Monday 17 January 2011

Intech Astronomy Day

I was at Intech on the exhibition floor from 9am till 5pm. Luckily I had my parents there to help set up the display board and to drive me there, both are practical things that I struggle with.... :P

I had 3 LOFAR stands from QMU and a display board from Southampton University, with one of my own research posters (Research using VLA radio antenna in USA), pictures of the build at Chilbolton, pictures of Dame Jocelyn with a LOFAR low band antenna, the "how mobile phones work" poster made by the University of Southampton , a solar poster in 3D (but did not have 3D glasses unfortuntely). 

On the table we had LOFAR, and Uni of Southampton bookmarks, SEPNET postcards and the laser music kit, an ASTRON news brochure, with the current lofar science in and a BBC stargazing brochure. 

One of the LOFAR posters I placed (by my mother) at the entrance with a notice on it to 'see exhibition floor', this was because the amateurs had alot of activities to do on the astronomy day and might not have seen me on the exhibition floor otherwise. I had an actual LOFAR antenna attached to the table.

At Intech there were many members of the general public  manly families and then many amateur astronomers including some amateur radio astronomers.

I talked to approximately 8 members of the general public, and about 15 of the amateur astronomers.

Most of the amateurs only came to talk to me in the 15min breaks in between the various workshops and planetarium shows that were being put on from 10-4.30pm. Alot of them had heard of LOFAR, i.e. seen it on the news when we built it :)

Members of the public were interested since they were suprised, firstly that there was a radio telescope up the road and how simple the radio dipole antenna was, and i talked to them about black holes and my research with radio astronomy and X-rays, and how LOFAR is important for looking at epoch of reionisation. I talked to the younger children about fibre optics and the internet with the laser-music device and mobile phone poster, and linked that in with lofar since they have to send data in real time at 15gb per sec etc. I also told one boy who was interested in astromony ,specifially black holes, how radio astronomy is a good place for jobs at the moment etc, what with LOFAR and SKA.

Alot of the radio astronomy amateurs wanted to know how easily they could make their own antenna and connect them with other amateurs, I told them that the antennas are the cheap part it is the problem of correlating the signals with each other which is the problem , especially if you want to do it in real time etc. Several of them wanted to actually visit the Chilbolton site, etc, so I gave them Rob Fenders at Uni of Sotons name as a contact.

The gentleman who gave a talk on amateur radio astronomy mentioned how easy it was to make your own and gave a link to an amateur website where you can borrow one of their radio antenna and connect directly to a computer and do your own radio astronomy which was very interesting and seemed quite simple to do, the graphs you get out are quite basic but it shows how much of a challenge radio astronomy is..because  you can see radio signals from the trees, the sun (basically everything) due to electrons being accelerated in everything!!!

But ,he stated that since radio astronomy can be done in daylight , or at night when it's cloudy,  he and the other radio amateurs say this is why they chose radio astronomy since the optical astronomers rarely see anything in the UK, because of our fabulous, very cloudy weather.

Me talking to some amateur astronomers

The Stand, with Antenna on the right.

Suggestions for the Future
Get links with the radio amateurs and make own radio telescope, use their ones (Find out where on this site you can access the radio antenna that anyone can use.)

More pictures/posters of actual LOFAR research, and why it is different to other radio telescopes, i.e. Epoch of Reionisation stuff and explaining dipoles themselves; how they work, the multi-user and the whole sky view aspect of LOFAR.

More info about the super computer and the pipelines etc used to get images.

Higher resolution images since the UK station has been added etc.


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