The Astronomical World of Harry Potter: Part 3 – Dumbledore and Fenrir

the astronomical world of harry potter

In the past two blog postings we uncovered how some characters in the Harry Potter universe are tied to Greek, Roman, and Norse mythology.  Not only are certain names shared, but the stories between the character and the myth from which its name is derived are actually intertwined.  In the first blog posting we dealt mainly with two of Harry’s classmates:  Draco and Luna.  In the second blog posting we looked at two members of the family Black:  Sirius and Bellatrix.  Now it is time we took a closer look at one of Harry Potter’s fiercest enemies and one of his fiercest allies:  Fenrir Greyback and Albus Dumbledore.

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The Astronomical World of Harry Potter: Part 2 – Sirius and Bellatrix

the astronomical world of harry potter

In the previous blog posting we discussed how many of the characters in the Harry Potter series have connections to ancient mythology and how these myths worked their way into the books’ story-lines. Numerous characters in the series also share their names with moons, asteroids, and stars.  For this entry let’s look into two characters and the two stars they are named after:  Sirius and Bellatrix.

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The Astronomical World of Harry Potter: Part 1 – Draco and Luna

the astronomical world of harry potter

If you’ve ever read the Harry Potter series of books, or even seen the films, you’ll come across many unusual and colorful character names. Characters such as Millicent Bulstrode, Fleur Delacour, Argus Filch, and Gilderoy Lockhart are a few of the names you’ll come across when working your way through the seven books in the series. These names—the sounds they create and their connection to other words such as the Slither in Slytherin or the Guile in Goyle—can give an indication, a slight inkling, to the reader into what can be expected of such characters. But there are other names—names such as Draco, Sirius, and Luna—which can also tell the reader something about their respective characters, not based on the allusion of their names but based on the astronomical backgrounds their names are derived from.

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Why Neil Armstrong Got to Be the First Man on the Moon

Why Neil Armstrong Got to Be the First Man on the Moon

Forty-six years ago, Neil Armstrong became the first man to ever walk on the moon.  Since that date, July 20, 1969, the moon has become the subject of much debate and scientific analysis.  From what Neil Armstrong first said as he took those initial steps to conspiracy theories about hoaxes, few historical events have captured the interest in mankind quite like the Apollo 11 moon landing.  However, a few facts about this event have remained obscure through time.

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Bumpty Bump Bump From Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko



One more first for the Rosetta mission… sounds of Philae landing on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.

Rosetta probe to land on comet tomorrow


The SESAME-CASSE instrument sensors on the feet of the Philae lander recorded the sound at the moment of contact with Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko.



ESA/ATG medialab


Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko is ‘singing’ to us




Philae on surface of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko


Listening to a comet with instruments on Rosetta:

RPC, Rosetta’s Plasma Consortium, consists of five instruments on the Rosetta orbiter that provide a wide variety of complementary information about the plasma environment surrounding Comet 67P/C-G. (Reminder: Plasma is the fourth state of matter, an electrically conductive gas that can carry magnetic fields and electrical currents.)

 Screen Shot 2014-11-13 at 2.55.24 PM

Artist’s impression of the ‘singing comet’ 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Credit: ESA/Rosetta/NavCam
The instruments are designed to study a number of phenomena, including: the interaction of 67P/C-G with the solar wind, a continuous stream of plasma emitted by the Sun; changes of activity on the comet; the structure and dynamics of the comet’s tenuous plasma ‘atmosphere’, known as the coma; and the physical properties of the cometary nucleus and surface.
But one observation has taken the RPC scientists somewhat by surprise. The comet seems to be emitting a ‘song’ in the form of oscillations in the magnetic field in the comet’s environment. It is being sung at 40-50 millihertz, far below human hearing, which typically picks up sound between 20 Hz and 20 kHz. To make the music audible to the human ear, the frequencies have been increased by a factor of about 10,000.
The music was heard clearly by the magnetometer experiment (RPC-Mag) for the first time in August, when Rosetta drew to within 100 km of 67P/C-G. The scientists think it must be produced in some way by the activity of the comet, as it releases neutral particles into space where they become electrically charged due to a process called ionisation. But the precise physical mechanism behind the oscillations remains a mystery.
This is exciting because it is completely new to us. We did not expect this and we are still working to understand the physics of what is happening,” says Karl-Heinz.
The sonification of the RPC-Mag data was compiled by German composer Manuel Senfft (
Rossetta Blog: Claudia


LATEST PHOTOS FROM Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko


European Space Agency – ESA


This unusual view takes a side-on look down the smaller lobe of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and onto the smoother terrain of the ‘neck’ region. In the background, cliffs of the comet’s large lobe rise from the shadows, adding to the dramatic feel to this image.

This single-frame NAVCAM image measures 1024 x 1024 pixels. It was captured from a distance of 9.8 km from the centre of the comet (7.8 km from the surface) at 22:04 GMT on 23 October 2014. At this distance, the image resolution is 83.5 cm/pixel and the size of the image is 855 x 855 m.

European Space Agency – ESA


To see all of the amazing photos from Philae lander visit



ESA spacecraft ROSSETA arives at Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko (67P)

European Space Agency’s (ESA) Rosseta spacecraft arrived at Comet Churyumov-Gerasimenko Wednesday after a 10 year flight to catch up with the comet.


This image of Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera on 3 August from a distance of 285 km. The image resolution is 5.3 metres/pixel.

Watch the press conference at ESA on Wednesday for the latest in images and how scientists are going to proceed now that Rosseta has reached the comet.



Comet details

Stunning close up detail focusing on a smooth region on the ‘base’ of the ‘body’ section of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. The image was taken by Rosetta’s OSIRIS narrow-angle camera and downloaded, 6 August. The image clearly shows a range of features, including boulders, craters and steep cliffs. The image was taken from a distance of 130 km and the image resolution is 2.4 metres per pixel.


There will be some amazing science done in the next 2 years by the team at ESA.

Congratulations ESA.