Backyard astronomy

The Whirlpool Galaxy. It's spiral structure was discovered by the Earl of Rosse with his backyard telescope in 1845.
The Whirlpool Galaxy. It’s spiral structure was discovered by the Earl of Rosse with his backyard telescope in 1845.

Recent reports in the media about a new radio telescope in the grounds Birr Castle has firmly shone a spotlight on the astronomical heritage of Ireland. From 1845 until 1914 the largest telescope in the world stood in the grounds of Birr Castle. It was the brainchild of the 3rd Earl of Rosse and through it he made many wonderful discoveries, he named the Crab nebula and was the first to document the structure of spiral galaxies, although at the time, they didn’t truly understand their nature.

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The clover mite – what a blood sucker

The Clover Mite, the notorious blood sucker of my childhood
The Clover Mite, the notorious blood sucker of my childhood

I was struck the other day by the number of tiny red “blood suckers” crawling around on my window sills and walls. It seems to me that I haven’t seen these tiny creatures in years, or maybe I just haven’t noticed them. Squishing them and the red streaks they leave are a distinct nostalgic memory from childhood summers along with Soda Stream, Wimbledon and rounders.

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SETI@home

Hunt aliens from the comfort of your own home with SETI@home
Hunt aliens from the comfort of your own home with SETI@home

The hunt for other planets in the universe is going full steam ahead with thousands of planets having being found in orbit around distant suns. Telescopes and technology are progressing at a breakneck pace allowing us to probe the light from these distant worlds for traces of gases that might signify life. Probes in our own solar system are busy looking for the signs and signatures of life.  

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Is it real?

Can you see the pattern in the clouds?
Can you see the pattern in the clouds?

We’ve had all the experience ​of someone calling on the the phone just when we were thinking about them, or meeting someone we haven’t seen for ages just after they popped into our minds. Or what about somebody passing on just as the clock stops, or the weather does something strange, or a bird flies into the house and won’t leave. The coincidence can seem remarkable and we often assign a paranormal significance to it, as if randomness or chance can’t possibly be enough to explain the event.

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Man in the moon

Man in the moon
Man in the moon

Glance up at the moon any night and you will see a glistening silver orb that has inspired poets, writers musicians and philosophers. But if you actually look at the moon, you will notice some lighter and darker patches. These patches of light and dark make distinct patterns and shapes and so we have the”man in the moon” and the “moon rabbit”.

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