As you see from the post dates, this blog is no longer maintained.


Mars Web Cam

ESA: Mars rotation 12 Sep - 8 Oct 2007 (link) point us to this news story: "The Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) mounted on Mars Express was dormant after its first and only operational use in 2003. It is now back in action as the 'Mars Webcam', providing views of the Red Planet that are not obtainable from Earth." "The Visual Monitoring Camera (VMC) is mounted on Mars Express, ESA's deep-space probe now orbiting the Red Planet." (link)

Students, teachers, scientists, photographers and the general public are invited to help us process the images, remove artefacts, increase sharpness and interpret what the images show. Read the details at this link.

ESA: First image of Mars volcanoes 23 Mar 2007

There's a gallery of images from the VMC at this page. "The VMC is not a scientific instrument per se and it was designed for relatively low-resolution, fixed-focus operation. Its images should therefore not be compared to those coming from other Mars Express instruments." (link) Photo on the right is the "First image of Mars volcanoes 23 Mar 2007" from ESA


Is it a Planet?

Mark Sykes, director of the Planetary Science Institute, says that if a non-stellar object is massive enough to be round and orbits a star, it ought to be a planet.

This definition would include Ceres, 2the largest and most massive object in the asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. Ceres is less than half the diameter of Pluto."

Astronomy Magazine's website has a news story , "
The Great Planet Debate", about the meeting August 14 - 16 at The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory where Scientists debated about what makes a planet a planet.

Being Scientists, their definition of "round" is probably a little more complex than yours or mine: round is the shape of bodies that are in "hydrostatic equilibrium," where the pressure from an essentially fluid interior is balanced against gravity and centrifugal force at the body's surface to round the object. This makes planetary objects fundamentally different from small, irregularly shaped asteroids and comets."

If you want to find out more,

"Tyson, director of the Hayden Planetarium in New York and host of Nova ScienceNow, and who is in the camp that Pluto is not a planet, began his opening statements with "It's simple. The word 'planet' has lost all scientific value." He went on, saying "planet" doesn't tell you much and you have to ask all sorts of questions such as is it big or small, rocky or gaseous, in the habitable zone or not, etc. "If you have to ask twenty questions after I say I've discovered a planet, the word has lost its utility.""
  • Visit this page, which highlights the fine points of defining a planet:
"Labeling planets based on their dynamics around the sun distinguishes the planets as Mercury, Venus, Earth, Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune.
>But if Earth were orbiting the sun out in the Kuiper Belt, based on a dynamical definition and the mass of Earth, it would not be a planet, Sykes and other scientists pointed out."
  • Visit this page, which follows the debate's progress:
"Sykes did not abandon his call for a new definition based solely on roundness, but agreed that the important issue is not Pluto's status or how many planets there are,broadening our perspective on the solar system. "It's not a battle over which list you want to have or what numbers you want to have, but what's the basis for looking at things [from different perspectives].""
Audio of part of the debate is posted here, with these links: Listen Now and Listen Now


CERN's Large Hadron Collider!

CERN Rap from Will Barras on Vimeo.

What is matter? What is the universe made of? What is "dark matter"? What does all this have to do with Space? This video will help you understand what's going on at CERN.

If you're really interested, watch this video podcast "Brian Cox: An inside tour of the world's biggest supercollider":

Download links and more information about the TED talks at this web page.

You can also listen to this CERN podcast episode:
Chris Morris visits the LHC - Physicist Brian Cox guides satirist Chris Morris around the Large Hadron Collider. Produced by yada-yada for Cern

Information about the rap video:
There has been a lot of interest in the original mp3, lyrics, and vocals for remixing. You can find all that here: rgehadron.html

Images came from:,, the Institute of Physics, NASA, Symmetry, and Marvel

The talented dancers doubled as camera people, with some work by Neil Dixon. Stock footage is CERN's.

Will Barras is responsible for the killa beats:

The rapper has a day job (we agree this is a good thing) as a science writer." (link)