Monday, 23 May 2011


See how good I am at keeping up with my blog nowadays...

Sydney has a definite Autumnal feel to it at the moment, not those crappy rainy Autumn days you get in England, but those all so rare days of beautiful clear skies with a slight nip in the air and leaves changing colour and falling all around. This weather has been around for about 2 weeks now, which has been a nice change from the weeks of rain that fell beforehand. It's started to get a bit warmer now, but it has been FREEZING cold; 2 weeks ago now it snowed in the Blue May! Now you all know that I never used to feel the cold and wandered around in shorts in winter in the UK - that has not been the case here; even though it only dropped to ~8C at night in Sydney, I've been layering up and even wearing gloves. I can't believe what a wuss I've become and am slightly concerned how I will cope in Svalbard...

This past week I have once again been a busy bee social-wise. I met up with my old house mate for the first time in a long, long time and enjoyed a good ol' catch up over some chocolatey delights at a chocolate cafe - YUMMY! My friend from Tassie (who I was working with in Antarctica) also came up for a very brief visit and it was great to catch up with him and in the process, try and persuade him to persuade his boss to let me go on more Antarctic voyages! I'll keep you posted on that one.

On Saturday I also had the pleasure of helping out on the field trip for which I do some marking. Imagine 270 exchange students (mainly American), all of whom are mostly hungover, trying to get the answers from you. I actually had a pretty good time and learnt that I look like someone from the film Clueless (I didn't agree when they showed me a photo), and that Americans are easily amused by the name Graham ("Gram"), especially when I have the same full name as someone from another movie, The Holiday. The offer of wedges from the students was a personal highlight of the trip...I think that was their way of bribing me to give them good marks!

All of the above, in addition to beginning the packing up of all my stuff (how organised am I?) has meant that I haven't had any time for more astro-geeking and photo-taking in general; Booo to that!

I'll end my ramblings there.

Fred ut ("Peace out")

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Socialising and More Astro-Geeking!

Halaien everyone,

How good am I posting again so soon after my previous post? This past week has been pretty busy, mainly because I have been a socialite...who knew? I finally made it to the Opera House to watch a play last week, Shakespeare nonetheless! Unfortunately we were in the "basement", not in the fancy and extravagant convert hall; myself and a few others did, however, manage to talk our way into the concert hall foyer to enjoy the view of the Harbour Bridge by pleading to the Opera House manager - being international does sometimes work in ones favour. On Saturday it was the leaving do of a fellow PhD student, so many drinks were obviously consumed and I got to experience 3 new bars/pubs including one "trendy" bar which made me feel like I'm getting too old for that sort of thing; at 24 that's not a great feeling. Still, I had a good time and it was nice to get out and socialise.

Now for the astro-geeking part...On Sunday night/Monday morning, I once again awoke at 4am to go and check out the planetary alignment and attempt once more to take a star-trail photo. I can't remember if I mentioned in my previous post, but my last attempt at star-trails in Sydney culminated in essentially a photo of pure-white thanks to a combination of upper-level cloud, and Sydney light pollution; after an hour and 15 minutes, I was not happy about that. Being the optimist I am (!) I thought I would give it one more go, and the result isn't half bad. My trail was limited to 30 minutes thanks to the sun rising, but the movement is still clearly visible, as you can see below. The other photo is again of the planetary alignment which has shifted a fair amount since last week. After watching the sun rise, it was time to head to uni; I'm such a dedicated student...

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Correction to Previous Post

Since posting the previous blog entry all of 5 minutes ago, I have since been moaned at about not given enough credit to others.

I would therefore like to take the time to thank Laura and Karin for organising the observatory trip and inviting me, and also Laura for suggesting a 4am start to see the planetary alligment.


Hi everyone,

This post is going to be very astronomy-based, basically because I have recently become fascinated with all things stars/planets/space; I'm such a loser and/or geek...

Last week, after a couple of days um-ing and ah-ing about when the best weather would be had, I took an evening trip to Sydney Observatory, hoping to delve deeper into all things "space". Unfortunately, after an amazingly clear day, the sky became quite overcast in the evening, but that didn't put me off. As was expected, the tour was pretty touristy/lame: we watched a few short 3D movies about how big/small objects in the universe are, and then went to the "planetarium", which was basically a big umbrella with the stars projected onto it. The part of the tour I was most excited about was looking through the telescopes, to see what exciting wonders could be seen. As I said before, the weather wasn't great for this, but luckily there was a break in the cloud which allowed a view of...SATURN! I have to say, I was incredibly excited about this, and have since been mocked for that reason. Anyway, it was pretty damn amazing; the telescope wasn't particularly strong but you could easily make out saturn and it's rings, and two of it's satellites, Titan and Rhea. It was definitely an awe inspiring sight, and it somehow made the planets more "real". Here is a picture of roughly what I saw.

The space-fetish doesn't stop there...

On Sunday morning, I awoke at 4am to go and see an allignment of 4 of the planets: Venus, Mercury, Mars and Jupiter. Usually a 4am start would not be something I would do, but this was totally worth it. Armed with my camera, I headed down to Coogee, and snapped happily away until sunrise, and then I snapped away some more! I think that was the first proper sunrise that I've seen in Australia.

I have now also learnt/seen:
- the Eta Aquarid meteor shower (I think I saw 7 - almost doubling my lifes total of shooting stars)
- constellations - I have seen, and will now recognise, Scorpio and Sagitarius
- The Pointer Stars, Alpha and Proxima Centauri
- The Southern Cross
- Canopus - the 2nd brightest star in the sky
- and probably a lot more than I now have forgotten