MAAS Public science lectures: Thalassemia Beyond Mutations

The events and activities at Maldivian Association for the Advancement of Science took a break towards the end of 2011 with the start of school holidays and us taking a break. We are switching back on for the new year this coming week with a brand new monthly "Public science lectures" series.

This coming Wednesday, MAAS will be hosting a lecture by Dr. Ibrahim Mustafa, titled "Thalassemia Beyond Mutations: A Novel Approach to Treat Thalassemia". The lecture will cover the research on the novel treatment he investigated while reading for his PhD, which you may have read a bit about from local news recently. The lecture will also, as I understand it, cover the how's and why's of Thalassemia which the public might be interested in furthering their understanding. This event might be of special interest to those who deal with Thalassemia in one capacity or the other.

When: 8:30 PM - 9:30 PM, 18 January 2012
Where: Main auditorium, Faculty of Management and Computing, Sosun Magu.

As ever, the event is open to all and free to attend. We will accommodate as many people as the lecture auditorium can hold.

Special thanks goes to Cafe' Alfresco for their kind generosity in helping make this event possible.

Three years with magnetic implants

I always seem to remember a few days after... but the 22nd of this December marked the three year anniversary since I had tiny neodymium magnets implanted into the middle and ring fingers of my left hand in my attempt to explore and develop a new type of human-machine interface for my masters degree work.

Unlike the previous years which were uneventful, this year, a few months ago, I developed some discomfort and slight pain in my ring finger when I accidently applied too much sharp pressure on the area and upset the implant. It was the first time in three years that I had any sort of trouble from the implant. Luckily the internal wounds healed in a few days and the pain subsided. Below is an X-ray image of the implant I got done a few months ago and it looks like it is still safely tucked in where it was originally placed!

At the beginning of this year, I had set out to develop a smaller, less intrusive version of the external interface I had developed earlier with the goal of exploring the effects of wearing the interface for an extended period of time - 24 hours a day 7 days a week for 3 months. I did get around to hacking up a tiny interface package that I can wear as a ring on my finger. Sadly, for too many excuses and what not, I didn't get around to actually getting on with that bit of research.

So, here's to me actually getting on with wearing the new interface for three months beginning 2012. Fingers crossed!

X-ray image of the ring finger from a few months ago.

New, smaller, ring-sized external interface.

Total Lunar Eclipse on 10th December visible in the Maldives

There will be a total Lunar eclipse that will be visible in the Maldives taking place tomorrow, 10 December 2011. The eclipse starts at 4:34 PM, reaches mid eclipse at 7:32 PM and ends at 10:30 PM. The total phase begins at 7:06 PM and ends at 7:57 PM, which allows us to catch the eclipse not long after the sunsets at 5:54 PM.

This eclipse is reported to be not central - meaning the Moon does not pass through the center of the Earth's shadow. Hence, there will be a nice gradient visible on the Moon, with one side appearing darker and the opposite side lighter even during the total phase.

Maldives will not be seeing another Lunar eclipse until 28 November 2012, when a penumbral eclipse occurs starting at 5:15 PM. The next earliest total Lunar eclipse visible in the Maldives occurs 8 October 2014.

Rare chance to witness a Supernova, right now!

The astronomy community has been abuzz lately with the discovery of a supernova, dubbed SN2011fe, in the Pinwheel spiral galaxy. This is the 136th supernova discovered this year but what makes this particular supernova special is that this one is the closest of its kind discovered since 1986 and astronomers believe it was discovered just hours after it went supernova. It also presents an exciting opportunity for the public as it is visible with the aid of binoculars or a small telescope!

The supernova was discovered by the Palomar Transient Factory survey for supernovas on 24th August. The supernova was located to the Pinwheel Galaxy (M101) in the easily identifiable constellation Ursa Major (a.k.a. Great Bear), and has been brightening since discovery. It is expected to reach peak brightness on 9th September.

The fact that the supernova was located to the Pinwheel Galaxy which is about 21 million light years away, means that this event actually took place 21 million years ago! It is only now that light from the event has completed its long journey and is reaching us here on Earth.


If you have a good set of binoculars or a telescope, you can attempt to view the supernova yourself. For Maldives, the Pinwheel Galaxy is currently located very low on the horizon at sunset and sinks below the horizon around 9pm.

If you have a computerised telescope, get it to locate the Messier object M101 for you. Or you can use your choice of stargazing application on a smartphone or tablet device to locate the Pinwheel galaxy.

If you don't have either of those, locate the "handle" of the Big Dipper asterism in Ursa Major and extend an imaginary line from the last two stars to form an equilateral triangle - you should find yourself looking at the Pinwheel Galaxy and the supernova SN2011fe as a bright point.

Locating the Pinwheel Galaxy

What is a Supernova?

A supernova is the violent explosion of star, which results in a burst of radiation that could outshine the star's host galaxy and could radiate as much energy as our Sun emits in its entire lifespan. The SN2011fe supernova is classed as a Type 1a supernova, which is thought to occur when a white dwarf star starts to siphon off material from a nearby star and accretes enough material, increasing temperature and density, that nuclear fusion is triggered. Supernovae happen all the time and astronomers have observed many a supernovae over the years but there is still much to be understood about them.

The supernova as visible on 23, 24 and 25 August.
Credit: Palomar Transient Factory (

MAAS event: Total lunar eclipse viewing

Maldivian Association for the Advancement of Science has a public viewing event organised for the upcoming total lunar eclipse taking place on 15th June. Bring your telescopes and cameras and join in observing the event. MAAS will have telescopes setup for those who don't own one.

For more details on this eclipse, please refer to my earlier post.

Time: Wednesday, 15th June at 22:00 - Thursday, 16th June at 01:30
Location: Artificial beach, the stage area behind the restaurant Mr. Chico's.

See you there!

Total Lunar Eclipse on 15th June visible in the Maldives

As I had mentioned in a post sometime ago, there is a total lunar eclipse taking place on 15th June 2011 and it will be visible in the Maldives. The (nearly) full Moon on the night will go very dark and undergo dramatic color changes.

The lunar eclipse taking place on 15th June will be a central eclipse, with the Moon passing through the center of the Earth's shadow, which will make the Moon appear very dark during the umbral (total) phase. Moreover, with the umbral phase lasting 100 minutes, this eclipse is among the longest eclipses that we will be seeing this century! By comparison, the longest lunar eclipse of this century happening on 27th July 2018 will be central and 103 minutes long (which, Maldives will be able to see in totality as well!).

The penumbral phase of the eclipse starts at 10:25 PM and partial eclipse starts at 11:23 PM on 15th June. The Moon will loose its bright white color and slowly turn into a reddish/orangish color during this period. Total eclipse begins at 12:22 AM of the next day, 16th June. The whole Moon will be very dark and will likely appear a coppery red color for the 1 hour 40 minutes that the total phase lasts. Mid eclipse is reached at 1:13 AM and the eclipse ends at 4:01 AM on 16th June.

The weather forecast is looking promising with only very little rain predicted. Hopefully there will be clear skies for the whole night. Unlike for solar eclipses, you will be able to view it directly with the naked eye. If you are a photographer, you might want to get your gear out and ready!

There is another lunar eclipse that will be visible in the Maldives taking place at the end of the year on 10 December 2011. That eclipse starts at 4:34 PM and reaches mid eclipse at 7:32 PM, which doesn't make for as good viewing as the one this month.

More info:

Visibility of the 2011-06-15 lunar eclipse - NASA

Milky Way Galaxy from the Maldives

Nishan has posted a really gorgeous photo of the night sky he recently took from the island of Guraidhoo. His long exposure photo, directed South at a low angle above a nearby uninhabited island, shows the nice circular star trail left by the rotation of the Earth against the canopy of the night sky.

There are a couple of bright star (trails) in the photo. The first bright star from the left of the photo is Alpha Centauri. It is the fourth brightest star in the sky and is the closest star system to Earth. Although it appears as a single star unmagnified, is actually a binary star system (two stars orbiting around each other). The bright blueish star trail next to that of Alpha Centauri is left by Beta Centauri, again a single star to us that actually is composed of three distinct stars. A line through Alpha Centauri and Hadar point to the top star of the Crux (Southern Cross) constellation. The five stars of the Southern Cross appear in the middle of the photo, with the four bright ones visible in a distinct cross pattern. The Southern Cross is called so because the top and bottom stars point very close to the (celestial) South.

However, what I really liked about Nishan's photo is that it is the first picture of the Maldivian night sky posted online that I've seen that shows clearly our galaxy, the Milky Way. You can see the Milky Way in the picture as a faint haze extending across the trail of stars. That haze is, trivially said, because of the increased concentration of stars towards the galactic center. Our Solar System is very far from the galactic center that affords us this beautiful scene of the busy and bustling center of the galaxy!

"Startrails in the tropical islands" by Millzero.

View of the same patch of sky as seen in Stellarium (simulation).