Perigee full moon

The reasonably common phenomenon of full Moon coinciding perigee was completely ignored until the media discovered the term ‘supermoon’ a few years ago, Perigee (minimum distance from Earth) varies between 356400 and 370400 km (average 362600 km) and apogee (maximum distance from Earth) varies between 404000 and 406700 km(average 405400 km), so on average a perigee full Moon will appear 12 percent larger and 25 percent brighter than one occurring at apogee.

However, perigee on 14 November will be the closest one since 1948, and the Moon will appear 14 percent bigger and 30 percent brighter compared with the smallest apogee full Moon. This still isn’t an enormous difference, and prior to the current frenzy over ‘supermoons’ was only of interest to astronomers. Here in Britain, of course, we are in any case set to see absolutely nothing.

Eternal Scaffolding

It is a constant frustration for a tourist to see a landmark they have traveled far to see covered in scaffolding. This is a photograph of the Spanish Steps in Rome in May 2004:

And this was the same scene a decade later, in October 2014.

A short distance away is the iconic Trevi Fountain. It’s more eternal scaffolding than eternal city.

It was the same situation in Venice with the Bridge of Sighs between 2009 and 2011 (though restoration was complete when I visited in 2013).

The problem is certainly not confined to Italy. This is the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries) in Lisbon, a modernist tribute to Prince Henry the Navigator:

Trellick Tower

Designed by Ernő Goldfinger, Trellick Tower in North Kensington was commissioned by the Greater London Council in 1966 and completed in 1972. The 322ft late Modernist towerblock is now a Grade II* listed building, but Goldfinger’s work has not always been to everybody’s taste.

Ian Fleming, creator of James Bond, was definitely not a fan and it is no coincidence that 007’s most memorable opponent was named Auric Goldfinger. Auric’s real-life counterpart failed to see the funny side when the original novel came out and threatened to sue. As part of a rather bizarre out-of-court settlement, Ernő Goldfinger eventually accepted six copies of the book!

© Christopher Seddon 2009

Blue pillar box, Manchester

I have been unable to ascertain why this pillar box, located outside Manchester’s Museum of Science and Industry, is sky blue rather than the customary red. A possible explanation is that it’s for the use of long-suffering Manchester City fans who not only have to endure the continuing success of arch-rivals Manchester United, but also would otherwise have to post their letters in Man U-coloured pillar boxes!

© Christopher Seddon 2009


The Wiltshire village of Avebury is setting for one of Europe’s largest Neolithic monuments. The 5,000 year old stone circle is slighly older than Stonehenge and comprises a large ditch and external bank henge 421 metres (1,381 ft) in diameter and 1.35 kilometres (0.84 mi) in circumference. This is four times the diameter of Stonehenge. Within this is the Outer Circle with a diameter of 335 metres (1,099 ft). This originally comprised 98 sarsen standing stones, some of which weighed over 40 tonnes. They vary in height from 3.6 to 4.2 metres.

Closer to the centre of the monument are two separate stone circles. The Northern inner ring measures 98 metres (322 ft) in diameter, though only two of its standing stones remain, plus two fallen ones. A cove of three stones stood in the middle, its entrance pointing northeast. The Southern inner ring was 108 metres (354 ft) in diameter but has now largely disappeared, with much of its arc lying beneath the village buildings.

Finally there is an avenue of paired stones, the West Kennet Avenue, leading from the south eastern entrance of the henge and traces of a second, the Beckhampton Avenue lead out from the western one.

This monument is run by the National Trust and is a World Heritage Site.

© Christopher Seddon 2009

Colour-change Paperweight

Alexandrite is an extremely rare gemstone with the property to change from purple to green. It appears purple under artificial light and green when viewed in daylight. The gemstone is named for Tsar Alexander II of Russia, on whose 16th birthday it was discovered, and fine examples can cost up to $100,000 per carat. I was quite astonished to discover that a rather less expensive Caithness glass paperweight in my possession for the last twenty years can do more or less the same thing! In daylight, or under normal incandescent or halogen lighting it appears a rich purple:

But I recently installed compact flourescent lighting, and under this the paperweight turns blue:

The likely explanation for this phenomenon is that the purple-coloured glass contains a mixture of red and blue colourants. Under daylight or a continuous-spectrum artificial light, these appear purple. However flourescent lighting is deficiant in red wavelengths and when illuminated by such lighting, the red colourants are not seen, causing the paperweight to appear blue.

© Christopher Seddon 2008

Tempelhof Airport, Berlin

Opened in 1923, Tempelhof is one of the world’s oldest airports still in operation and one of three airports in Berlin. It was completely reconstructed by the Nazis between 1936 and 1941 and at the time was one of the largest manmade structures on Earth. After the war the airport played a major role in the Berlin Airlift and the USAF operated from it throughout the Cold War, but its use declined thereafter. Sadly this historic airport’s days are numbered and it is scheduled to close at the end of this month, the plan being that nearby Schonefeldt will be expanded and will eventually bcome Berlin’s sole airport.

© Christopher Seddon 2008