Comet hunt …. Success tonight.

After what feels like an eternity of cloudy weather I got to see comet Holmes.

A bit of clear sky appeared , and the comet was just visible to the unaided eye here (the sky is heavily light polluted where I live).

Without any optical instruments it looks like a star to me – maybe it would be fuzzy in a darker sky.

Using a pair of binoculars at 15x magnification the comet is much like the pictures as seen here , with the exception of the faint green haze outside the brighter disk.

It looked bigger than I expected, and I noticed thet in order to get the most from the view, I had to use “averted vision” that is focusing the view a bit away from the comet. The brighter core is a little elliptic looking and a little offset from the centre of the disk.

If you have a pair of binoculars, you should go out and take a look. The Sky and Telescope link above gives you what you need to find the comet.

This is the third comet I have seen, only Hale-Bopp in April 1997 was bright enough to be clearly seen in the heavily light polluted skies of the western Netherlands, but this unexpected view is much better with a pair of binoculars , or better a telescope using a not too high magnification 20 – 50x should be fine.

Good luck comet hunting.

Comet bursting into the sky.

Two days ago Comet 17P/Holmes was an insignificant piece of ice barely visible in amateur telescopes under dark skies.

Yesterday all that changed . If you have a clear sky, take a look in the constellation Perseus, there you will find an extra “fuzzy star” – visible to the unaided eye. With a visual magnitude og between 2.5 and 3 it should be about as strong as the stars in the “Big Dipper”, “The Plough”, “The big Wagon” or whatever you may call the most well known constellation in the Northern sky. The increase in brightness is about a million times in about 24 hours – quite amazing.

Take a look at for more information – and a star map to find the comet, and Cometography for a bit of history of this comet.

Stop Press: Latest estimates are now magnitude 2 …. even brighter … so the outburst is still in progress.

Here’s hoping for a little clear sky at my place i The Netherlands …

Good luck with comet hunting.

Radio Astronomy and SETI

On 11 october a new radio telescope started operation. The Allen Telescope Array (ATA) in Hat Creek, CA is planned to be extended to an array of 350 dish antennas with a diameter of 6m (20ft) The inauguration was done with the first 42 of these dishes.

The ATA is built to do simultaneous radio astronmical observations and SETI work.

More detail can be found at the website for the SETI institute ATA ppress release.

I am quite excited, since the data collected from the ATA is *much* more than from traditional single dish telescopes , and more than will come from the VLA (Very Large Array) – and for a cost much loser than for older (traditional) radio telescopes.

For more about SETI (Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence), take a look at at the websites :

SETI Institute

SETI League


50 years of the Space Age

October 4th, 1957 saw the first successful launch of a satellite into space.

The (then) USSR lauched “Sputnik 1” becoming the first country entering the Space Age. Its characteristic “beep-beep” sound was heard by radio enthusiasts all over the world on approx. 20 MHz and 40 MHz. MOre information and a recording of the beeps can be found at the Wikipedia page concerning Sputnik 1 . (link at the bottom of the page)

One month later, on November 3rd, a second launch of Sputnik 2 with the first living being put in orbit. The dog Laika, unfortunately, had no way of returning alive to earth.

The first satellite launched by the US was Explorer 1 , on January 31st, 1958.

This marks the beginning of the “Space Race”, which continued through the 1960’s and 70’s.

The Space Age has had a lot of “ups and downs” , and I will come up with some highlights in later posts.

My little contribution to the Eurocon

A family member of mine in Denmark is a young writer (my niece). It does not come from strangers, both her parents have books published.

She writes short stories in the SF and Fantasy genre – and as far as I know, she is writing on a fantasy novel. She has had a few short stories published in Denmark – in collections with other writers.

In 2004 and 2005 she won a Danish SF award in the category 17 – 20 years old writers – and in 2006 at the Eurocon in Kiev the Danish delegation made a presentation on her behalf, and she was awarded an Encouragement Award for New Writers. I had to find thet out by looking into the list of award winners, because she never told me. Imagine my surprise at seeing only two Western European names among the long list of Eastern European writers, one of them hers.

At the Eurocon 2007 she was asked to contribute an English language short story for a “Fanzine” short story collection to be released in connection with the Eurocon. Since she does not write very well in English, she asked me to assist with a translation. The story is only 6 – 7 pages long, so I got started. Not as easy as most people would think, since I wanted to translate the sense of the story, not just the words.

So there you have it – my own little contribution to the Eurocon 2007.

The book has the title “Science Fiction – The Danish Fanzine!” (Issue 15/2007)

On another note, I was talking to another participant of the ‘con and, since he had the book, I mentioned the story and he immidiately went to my young niece and asked her to sign the book. He argued that young writers should be encouraged. I should have been quick with the camera (I wasn’t), because this was a first time experience for her.

As an aside, she had another short story in a book released at the ‘con , albeit in Danish. That book is titled “Lige Under Overfladen” (Just Below the Surface) and is a collection of short stories from young European writers (not yet well known, but who knows if and when ?)

Actually I made a second contribution by taking photos at the convention and delivering 2 CDs with all pics taken on the Friday and Saturday of the convention.

A large selection of those have been published here .