Archive for July 29, 2016

Henry Draper’s Photograph of M42

Posted in History, The Universe and Stuff with tags , , , , on July 29, 2016 by telescoper

I just remembered that last night I happened across an interesting episode of The Essay on Radio 3. It was about the first ever photograph of an astronomical nebula, which happened to be of the Orion Nebula (M42). The programme features Omar Nasim, a lecturer in History at Kent University, and is available on iPlayer or as a download here. It’s only 15 minutes long, but absolutely fascinating.

Here is the photograph concerned, taken by Henry Draper in 1880:


The stars of the constellation Orion are clearly over-exposed in order to reveal the much fainter light from the nebula, and the resolution is poor compared to, e.g., this glorious Hubble Space Telescope image:

Hubble's sharpest view of the Orion Nebula

The Orion Nebula seen by Hubble. Credit: ESA/NASA/Hubble Space Telscope

Nevertheless the Draper photograph is of great historical importance, as it changed the way astronomers made images of such objects (by photography rather than by drawing) and ushered in a new era of scientific research.

Hat’s off to Henry Draper!


Sussex versus Glamorgan

Posted in Biographical, Cricket with tags , , , on July 29, 2016 by telescoper

It was an interesting coincidence that, last night, on the eve of my last day working at the University of Sussex before moving to Cardiff University, there was a game of cricket between Sussex and Glamorgan at the County Ground in Hove. Naturally I decided to go along and was fortunate to have Dorothy Lamb along for company. To be precise this wasn’t “proper cricket”, but a Natwest T20 “Blast”. Unfortunately the weather dampened the squib considerably. Yesterday’s weather forecast predicted rain in the afternoon clearing by the time the game started (at 18.30), but when we got to the ground it was still drizzling:


After a lot of faffing about play did actually get under way at about 19.50, the match to be reduced to 14 overs a side because of the late start.

Cricket_2You can see the full scorecard here. Glamorgan batted first, struggling right from the start despite some wayward bowling from Sussex.  Having been 62 for 8 at one point they were probably relieved to get into three figures, though they only just managed this: they were all out for 101 in the last over. Sussex batted and got off to a much better start, but then the rain came back so they went off. They then came back again but only one ball was beowled before the rain (which was really just drizzle) started again so they went off again. And so on. In the end only four overs and one ball were possible before the rain came back for good and the match was abandoned with no result. The upshot of this was that Glamorgan qualified for the Quarter Finals and Sussex didn’t. Glamorgan were lucky. Sussex were 30-1 when play was halted but a minimum of five overs have to be bowled for a result to be declared. A few minutes more play and Sussex would almost certainly have won. Such is life.