Thursday, July 23, 2009


This is a story worthy of James Burke's bemusement:

Tom Watson did not putt in vain. The veteran golfer may have missed by only a few inches but the drama of the final day of the British Open kept the amateur astronomer Anthony Wesley awake for an extra half-hour at his home outside Murrumbateman in New South Wales.

When he went back to shut down his 14.5-inch Newtonian telescope he noticed a black mark on the giant Jupiter. Since the Australian star-gazer spends an average of 20 hours a week looking at the fifth planet, he knew it was significant.

He emailed Nasa whose giant telescopes confirmed that, indeed, something massive was going on. A comet seemed to have crashed into Jupiter leaving a scar the size of the earth. In a world of hi-tech professionalism, there is something reassuring about the fact that a dilettante dabbler can still make a major discovery that eludes the experts. It restores your faith in the power of romance. Next year, Mr Watson, next year.

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