Catch a falling star

Grab a deck chair, some dark skies and sit back and enjoy the show.
Grab a deck chair, some dark skies and sit back and enjoy the show.

Every day the earth is bombarded from space with millions of pieces of sand, dust and specks of rocks. When these pieces of debris hit our atmosphere at speeds in excess of 50 km/second they burn up and can be seen as spectacular streaks across the night sky. These are shooting stars and are visible every night if the sky is clear. However, there are certain times of the year when the Earth passes through a cloud of dust and debris and creates many more shooting stars.

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Psychedelics for psychotherapy?

Magic mushrooms, are they the next Prosac
Magic mushrooms, are they the next Prosac?

Turn on, tune in, drop out. The rallying cry of the counterculture and hippie movement of the late 60s and early 70s, when LSD and other psychedelic drugs were perceived as being a shortcut to spiritual Nirvana and an essential tool in opening minds to new experiences.  Research on the effects of psychedelics was in vogue, and for a time it was hoped that they would offer a panacea for many ills. Too many bad trips and the decline of the hippie culture saw the research quietly shelved and forgotten about. However, that is gradually changing and there seems to be a renewed interest in the medicinal effects of these drugs.

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The relentless march of science

Professor Sergio-Canavero
Professor Sergio-Canavero is hoping to carry out the first head transplant. Is he a crackpot or a great innovator and visionary?

It has been a busy few weeks in the science arena. In the shadow of NASA’s announcement on the “Earth-like” planets around other stars, we heard that we no longer need to have our five portions of fruit and veg a day. We should now be aiming for 10 portions a day. The more, the merrier if you want to significantly reduce your chances of getting heart disease, stroke and cancer. In China significant inroads have been taken on the road to clean nuclear fusion, with a major breakthrough in burning hydrogen at a temperature hotter than our sun for well over a minute. This is one of the key requirements for a fusion reactor, which would offer unlimited clean energy and a move away from fossil fuels.

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The Ig Nobel prizes

An Ig Nobel prize winner, Thomas Thwaites in his Goat Suit.
An Ig Nobel prize winner, Thomas Thwaites in his goat suit.

The Nobel prizes are awarded each year to recognise outstanding advances in physics, chemistry, literature, peace, economic sciences and physiology or medicine. Over the years The Nobel prizes have also played host to some celebrated controversies, dubious peace prize recipients, a medicine and physiology prize awarded for frontal lobotomies and some notable figures being overlooked.

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Beyond M42 – In and around Orion

A guide to the constellation of Orion, beyond M42
A guide to the constellation of Orion, beyond M42, (click to enlarge)

As we spend so much time studying Orion over the Winter, it will do no harm at all to mention a few of the other objects that are visible apart from M42, the Great Orion Nebula. Seeing as M42 is the highlight of Orion, lets start there and turn our binoculars on the Sword of Orion. The whole sword of Orion is rich in Nebulae and clusters. Running from the South up we have NGC 1980 a small cluster and nebulosity, M42 and the trapezium, are above that. M43 is between M42 and The Running man Nebula, NGC1977. Finally, north of NGC1977 we reach NGC1981.

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