotated 90° to avoid cropping



nothing newsworthy about this week’s image, just a lovely shot from the Smithsonian we found while researching astronaut gloves. it shows the lunar south pole, as seen by S-band radar signals at 12.6-cm wavelength probing 1-5 meters below the Moon’s surface. read more about lunar mapping and grab the stunning high res version here

_image: Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum


when we were putting together _S3magazine back in 2006, we paid a visit to one of London’s best-kept secrets: the antique and lovingly volunteer-run observatory high atop Hampstead. since then, we’ve been dying to do an event with them, and on Monday it’s finally happening. Doug Daniels and friends from the Hampstead Scientific Society will be bringing their 6″ telescope to the roof terrace at The Queen of Hoxton to show us what’s up. at the moment, that’s quite a lot – with Saturn, Mars, the moon and Venus strung out in a line as the sun sets. you can find all the info on our Science Fair™ page, hope to see you there


_Mars at opposition, sketched by Doug Daniels


if you fancy a little learning at lunchtime, pop down to the Royal Astronomical Society at Burlington House next Tuesday for what promises to be an interesting talk by the Open University’s Professor John Zarnecki, who designed the Surface Science Package for the Huygens probe which landed on Saturn’s moon Titan in 2005 and collected over 3.5 hours of data from this distant, mysterious world


__drawings: accommodation of the payload and the major subsystems on the top and bottom of the Huygens experiment platform, with Surface Science Package (SSP) highlighted in green. other components include ACP: Aerosol Collector Pyrolyser; BAT-1/5: Batteries; CASU: Central Acceleration Sensor Unit; CDMU-A/B: Command and Data Management Unit; DISR: Descent Imager/Spectral Radiometer; DISR-E: DISR Electronics Box; DISR-S: DISR Sensor Head; GCMS: Gas Chromatograph Mass Spectrometer; HASI: Huygens Atmospheric Structure Instrument; MTU: Mission Timer Unit; PCDU: Power Conditioning and Distribution Unit; PYRO: Pyro Unit; RASU: Radial Acceleration Sensor Unit; RUSO: Receiver Ultra Stable Oscillator; RX-A/B: Receiver Antennas for Radar Altimeter A/B; SEPS: Separation Subsystem; SSP-E: SSP Electronics Box; TUSO: Transmitter Ultra Stable Oscillator; TX-A/B: Transmit Antennas for Radar Altimeter A/B


as part of this year’s If You Could project, filmmaker Michael Moloney and photographer John Hooper spent 24 hours on a hill in the Lake District called Pavey Ark. their stunning 720° panorama starts with the last light of day fading, rotates with the earth as the moon rises and, with Orion finally dropping beyond the hill as the sun rises, continues into the daytime. throughout the night planes and stars traverse the sky, as camera flashes illuminate the landscape, transforming the film from a Koyaanisqatsi-like timelapse into something very special


_still from 24 Hours, Pavey Ark


with this week’s Worldwide Star Count now on, the concerns of space-nerds and environmentalists come together with the issue of light pollution. showing just how much energy we waste throughout the night, skyglow blots out the stars, affects wildlife and can even mess with our sleeping and, um, mating habits. need-less.org has more on the problem and how you can help, plus a handy sky simulator to see what you’re not seeing


_image: Mexico City at night by Fernando Tomás

double club

a ‘we’re living in the future’ photo from earlier this week, with the space shuttles Atlantis and Endeavour side by side at Kennedy Space Center. with Atlantis now way out in space repairing the Hubble space telescope, the second shuttle is on stand-by for a rescue mission if worst comes to worst. another double act blasts off later today, with the European Space Agency launching both the Herschel and Planck space probes on a single Ariane 5 rocket. you can watch the lift-off live this afternoon


_image: Atlantis and Endeavour / NASA / Dimitri Gerondidakis


two good reasons to get up in the wee small hours of tomorrow morning: the dawn chorus is at its peak, as is the Eta Aquarids meteor shower. the best time to witness both starts around 4am, once the bright moon has set but before the sun starts to rise. as it does, you’ll be treated to the odd shooting star and the unbelievably loud and complex spring symphony of birds calling for a mate


_Eta Aquarids colourgrammes from radiometeor.plus.com


the hunt for distant planets should take a giant leap forward tonight, with NASA’s Kepler space telescope poised for launch aboard a Delta II rocket at Launch Complex 17-B at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. once in space, it will scan 100,000 far-off stars in the Cygnus-Lyra region with sensors so powerful that if turned towards earth could detect someone in a small town turning off their porch light


_image: NASA


we usually have a pretty strict policy of ‘no CGI’ – especially when it’s a bit pixelated – but there’s something awesomely artful and 80s about this simulated cosmic ray, as seen by the new Pierre Auger Observatory in the grasslands of Argentina. made up of 1,600 water tanks spaced 1.5 km apart, it detects the radiation emitted by cosmic rays as they hit the earth. the observatory, which will be officially inaugurated today, explains everything in more detail on their website, which also features some Google Earth images of the facility if you’re into that sort of thing


__graphic: auger.org

__water tanks awaiting installation


if the sky stays clear tonight, take a look up and you’ll see something very few people ever get a chance to: an exploding comet. it sounds more dramatic than it looks – without a telescope all you’ll see is a little fuzzy patch in the sky – but Comet Holmes has amazed astronomers as it zooms away from earth, spewing dust in an ever-increasing cloud


_photo: Ginger Mayfield

zoom out

tucked away in the middle of Hampstead, high above London, sits our favourite little observatory. run by the Hampstead Scientific Society, its telescope can pick out the rings of Saturn, craters on the moon and close ups like this shot of the Pleiades. the Society’s new website has a whole load more, along with a winter lecture schedule ranging from sustainable energy to volcanos on Venus


_photo by Doug Daniels, HSS

hall of fame

a good week for the British space set: Stephen Hawking takes a step closer to orbit, scientists celebrate the 45th anniversary of the UK’s first satellite project and the revamped Exploring Space gallery opens at London’s Science Museum. the new room features more robot probes and computer graphics than when we were kids, but you can still marvel at freeze-dried space food

_photo: the Black Arrow rocket / © Science Museum

close up

on Wednesday morning, a small, lonely space probe will come face to face with the biggest planet in the solar system. plunging into Jupiter’s massive gravity well, NASA’s New Horizons will use the close encounter to photograph the gas giant’s swirling storms and the volcanoes of its moon, Io. the fly-by will accelerate the probe to over 52000mph and send it off towards its destination: Pluto


_image: NASA / JHUAPL / SwRl

big bang

science meets religion next Tuesday evening, as Professor John Barrow explores the philosophical side of modern cosmology at St Mary le Bow church in The City in this year’s Boyle Lecture. his speech will be followed by a response by Lord Martin Rees, President of the Royal Society, Astronomer Royal and Professor of Cosmology and Astrophysics at Cambridge


_image: the Boomerang Nebula // © NASA/ESA/STScl/AURA

heads up

over the past week, Comet NcNaught has unexpectedly become one of the brightest in decades. as it races towards the sun, trailing dust and vapour in a long trail, it will be visible to those of us in the northern hemisphere until mid-January. you’ll find it near the western horizon around sunset, clouds permitting


_image: Comet NcNaught over Iowa // Stan Richards