Universe Guide

Universe Guide Blog Articles Archive 3

The 10 Nearest Stars to Earth30/01/2017 21:13

The nearest star to the Earth is the Sun, the great ball of fire in the sky. Some people forget the Sun is actually a star. It is referred to as a dwarf star compared so absolute giants out there such as UY Scuti, the current record holder at 1708 times the size of our sun.

2nd, 3rd and 4th - Proxima, Alpha Centauri A and B - Centaurus

Proxima Centauri is one three stars that make up the Alpha Centauri / Rigil Kentaurus multiple star system. Alpha Centauri A and B are positions three and four in the list. They are located in the southern constellation of Centaurus. Proxima is a red dwarf star which in addition to being the nearest star to us, its also the nearest star that has an orbiting extra solar planet. The other two are yellow stars similar to our own star. Alpha Centauri A is slightly larger than our Sun but not by much.

5th - Barnard`s Star - Ophiuchus

Barnards Star is the closest star in the Northern Hemisphere and situated in the constellation of Ophiuchus, the thirteenth sign of the Zodiac. It is named after E.E. Barnard who although he didn`t discover it, he was known for the discovery of the high proper motion of the star. It is situated about 5.9 light years away from Earth.

6th - Luhman 16 - Vela

Luhman 16 is a small brown dwarf star in Vela, the closest of its type if you exclude Nemesis. Nemesis is a theorectial star that is believed to affect the an area of space 1 light year away known as the Oort Cloud and cause the comets in the belt to head towards us. It is a binary star system but I have only detailed one of the stars on this site. Therefore you could say they are the 6th and 7th closest stars to us. The name for the star comes from its discoverer, Kevin Luhman from the Pennsylvania University in the United States.

7th - Wise 0855-0714 - Hydra

Wise 0855-0714 is located in Hydra and is a small and not very luminous star that was discovered recently. It is not a star to be seen in the night sky. It was discovered by Kevin Luhman who also discovered the sixth most closest star to us.

8th - Wolf 359 - Leo

Anyone who knows a lot about Star Trek will know of the famous fictional battle, Battle of Wolf 359 which resulted in destruction of the Federation fleet at the hands of a Borg Cube. The fact that the star is close to Earth was the reason for its being chosen. At that time of the series, Luhman and Wise stars had not yet been discovered. The star is located in the constellation of Leo.

9th - Lalande 21185 - Ursa Major

Lalande 21185 is the brightest red dwarf in the northern hemisphere and only third brightest in the night sky. It is too dim to be seen in the night sky with the naked eye but probably be seen with a good telescope or binoculars. It can be located in the Ursa Major northern constellation.

10th - Sirius - Canis Major

The tenth closest is Sirius, the Dog star in the constellation of Canis Major and it is also the brightest star in the night sky. Sirius is a double star and the companion star would amount to being the 11th brightest.

Furthest Star

The universe is so vast that we can`t see the edge of the galaxy. The most distant star covered on this site is R136a, in the constellation of Dorado. The star is not in our galaxy but is in the Tarantula nebula in the satellite galaxy of the Large Magellanic Cloud. The imaginatively name HE 0437-5439 is moving out of the milky way Galaxy at a speed of three times the orbital speed of the Sun. Some stars will appear that they are further out on this website but the data should be assumed to be incorrect.


Star Wars Episode VIII gets a title - The Last Jedi23/01/2017 19:20

As of 6pm GMT on the 23rd of January 2017, we now know the name of Episode VIII and it is to be known as The Last Jedi. This will be in reference to Luke Skywalker. In the last episode, we got to meet Rey who the force awoken inside her but she is not yet a Jedi, only someone who has the power of being a Jedi. It will continue immediately on from the previous episode, Star Wars VII - The Force Awakens without any breaks like there had been in the previous films. It will most likely see Rey being trained as a new Jedi by Luke Skywalker who was finally discovered on the planet of Ahch-To after having been missing for many years after the son of Han Solo and Princess Leia turned to the dark side and became Kylo Ren.

In addition to the returning characters, they`ll be a few new faces including the new allegedly antagonist played by Benicio Del Toro, an award winning actor who won an oscar for best supporting actor in the 2000 film, Traffic about the drugs business in Mexico.

Sadly, some actors who were to appear in the Last Jedi died last year, none more famous than Princess Leia, played by Carrie Fisher. In addition to Princess Leia, the actors behind R2-D2 (Kenny Baker) and the voice of Admiral Ackbar (Erik Bauersfield) passed away in 2016 with their scenes already shot, the film is currently in post-production.

The film will be released at the end of 2017 during the Christmas film period like the previous episode and Star Wars - Rogue One, the first anthology film.

According to the cast list, there a few more females in this film than there were last time. In addition to returning characters of Princess Leia, Rey, Maz Kanata and Captain Phasma, the cast will be joined by Laura Dern and Kelly Marie Tran. We`ll probably see a bigger role for Lt Connix, who we saw briefly last time wearing the hairstyle that Princess Leia made famous in the first film. The actress who plays Connix is the real life daughter of Carrie Fisher.

As for the actual plot, there`s only been leaks, nothing official. What we can virtually guarantee is that Rey will be being trained as a Jedi by Luke. Its uncertain as to whether we find out about Rey`s parentage which might be kept for episode IX. More information will appear on the dedicated Star Wars VIII - The Last Jedi page when I hear anything.

In between Episodes VIII and IX, we have as yet untitled Star Wars - Han Solo Movie which is due out in 2018. It had been due out in May but is now going to be Christmas like all the new Disney version films.

Star Wars - The Last Jedi Title Picture


Happy New Year 13,823,342,017 A.B.B.01/01/2017

Happy New Year, no one really knows exactly when the big bang was precisely, only that it was 13.8 billion years ago the A.B.B. (After Big Bang) is a semi-random number. Hopefully the New Year will be better than last year and your dreams come true just in case they didn`t last year. The "BIG" event to look forward to this year is the "Great American eclipse" which is the first total eclipse in America since 1970 according to the images on Wiki page to cross the United States. The latter eclipses, just grazed the country without totally crossing the country. Remember to get hold of special glasses to observe the Sun, there`s further information at Great American Eclipse and Eclipse 2017. You buy your glasses now and keep them safe otherwise they`ll be run out by the time you need them.

The previous year we`ve seen the deaths of astronauts of John Glenn and Piers Sellars, we hope its not a trend that will increase. However, death comes to us all in the end to put no finer point on it. Hopefully we`ll all be back next year to read the 13,823,342,018 blog entry.

No expansion for Warcraft but they`ll be continuing with the current expansion, Legion and we`ll also be getting micro-holidays. Instead of the long holiday events like Winterveil and Children`s Week, we`ll get more one day events such as Diablo 20th anniversary on the 4th January and then another Call of the Scarab. Call of the Scarab is to mark the anniversary of the opening of the gates of Ahn`Qiraj which will see both the horde and alliance compete to control to have their flags hanging over Ahn`Qiraj for the forthcoming year. There`s more information at WowHead.

As far as I know, there`s no out of the ordinary major meteor showers due this year but should I hear, I`ll update the site. There`s also new comets due to cross our skies in the new year.

As for the entertainment front, the big film due this year is the next film in the Star Wars film series, Episode VIII which will see Rey and Finn take on the First Order. Sadly, last year, Carrie Fisher who played the beloved Princess Leia passed away just after Christmas last year. Leia had been due to play a major role in the next episode which fortunately, her scenes had been done. Her role in Episode IX will need to be rewritten unless they CGI her like what they did with her and Grand Moff Tarkin in the phenomenally successful Rogue One. If you`ve not seen it already, its worth seeing in my view.


R.I.P. Princess Leia27/12/2016 20:22

It is with sadness that I write, Carrie Fisher, best known for many people interested in space and wider afield as Princess Leia Organa has past away. Although she is best known for that role, she has also appeared in other films such as Shampoo with Warren Beaty which was her film. She appeared in all the first trilogy, the original trilogy as its best known and then appeared in Star Wars - The Force Awakens as General Leia, leader of the Rebels know now as the Resistance.

Her character albeit a bit of C.G.I. returned to the cinema this year in the prequel Star Wars - Rogue One and was expected to appear in the next two sequels, Episodes VIII and IX. I believe the actual filming of Episode VIII had been finished and that it was now in post-production so that her character will still be there as to what extent her character will appear is not known. Its unlikely they`ll do the same thing as they did with Grand Moff Tarkin for the last film in the new trilogy. Thats speculation, not fact.

She wasn`t the only person to have starred in the films to have died this year in one of the worst years for famous people generally. Other people from the films to have died are :-

  • Kenneth Baker who was the man behind the motors of R2-D2, the astromech droid.
  • Erik Bauersfeld, the voice beind Admiral Ackbar and Bib Fortuna died in April this year.
  • Alethea McGrath who played Jocasta Nu in the prequels died in February.
  • Peter Sumner, the only Australian in the first film who played Lieutenant Pol Treidum died in November.

May the Force be with them in heaven.


Piers Sellars, British Astronaut has died24/12/2016 20:59

Piers Sellars, the British born N.A.S.A. astronaut has sadly past away after a fight with stage 4 pancreatic cancer which he revealed he had in January of this year. He was born in Crowborough, Sussex 1955. He always had aspirations of going into space. The British government doesn`t sponsor its nationals to go into space so after working his way through University, gaining eventually a PhD, he moved to the United States. Over time after working for N.A.S.A, he became a United States naturalised national which then allowed him to go into space.

Piers took part in three Space Shuttle flights, two on Atlantis and one on Discovery during his time up in space. His total amount of time in space was 35 days. In addition to all his N.A.S.A. distinguished medals, he was awarded an O.B.E. in 2011 for his contributions to space. He was married to Amanda Lomas but the marriage ended in divorce. ref: Wikipedia.


Rogue One finally hits the Cinemas16/12/2016 18:38

Nursing a hang-over from the Christmas Party from the night bfore, I went to see the film at the local cinema. I was not disappointed. I personally felt that the film was better than the previous years, Star Wars - The Force Awakens. I along with everyone all knew how the film would end. We`re already seen the sequel which it had come out decades earlier. I had seen lots of trailers of the film before but it didn`t diminish the enjoyment of the film.

There were a number of people on social media who disliked the fact that Jyn Erso, the lead character was female but she proved to be no shrinking violet and held her own. If you don`t like the fact she was an equal to the lead male, don`t watch it, Disney won`t go bust if you didn`t go.

A quick reminder of the plot, the film is set immediately before the events of Star Wars IV - A New Hope and features a group of Rebels stealing the Death Star plans. In the original films, they were described as Bothan as it had been said many Bothans died getting these plans but it never explained what a Bothan was unless I missed it.

We knew Darth Vader would appear but to see Grand Moff Tarkin appear for as long as he did was great. The C.G.I. to bring the character to life was excellent along with the rest of the CGI. We also got treated to a CGI version of Princess Leia as she received the Death Star plans. There were a number of other cameos including that of Senator Bail Organa and an explanation of why he didn`t appear in future films. Although there was the now compulsory desert planet, this time Jedha rather than Jakku or Tatooine, there were other planets along with the returning Yavin IV where the Rebels had their base.

The main characters Jyn Erso and Cassian Andor were likeable enough. Even though they were going to die, you hoped they would some how survive and then retire but that was not going to happen. The film wasn`t going to have that kind of happy ending. They weren`t going to form a bond between the two of them like Han Solo and Princess Leia, not enough time and the film wasn`t going to be set over a long period. They only embraced when they knew they were going to die and there`s no way out. It was an original storyline compared to the Force Awakens, things what happened hadn`t happened before.

The next film is to be released this time next year is going to be Episode VIII with the main storyline following Rey as the force inside continues to awaken. The following year will see another spin-off anthology film, this time based on the smuggler Han Solo before he joined the Rebel Alliance and met his future wife. Also appearing in addition to a young Han Solo is Chewbacca and a young Lando Calrissian, both humans leads have been chosen.

There were a lot of scenes from trailers and t.v. spots that didn`t make it into the movie, wonder why. Examples include the scene where Jyn is walking and a TIE Fighter appears, the scene is in the film but the TIE Fighter isn`t. Another scene is where Jyn asks if they`re a rebellion because she`s a rebel. When the DVD/Blu-ray comes out, it`ll be interesting to hear why then got cut. We won`t get an extended edition of all the cuts because some contradict others.

Overall, it was great and look forward to the next, the Force is definately with this one.

Rogue One Film Poster


R.I.P. John Glenn, Mercury Astronaut09/12/2016 20:48

John Glenn, one of the first American to go into space as part of the Mercury series of spaceflights has died today. In addition to being in the Mercury project, he was also the oldest man to go into space as part of a Space Shuttle missing onboard the Discovery in 1998.

In addition to being as astronaut, he was also a World War 2 fighter which he did before becoming an astronaut. After leaving N.A.S.A., he put himself up for the position of Democrat for the U.S. Senate for Ohio. He tried for ten years before eventually being elected in 1974 and served for his electorate for 24 years.

John married only once and stayed with her until his death. He had two children. The cause of the death was never revealed and he is buried at Arlington National Cemetary, Washington D.C. ref: John Glenn


Second Rogue One Trailer25/10/2016 21:19

With not many weeks to go, another trailer for Rogue One has been released with new scenes. Jyn Erso still plays a prominent role in the trailer as she is the main character. We also see her past when her father was conscripted by Director Krennic to design and build the Death Star. More action and more familar Star Wars vehicles such as the AT-ST, the two legged walkers from the Moon of Endor appear. Darth Vader also appears. What the video doesn`t show you is the hand over of the plans to Princess Leia on the Tantive IV which is something which peopple will like to see.

Its not long to wait, hopefully will be better than Force Awakens in the respect that Rogue One will be more original and not have scenes that copied from previous films, e.g. Cantina, Desert Orphan, Assault on the Death Star like world.

Death Star rising above the horizon


What is the Largest Galaxy?25/10/2016 19:43

There are so many galaxies out there, its impossible to accurately know how many there are. The best current estimate is that there are about 100-200 billion galaxies and it has estimated that there could be as many as 500 billion or more. To put that in context, 500 billion is 500,000,000,000. It is estimated that there are 100 billion stars in our galaxy and 200 billion stars in our near neighbour, the Andromeda Galaxy. In other words, theres more galaxies than stars in our galaxy. The real largest galaxy is something that we can never really know.

To put the size in context, the Milky Way is 100,000 Light Years across, m87 is a million light years across and IC1101 is 6 million light years across. The Galaxy is 1.04 billion light years away, which is a lot further away than our nearest star, Proxima Centauri which is a mere 4 light years.

With such large numbers, its impossible to know. What we do know is that the largest galaxy so far discovered is the catchily named IC1101. It is estimated at having a massive 100 trillion (100,000,000,000,000,000,000) stars which makes our galaxy look tiny. It is located on the borders of Serpens and neighbouring Virgo. Some sites will put it in Virgo and others Serpens. Unlike our galaxy, IC1101 is a dying galaxy. Not many stars are being born unlike our galaxy.

The galaxy was discovered by Sir William Herschel and it was given its name because it was 1101 item in the Index Catalogue of nebulae and star clusters. Even though it is super-large, sorry to use that expression, its not visible like the Andromeda Galaxy to see it unaided. You don`t need a space telescope or equivalent to see it, after all Herschel saw it centuries ago.


Closest exoplanet found orbiting Proxima Centauri24/08/2016 19:00

The closest extrasolar Extrasolar planet(Exoplanet) for short has been located. For years, scientists have been studying the star we know Proxima Centauri and its larger companion Rigil Kentaurus better known as Alpha Centauri. Whilst its been known that is a planet probably in orbit around the bigger yellow star, there has only been speculation about anything in orbit around the smaller red dwarf star until now. Scientists got the first clue as to there being a planet around Proxima Cenaturi in March 2000 but it took them 16 years until they were confident of their research to go public and say there is. Part of the problem of them not coming forward was false positives of star spots from red dwarves.

Scientists working at the European Southern Observatory in Chile have discovered an Earth-like planet in orbit round Proxima Centauri. Proxima Centauri is in the constellation of Centaurus which can be seen in the southern hemisphere, although the planet won`t be visible by naked eye or amateur telescope. Like all other exoplanets that have currently been discovered, it has the rather obtuse name of Proxima Centauri b or just Proxima b for short. The letter after the name signifies when it was discovered, the first planet in orbit round the planet is known as b, not a followed by c, d.... Presumeably if they ever found a massive solar system, they`d name it bb, bc etc. The planet being so close to the sun zips round it (orbits) in a very short 11 and a bit days. You`d experience all four seasons in what would be fortnight on Earth. Hopefully they`ll find other planets a little further out and a longer orbit.

In a billion years time, our Sun will no longer be able to support life as it grows into a red giant, we`d have to move away and find somewhere else. Even though it has a short year, Proxima will be around long after many stars including our Sun have died around. It is estimated the star will live for trillions of years so no more worrying about another planet to find.

The discovery makes it the closest exoplanet from us at a distance of about 4.1 Light Years. Travelling at the speed of light, it would still take four years to get to and four years to get back. Even given the sheer distance, it is the nearest star to us excluding the Sun. We don`t yet have the technology for faster than light travel that the likes of the Millenium Falcon is able to do. The fastest satellite would take tens of thousands of years to get to so we won`t be visiting it in our lifetime unless we break the laws of physics. At the moment, all we can do is wonder what the planet could look like. The below picture is an ESO/M. Kornmesser impressions of what the planet could look like.

There is a project going on at the moment with the backing and support of Prof. Stephen Hawking to send micro-satellites to that solar system and send back data. No humans will be going. The micro-satellites could possibly take 20 years to get to the target and then another couple of years to send the results back. In my life if they took off soon, we`d get results back whilst I`m still around.

Artists Impression of Proxima Centauri b in orbit

Any exoplanet that has been discovered increases the likelihood that we are not alone and that there are aliens out there ready to be discovered and communicate with. The planet is closer to Proxima than we are to the sun but because the star is dimmer than our own star, the Goldilocks Zone, the area round a star where life can exist on a planet is therefore closer. It is believed that water could exist on the planet, a big plus if we are to find life as all life on Earth requires water to survive. The artists impression makes the planet look barren and rocky, a little like Geonosis with a slight colour change.

Artists Impression of what Proxima Centauri B landscape could look like.


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