Belated New Year wishes

First of all wish you all a very happy and prosperous 2010. Hope everyone had a good vacation. I am officially still on vacation in Melbourne. We have been enjoying many sunny days here (some days bit too hot). We spend Christmas at the beach and toured bit of the Aussie outback with friends. It

Hypatia of Alexandria

I have watched a very interesting movie last weekend: “Ágora”, by the Spanish-Chilean director Alejandro Amenábar. It is a story about a very interesting character, the astronomer Hypatia, who live in the IV-V centuries, during the end of the Roman empire. We know for sure few things about her life and death. She was killed during by Christian zelots during these turbulent years, when paganism (and the classical culture) was dying, and a new order and way of understanding the world was appearing

As a matter of fact, I do not care whether the story in the movie is accurate or is the re-interpretation of several historical facts using our own situation. What really matter to me are two facts:

First, Hypatia herself, as scientist. The way she understands her environment, her compromise with knowledge. Her humility recognizing her limitations and, above all, her flexibility to reevaluate her initial assumptions and to challenge what she believed previously to be the truth.

Second, the intolerance, then and now. There are always bigots (whether religious extremist, political, moralist or otherwise) trying to restrict knowledge and freedom. They know science and culture are barriers against barbarism, and they are one of the first targets.

I have read in the newspaper that the movie might not be distributed in USA, since some people believe it is anti-christian (it is not), despite its quality, the important casting and the amazing reconstruction of the ancient city of Alexandria, where it takes place. It would be a shame if the intolerants win again.

For those of you who didn´t have the opportunity to watch “Cosmos”, by Carl Sagan, I do recommend to try to, at least, have a look at the episode discussing the destruction of the Library and the Serapeum.

After 1600 years, Hypatia is still a example: of what a scientist ought to be, but, above everything, how a human being has to behave.

Información en español


As the title says this post is about getting a job as an astronomer, and my current job hunt. Most of the time before landing a permanent job in astronomy research, you would need to get a university degree in something related to science, then a graduate degree – honours or masters and then likely also a PhD in astronomy or related field. OK we did all that, so now what?

The Galileoscopes arrived – instructions and ideas for improvement


You may have heard about the Galileoscope, a cornerstone project of the International Year of Astronomy. After my visit at the AAS conference at Pasadena, CA in June, I decided to organize a large order of this cheap telescope. We received last week ~155 Galileoscopes that should be now in the hands of my colleagues at SETi and UC-Berkeley and my friends. Since I already got a few questions from them, I decided to post on this blog some useful items and ideas.

Binary asteroids and good Omens – the dilemma of observers


I am in Hawaii on the Big Island preparing our observations at Keck Observatory for tonight. If the weather gets clear, it is going to be an interesting night. My main program tonight is to search for companions of asteroids around S-type asteroids, meaning asteroids with a “rocky” composition.