Thursday, 16 August 2012

Communicating Astronomy Conference

Communicating Science: A conference on Science Education and Public Outreach

Tucson, Arizona, USA 4-8 August 2012

What we did

Sadie Jones and Ally Caldecote went to Tucson, to participate in a conference on astronomy outreach. The first two days were a ‘Galileo Goes to Mars’ Teacher workshop, composed of astronomers and teachers. The following three days were a much larger conference of astronomers and educational researchers.

There was a mixture of lectures, discussion groups, hands-on activity workshops, poster presentations and software demonstrations.

Who we met

We met astronomers and educators from all over the globe. Of particular interest were some PGCE students who were invited to do science communication research as part of their studies at East Carolina University. One of the students, Sarah Guffey, has conducted research into the effectiveness of teaching using a planetarium setting. This is hugely relevant as Sadie spends the majority of her time taking a planetarium show into schools and Ally’s department hopes to purchase an inflatable planetarium soon, for her to use with school groups. Early research findings suggest that learning about astronomy is much more effective in a planetarium than on a 2 dimensional screen. Professor Sharon Schleigh whose background is in Astrophysics but now works in science education, was able to get a grant to work with the Education Department to do these research programs. From speaking at length with the 3 PGCE students it is clear that carrying out this science communication research has given them a better understanding of physics and an excitement for their futures in teaching. We feel that this idea of getting early career teachers from the Education department involved in real science education research is great, and would be something well worth considering.

We met Robert Hollow who conducts outreach across all of Australia, and has also run his ‘Pulse at Parkes’ workshops in both England and Wales. Rob has been doing outreach in CSIRO for more than 10 years, and is well travelled. We feel he is an excellent contact to bounce ideas off in the future. The ‘Pulse at Parkes’ radio astronomy workshops allow the students to analyse real data from the Parkes radio telescope. The idea is that in the future, this program will be similar to the ‘Galaxy Zoo’ project but using radio imagery/data rather than optical data. We feel it is important that students get excited by radio astronomy as the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) is currently being built in Australia, South Africa and New Zealand and pathfinder telescopes for this array already exist in the UK (e.g. LOFAR). Many jobs will be created in the future through radio astronomy so it is important that the students get excited about it. Sadie is particularly interested in implementing these workshops in her outreach as her PhD thesis was on the subject of radio astronomy.

Paul Roche and Sarah Roberts are astronomers based at the University of Glamorgan in Wales and were keen to hear about the Ogden Trust and are interested to find out more about working with them. They run the Faulkes Telescope in Wales, which is part of the LCOGT telescope network (which will soon have ~40 telescopes across the world, we also met Rachel Ross who works for the LCOGT). This program allows schools and teachers time on the telescopes, to collect data in real time. Sadie attended their talk on use of their interactive website where students can make their own asteroid and see its effects on a chosen location on the earth. They also told us about the numerous educational resources which exist on the their website which we can use in our outreach activities. Paul has also offered to help Sadie with the ‘wording’ of the questions used in the outreach evaluation forms in order to get some critical responses from teachers.

Shawn Laatsch runs a planetarium in Hawaii, has promised to send Sadie some resources that they give out to teachers to study pre and post planetarium show activities.

Zoe Buck has done research into how people respond to astronomy visualisations in planetariums. She gave us advice on evaluating our planetarium shows, and getting students to fill out our questionnaires by offering small incentives to those who fill out the forms e.g. colour changing pencils for younger children.

We discussed

• Reaching students where there is a language or cultural barrier, and a variety of strategies to involve those students equally. • Using social media such as facebook, twitter and blogging to increase impact • Using music alongside astronomy to widen its appeal to those who might consider themselves ‘not very scientific’ • Using mobile phone apps to promote learning, especially after the main outreach event has taken place • Rumours of doomsday happening in December 2012 (something which is worrying a number of students), and the corresponding facts. • Hands on activities for the students to understand the scale of the planets in the solar system, and their relative distances. • Mars curiosity landing (live viewing) and understanding of the extreme engineering involved in the mission.

What is the impact?

We found that people were very keen to hear about our work in the UK, and how we went about it. If we attend this conference in the future we would be very keen to give a presentation (either individually or jointly) about the work that we do.

We will develop and sustain connections with (particularly) Zoe Buck from the University of California Santa Cruz and Sarah Guffey from East Carolina University about their work on how students learn in a planetarium environment in order to make sure we are making full use of best practice and research findings.

Ally will encourage the academic staff responsible for the purchase of the inflatable planetarium to do so.

Sadie is going to implement the scale of the solar system activities, and a section on the Mars Curiosity rover into her ‘Aliens in the Universe’ outreach workshop.

We both feel much better prepared to answer questions from worried students about the rumours behind the Doomsday predictions and explain their origin and scientific basis (or lack thereof).

We feel freshly inspired in our work after spending time with people who share our passion for physics outreach and share similar goals to The Ogden Trust.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012

Alex's Work Experience Blog

This is my blog about my time doing work experience at Southampton University Physics and Astronomy department. My name is Alex Stewart and I have been working with Pearl John and Sadie Jones of the outreach office of the Physics and Astronomy department. I am a fiveteen year old GCSE student who has a passion for maths amd science. Hence why I asked for work experience at the physics and astronomy department.

I have had some great times at my work experience but I cannot overlook the many tedious tasks that I have been set and done during my time there. With copious amounts of writing, photocopying, erands and laptop break downs to keep me busy throughout my eight and a half hour work days. I also have to admit that at times it has felt like sifting through an endless riverbed of sand and pebbles. Representing that no matter how much you do there is always more of it that needs to be sifted through. Yawn!

But then there was the gold nuggets amongst the sand and rock.

These gold nuggets took the form of scientific experiments, making machines and intelegent conversations with scientists about their work. One of the real golden moments of my time there was making my own hologram. Which was doubley worth it as Pearl and I had just worked round a large dilema which we had with the chemicals needed to develop the hologram, making our sucess in creating one all the sweeter! There was also the moment I had finished biulding the Hydrocar and after a first pathetic attempt mad it work. Watching it scoot around obsticles in its way was very satisfying as it had taken half of the day previously and the whole of thursday moring to figure out how to get the mavilous machine to work. Then there was also talking to an astronomer about his research of the findings of Integral, a satilite telescope, and about how it picks up the gamma rays that stars and black holes emit.

Although I don't currently understand fully what he does and what Integral does, I had an exciting conversation with him and about space and what we can find there. Those points of my work experience along with a couple of others made the whole experience and overal high. As they far eclipsed the boring normal work.

So my view of work experience is positive as you learn and sometimes have great fun and would recomend it to anyone else as it was a brilliant experience. Of course it has its down side but nothing in life doesn't have one and what you get out of it is so worth the slightly boring tasks. This was truely a life changing point for me and I would do it again.

Monday, 9 July 2012

LOFAR planetarium shows at the University Community day

As part of the University's 60@60 Community day on Saturday 30th June 2012 the Soton Astrodome team, lead by myself (Sadie Jones) put on 5- 1 hour long LOFAR-UK themed planetarium shows for the general public.

Members of the public were lured into the Physics & Astronomy Department by a 'dummy' lofar antenna outside the building seen below.

When inside the department members of the public were invited to sit on the mats in our planetarium and watch a 50 minute show. These shows involved watching 4 short videos followed by an interactive tour the night sky above Southampton, including several LOFAR images using the (FREE to download) Stellarium software.

The first video was an edited version of 'We are Astronomers' which detailed how astronomers in general use the Electromagnetic Spectrum to do exciting astronomy.

The second video was an edited version of the What is LOFAR ? video made by ASTRON. In this edited version I focused on the simple and cheap antennas used by LOFAR and it's ability to look at all the sky, all the time. This video also details the use of LOFAR for looking at pulsars, transients and space weather.

The third video shown was about the building of the LOFAR-UK station in Chilbolton and is introduced by Professor Bob Nichol from Portsmouth. This video also features me (Sadie), as one of the PhD students (aka. free labour) wielding a hammer and attaching the amplifier to an LBA. Featured also are many other PhD students from other Universities such as Portsmouth & Oxford. I end this video along the lines of Professor Bob's final thoughts on aliens with some ominous scary music and an image of a massive aliens. To see the video (made by the Uni of Portsmouth) on youtube click here.

The fourth and final short film shows the million galaxies imaged by the Sloan digital sky survey. This movie ends by going right out to the Cosmic Microwave Background (CMB) at the edge of the observable universe. I explain that lofar will be used for similar radio surveys and will hopefully reveal a further 10 million active galaxies. It will also look at the Epoch of Reionisation, a time just after the big bang (after the CMB radiation) when the Hydrogen from the early universe was starting to form galaxies.

The interactive Stellarium show featured both optical and lofar images of M87, M101 and the Crab Nebula.

The first planetarium show which started at 10am was for staff members from the Faculty of Physics and Applied science and their families. The first show included mainly young children with their parents, including Professor Rob Fender and his wife and children.

The remaining 4 shows (at 11,12,2 & 3pm) were all full to capacity with 30 people in each and contained manily adults with only 10% of the rest of the audience children.

We got asked so many great questions from members of the community and they were all really excited by the fact this 'cheap' radio telescope was both 'local' and doing such exciting astronomy.

I posed 2 questions to those who came to the show. One question for the adults and another for the children. Some of the best answers to the questions are shown below:

Question for Adults

What are your thoughts on the LOFAR telescope?

'Excellent for new astronomy. Great way to Explore"

'Why didn't 'we' do this earlier ?'

"I'm stunned by the cooperation of different countries and the extent of the communication & integration from those countries"


"What good value this type of Astronomy is!"

"Good to see what can be done with a reasonable budget with good collaboration across Europe/World"

"I think the mechanisms that causes jets to be emitted from black holes and neutrons stars is the most interesting thing LOFAR will teach us"

Question for Children

Have you learnt anything new today? What did you learn?

There is a big telescope in Chile

LOFAR stands for low frequency telescope!

We learnt that there are lots of stars in the galaxy.

Telescopes are great to look at.

I learnt about black holes !

It is so great!

We learnt that black holes are very big!

We learnt about lots of things :)

The future sees us improving on of this prototype LOFAR planetarium show and then making use of it for other open days and in local schools (probably for A-level and GCSE Astronomy students). We aim to get as many people excited about LOFAR as possible:)

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Abi's Work Experience

My name is Abi and I am an As level student. I spent three days with Sadie, in the Physics and Astronomy department at Southampton University. I experienced both outreach and the general physics department.

On my first day I was given a tour of the physics building, all five floors! I also went onto the roof to see the observatory but unfortunately it was very wet so they couldn't be opened. I met some PhD students and some of the resident astronomers, to find out what they research. Sadie gave me a presentation of her PhD work, and I learnt a lot about supermassive black holes and what the department is researching as a whole. It was very interesting and enjoyable. I also did a worksheet based on the Hubble constant, which was a first year undergraduate experiment, measuring recessional velocity and distance of galaxies to calculate redshift and size of the galaxies. I also attended a seminar by a visiting astronomer, Karina Caputi, who is an assistant professor from the Kapteyn Astronomical Institute at the University of Groningen. The seminar was called "Massive Galaxies in the first 2 billion years," it was very interesting, but a little tough as it was aimed at the PhD students.

On my second day, I was given a tour of the university campus, including the library, the union and the sports facilities, by Ridwan. It was very interesting, if a little soggy, as I would really like to study at Southampton University. I was also given a tour of the physics undergraduate laboratories, by Mark, a demonstrator. He showed me the 1st, 2nd and 3rd year experiments and the labs that they use, including diffraction, radioactive materials, circuits and superconductors. I was shown the lasers, class 3 and 4 (the most dangerous type of laser). I was also taken to the mechanical workshops, where they design and build equipment for institutes all over the country. I was shown the milling machines and the computer 3D modelling software.

Anechoic room.
On my last day I worked with Dr. John Nesbitt to try and explain his research, but in a way a 14 year old would understand. It was called time resolved incoherant anti-Stokes Raman spectroscopy, so it was quite difficult. For example, we changed phonons to vibrations. I spent the afternoon with Dr. Steve Dorney, he gave me a tour of the vibrations and acoustics department, it was amazing! He showed me the Anechoic room, which is a room completely free of echos.
Echo room.

I then went in the Echo room, which is the complete opposite of the Anechoic room. All of the walls are asymmetrical, and are designed to mimic a cave.

I was shown some of the experiments that are used in the roadshow that Dr. Steve travels around the country with, including a dragon bowl and a thunder drum.
I was also given a vibration rod, a metal rod thats rings different notes when you rub it. 
Vibrating rod.

Dragon bowl.

I have learnt a lot from my time at the university, I have developed my communication skills after talking to PhD students and lots of new people. All of my co-workers were friendly and very welcoming, and it was an amazing opportunity to experience life at the university. It has definately exceeded my expectations, I have had an amazing time and met some amazing people.
I would like to thank everyone that I have met and everyone that worked with me, and I would recommend the work experience to anyone that is interested in physics and astronomy.

Monday, 21 May 2012

World Wide Telescope workshops for GCSE students

World Wide Telescope Script
Edited by Sadie on 30th March, for Uni Genius event. Introducing A-level students to WWT. Total session length 30 mins including – 10 min Intro of programme and 20 min .wwt tutorial.

Main jist of talk

1.    Introduce WWT, yourself and helpers
2.   Give quick tutorial of WWT, make sure all users are in programme.
…..Look in more detail and stuff discussed in the dome show.
3.   Orion & Orions Nebula & Star birth
4.    Star Death, Crab Nebula & Neutron stars and Pulsars
5.   M101 a recent supernovae
6.    X-ray Binary black holes & Cygnus X-1 (Look in X-ray)
7.    Sagittarius A* our supermassive black hole, diff Wavelength (Look in Infrared) Galactic Centre
8.   NGC 4051 looking in optical and X-ray bands explain my PhD research
9.     M87, elliptical galaxies, mergers, part black holes play in galaxy formation?
10.                 Hubble Deep field get an idea for how massive the universe is…
11. The End, Any questions

1.    World Wide Telescope this is a Microsoft program which you can download for you own computers for free, you do need a good internet connection, because all the images are downloaded as you zoom into them. Explain top and bottom menu bars and the search bar.
2.   (Get them to do this within software as you explain it!). Now by Clicking on your favourite image in bottom ‘Look at’ menu, I’ve chosen the Pleiades which is a group of stars in Taurus. By right clicking on the images you can see the ‘Finder Scope’ this shows you the RA and DEC of the object which is basically the co-ordinate system astronomers use to assign positions to objects like stars and galaxies. You will notice the Alt and Az , which is another co-ordinate system is moving. This is because the stars move across our sky. The Magnitude is the measure of brightness and the distance to the stars is given in Ly, where a light year is equivalent to about 6 trillion miles, that’s a 6 with 12 zeros! If you want to know more about a specific object select ‘Research’ and there are loads of other options which allow you to explore information about the object. Including the Simbad database which is used by astronomers like myself. Choose ‘lookup on Simbad’, as you can see these is a lot of information here and lots of ways you can look at it. So the best way to get used to this program is to download it and experiment with it yourself.
3.   To start we will look at Orion, which I may? have shown you in the planetarium show you were shown orions belt, 3 stars in a row, WWT allows us to zoom into the star forming region just below the belt. Stars just like humans live and die, our sun has about 5 billion years left in it, and these stars in the nebula have just been born. The length a star lives for depends on how large it is. The biggest stars have the shortest lives, and stars survive by fusing elements, which releases energy.. Stars can fuse everything up to Iron and then all the other elements, things like silver and gold are made in the death of the star, in the supernovae explosion.
4.    Now you also saw the Crab nebula in the planetarium and you will remember I said it was a composite image made from X-ray to look at the neutron star and optical to see the explosion of the different elements. Now I want you to search for the crab and use the bottom toolbar to look at all the different ways you can see it with the different parts of the EM spectrum.
5.   M101 – The recent (August 2011) supernovae in the ‘pin wheel’ galaxy. They come in various types, and the one we’re interested in is probably due to a white dwarf (the core of a dead star) which is literally sucking matter from a companion star. If the white dwarf  accumulates enough matter, it starts to fuse hydrogen atoms into helium, causing the whole star to explode. Such an explosion releases so much energy that it can outshine its parent galaxy! Type IA supernovae are a bit special, as we think they all explode in a similar way, which allows to use them to determine distances of far away galaxies. It is actually thanks to these stars that scientists discovered the expansion of the Universe was accelerating.
M101 is a spiral galaxy, located about 25 million light-years away. It is also huge, as it contains about a trillion stars, 10 times more than our Milky Way Galaxy! Because it’s very close, the study of this supernova should be rather easy, and it was spotted pretty early. Most supernovae occur very far away, and they are detected only after a few days, when they reach their maximum brightness. The earlier they are observed, the better: scientists gather more data, and it is essential to better understand these phenomena.

6.    Now if the star which made the crab had been a bit bigger say 8 times bigger than the sun the left over core would become a black hole not a neutron star. So next we are going to look for one of the most famous black holes called Cygnus X-1 it is one of the first sources which was widely accepted to be a black hole. It’s in the head of the Swan, Cygnus constellation and was discovered using X-ray observatories. Make sure they are looking in visible, i.e. what your eyes would see, so when we look at the sky in this visible survey image you can’t see any source here in the neck of the swan. Now we know that when material falls onto a black hole and moves at very high speeds, particles gain energy, and achieve the high energies required to produce X-ray radiation. Now when they turn on the X-ray survey of the whole sky taken by the ROSAT X-ray telescope you suddenly see a source appear, this is X-ray radiation released as a result of material spiralling in a disc around the black hole, We call this an accretion disk. The mass of the black hole in the system is 9times that of the sun.  Over three decades ago, Stephen Hawking placed -- and eventually lost - a bet against the existence of a black hole in Cygnus X-1. Today, astronomers are confident the Cygnus X-1 system contains a black hole. In fact, a team of scientists has combined data from radio, optical, and X-ray telescopes including Chandra to determine the black hole's spin, mass, and distance more precisely than ever before. With these key pieces of information, the history of the black hole has been reconstructed. This new information gives astronomers strong clues about how the black hole was born, how much it weighed, and how fast it was spinning. This is important because scientists still would like to know much more about the birth of black holes. Talk about your x-ray research and intermediate mass bhs. Now the black hole in Cygnus is one of the many small black holes within our galaxy, but there is a really massive one at the centre.

7.    Now we are flying around to look at our view of the galaxy we are in, the Milky Way. Our solar system is on one of the spiral arms of the Milky way and here you can the plane of the galaxy…Astronomers have looked at the centre of the galaxy and the stars which orbit that centre. Now the centre of the our galaxy is in the region of Sagittarius A*. From measuring the speed of 6 stars at the centre scientists have estimated the mass of the bh at the centre of our galaxy is 4 million times the mass of our sun. No other object can be so massive and in such a small volume of space. Now if we look at infra red survey of the sky we can see that the galaxy plane shows up a lot better. This is because infrared radiation is associated with heat (this is how police cameras work, picking up the heat of the criminals at night in order to locate them) Astronomers use the same principle here, now the material at the centre of the galaxy has more energy and therefore releases more heat energy. Infrared also allows us to see areas of star formation.
8.   NGC 4051 – talk about my thesis
9.   Now finally we are going to fly out to M87, which is galaxy, but it is called an elliptical galaxy as it is more rounded. The supermassive black holes size is estimated to be billion times the mass of the Sun, astronomers think elliptical galaxies might be formed by the mergers of 2 spiral galaxies. When we view this galaxy in optical light we just see a circular galaxy, however when we look in X-ray and infrared we see other features and jets coming from the centre. In fact the jets from this black hole actually extends out 5,000 light years
10.                 Hubble deep field – near ursa major (as is NGC 4051) One peek into a small part of the sky, one giant leap back in time...
Mankind's deepest, most detailed optical view of the universe — provided courtesy of NASA's Hubble Space Telescope — was unveiled today to eager scientists at the 187th meeting of the American Astronomical Society in San Antonio, Texas.The image, called the Hubble Deep Field (HDF), was assembled from 342 separate exposures taken with the Wide Field and Planetary Camera 2 (WFPC2) for ten consecutive days between December 18 and 28, 1995.
Representing a narrow "keyhole" view stretching to the visible horizon of the universe, the HDF image covers a speck of the sky only about the width of a dime located 75 feet away. Though the field is a very small sample of the heavens, it is considered representative of the typical distribution of galaxies in space because the universe, statistically, looks largely the same in all directions. Gazing into this small field, Hubble uncovered a bewildering assortment of at least 1,500 galaxies at various stages of evolution.
Most of the galaxies are so faint (nearly 30th magnitude or about four-billion times fainter than can be seen by the human eye) they have never before been seen by even the largest telescopes. Some fraction of the galaxies in this menagerie probably date back to nearly the beginning of the universe.

11. The End, any questions?

Monday, 14 May 2012

What is exciting about correlated X-ray and Radio radiation from Black Holes?

As part of my PhD studies we are asked to produce posters on a yearly basis to showcase our research to members of the physics department. Below is a poster aimed at students with at least an Undergraduate level of Physics studies behind them. I made this poster in 2010, and the question which is the title of poster was based on a question from a GCSE Astronomy student. The student asked me at the end of a talk on my research 'But why do you study the radio and X-ray from black holes, what is interesting about it?'...This question threw me at the time, but it did help me make this poster more accesible I think. It's those fundamental questions that people in research should ask themselves daily, as this can help you get through the day and remind you why you are doing all this research/banging your head against the wall in the first place!

JPG of my poster for .pdf version that you can zoom in on click link below

For the PDF version of the 'exciting' poster,aimed at Physics Undergraduate level please click here.

Below is a poster I prepared for the European Very Long Baseline Interferometry (VLBI) Meeting  also in 2010...This poster is on the same material as the poster above but at a slightly more advanced level and focuses mainly on the radio radiation from the supermassive black hole, and the VLBI imagery of the galaxy.

JPG of Poster for the EVN Conference in 2010, for the .pdf version that you can zoom into and read click below
For the PDF version of the EVN poster, aimed at Physics Undergraduate level and above please click here.

Below is one of Dan Plant's posters about Black holes. This poster was done for an MPhys project at Lancaster University. Dan is now studying for his PhD, also in black holes, here at the University of Southampton.

Wednesday, 2 May 2012

Observing the planets with the roof telescopes

Last night was the first time in my 8 years as an 'astronomer' where I actually felt like one. Despite having an MPhys in Astrophysics which included  a project on optical astronomy, doing a PhD in radio astronomy, and then becoming the 'Outreach Leader in Astronomy' I had only ever looked through an actual telescope ONCE (thanks to Huw James taking me out in a field that time) ! The nearest I have got to observing with an optical telescope is controlling the Faulkes Telescope from the comfort of an office at Cardiff University.

With this embarrassing confession in mind I was very excited to have the opportunity to join the students studying the 'Solar System' course here at the University, lead by Prof Phil Charles, on the roof of the Physics building. The plan was to observe as many planets as possible using the 2 Meade telescopes (which I have blogged about before Here) and 2 telescopes brought along by astrosoc. It was a fabulous night, and given all the rain this April and May, the conditions were awesome, not a cloud in the sky, and it wasn't that cold either.

During the evening I got to look at Mars (and it really was rather red, that's the rust you know!), Saturn (It's rings were really there!) and the Moon (those craters up close are lovely). When it got really dark I got to look at the open cluster called M44 (lots of nice blue stars shining brightly).

To see more photos click here.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Aliens in the Universe talk

Lancing College
I have given this talk on aliens in the Universe on many occasions. Some of the most memorable times was to Foxhills school who brought along approximately 90 primary school children to the university or at the INTECH stargazing evening. At Intech I gave the talk 3 times to families and members of the general public and each show sold out :). I recently gave this talk at Lancing College which is an amazing place, reminded me a lot of Hogwarts (see right).

Included within the talk about Aliens/Life in the Universe, the students are asked to become the planets in the solar system by holding the inflatable planets and getting in order. The students in the audience are then encouraged to decide if the planets are in the correct order if they should be changed. I then try to create some discussion over which planets in our solar system are most likely to harbour life . 

Contents of Talk

Questions from students
This talk always spurs loads of questions, so many that I often have to leave many questions unanswered.

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Cosmology Planetarium Shows with ICG

Script for the A-level Cosmology show made in collaboration with Karen Masters at ICG.

Start outside dome

After safety briefing introduce yourself and your research. Introduce WAA and the Stellarium software/ apps. Introduce Cosmology ‘ trying understand the nature of the Universe as a whole’ Cosmologists seek to understand the origin, evolution, structure, and ultimate fate of the Universe at large, as well as the natural laws that keep it in order. I actually studied an individual supermassive black hole in a galaxy as part of my research, a cosmologist might also study supermassive black holes but they would think about them in terms of ‘the part they have played in Galaxy evolution in the universe as a whole’5 mins

In dome

Play WAA  25 mins Play ‘Zoom through telescope’ Movie 1 min 17sec
Go into Stellarium

Finding North

Starting with Big dipper, which is an asterism, part of the constellation ursa major, which means the Great Bear.  And Ursa Minor, which means small bear. The lowest too stars in the saucepan point to North Star.

It looks like a saucepan, with a handle and a place to put your beans, counting from the 2 stars at the end of the pan, count in a straight line about 5/6 steps (at a step distance of the gap between those 2 stars). There you will find Polaris aka the North star.  Many people think North Star is the brightest in the sky! It isn’t! it is only important because it is directly above the North Pole, and stays above the north pole as the earth spins on its axis causing all the other stars to spin around! Think about spinning top (from Christmas cracker) the top part, which you spin around with your fingers, doesn’t appear to move while the sides of the top are whizzing around. The middle of the top represents the North Pole with the North Star is right above it. Make sure they realise none of the stars actually move, and it’s us that are moving?

(speed up time L in Stellarium so they can see stars going around in arcs)
Mentioned Axis of Earth ( if time mention Southern Hemisphere doesn’t have a star above south pole :( They use Southern Cross and point to an area which is above/below the South Pole)

Constellations      Make sure can see both Cass and big dipper

Ask ‘what is a constellation? ‘     Explain these are 48 constellations in total.
Turn on constellation art press ‘r’ key
Patterns of stars in sky, imagine the ancient Greeks without TVs very bored so used to join the stars together like a dot to dot, Mention that the Saucepan/Big Dipper is an Asterism not constellation, as it is part of the great bear. Turn off constellation art  r

Circumpolar stars 

Explain that the constellations of Cassiopeia and Andromeda and Ursa Major etc are Circumpolar constellations and never set.

Cass looks like a W or an M for McDonalds, find her from the Big Dipper by drawing a line through North Star. Cass is a queen married to King Cepheus (he is in sky near by looks like a house drawn by a child). Andromeda is Cass’s daughter. Mention film ‘Clash of Titans’ and Greek Mythology but don’t talk about it any further.

Zoom to Andromeda

Locate Andromeda.. go along same line from Polaris, to Cass, and thru to Andromeda.. (Search Fn-F3 for M31, and zoom in using / in stellarium)
When in Andromeda constellation, say it is our nearest spiral galaxy Andromeda (in local group.) It is 2.6 million light-years (2.5×1019 km) away. And it is the most distant object you can see with the ‘naked eye’.

 Andromeda looks a lot like our own galaxy and you can imagine if you were flying in space outside our Milky Way it would like very similar to Andromeda.
Andromeda is actually has double the amount of stars that the MW has.

Dark matter in Andromeda 

 So I just mentioned that Andromeda has more stars than the Milky Way. But astronomers think that the Milky way is actually more massive, as it has more Dark Matter. Can anyone tell me what dark matter is?
Vera Rubin is a scientist from the USA who studied the variation of the velocities of the gas in between stars (interstellar medium) with distance from the center of the galaxy. She found that …

Black hole in Andromeda. 

Now it might shock you to know that our Solar System is orbiting in our galaxy around a Supermassive black hole

And there is also a supermassive black hole at the centre of Andromeda galaxy.

These supermassive BH were predicted by Einstein’s theory of general relativity. They exist at the centre of all galaxies, a million times that of sun. The BH in our MW is actually 4 million times mass of sun! Ask ‘how do you think astronomers know the mass? Cos they can’t just weigh it with a scales?’ Using Keplers Third Law which hopefully you have heard of this equation which relates the speed of stars which are orbiting the Mass, to the mass of the thing they are orbiting. This is exactly how we measure the mass of the Sun.

Astronomer measured high speeds of stars orbiting around an object known as Sagittarius A* which is at the centre of our galaxy the MW.

Can zoom / into Sagittarius A*/ search for Sagittarius using Fn-F3. Can’t see much there, turn off the constellations , c and search fnF3 for M25 this is a near by cluster of stars
Explain that at the centre of our galaxy astronomers measure the speeds and orbits of stars just like that’s how they know there is a supermassive black hole there!

Ending thought about black holes.

Most people think of black holes as monsters but Astronomers now think they play a large part in the early formation of galaxies. As we learn more about how galaxies were formed in early universe it seems that the BH at the centre plays a large part in forming galaxies, remember that the jet from the centre of the galaxy can reach into other galaxies, these jets of particles might start star formation to occur in galaxies where it might otherwise not have occurred. This means that without our blackholes the universe might of not formed galaxies. And without galaxies there wouldn’t be stars, without the stars, no solar systems of planets and with out planets, no humans, so black holes may not something to be afraid of.
The massive Jets from galaxies like M87 and 3c273 are so far reaching that they can actually reach into nearby galaxies.  Astronomers think that these jets can affect the surrounding galaxy giving the surrounding galaxies more energy. This might mean that idea that black holes are monsters is wrong; they actually might be responsible for the formation of galaxies like our own. And of course without the galaxy there is no solar system and without the solar system no place for us to live!

For example if our Sun turned into a black hole we wouldn’t all get sucked in, the Earth would actually orbit around quite happily. Obviously, without the energy from fusion humans would not exist though.
Gravity works for black holes just like it does for everything else. Black holes don’t suck – they just have very strong gravity, so it’s dangerous to get very close. But far from a black hole things orbit them normally.

Blueshift and redshift 

Ask if they have heard of red shift or doppler shift? Remind them that that it is to do with the wavelength of electromagnetic radiation. When an object is moving away from you (like most galaxies are moving away from us) the radiation or light we detect is shifted to longer wavelengths because of the motion of the object away from us means the light waves get stretched out, i.e. the energy of light measured by an astronomer is nearer the lower energy red end of the spectrum , hence the name ‘red shift’ – compare with the pitch of the ambulance siren as it goes past you with the wavelets bunching up in front of the ambulance when it is moving towards you, and spreading out behind. Sound wave compressed as it came toward you, and stretched as it went away. Same is seen in stars, and used to observed the motion of galaxies.

 Say that the light from Andromeda is actually blue shifted! Ask them what this means? So MW and Andromeda are actually moving toward each other in space at about 100km per sec which seems very fast and might scare you but this is actually equivalent to  400 lightyears every million years (and remember Andromeda is 2.6 million light years away) attracted to each other by gravitational forces due to their large masses, in 4.5 billion years they will collide making a much larger galaxy.
Out of Stellarium
Play ‘Redshift blueshift’ movie 12.27-12:37 10 secs
You can see the light is redder or stretched because the galaxy is moving away from us.
Galaxies come in different types. We’ve seen the Milky Way and Andromeda which are both spiral galaxies, but we think after they merge together they might form an elliptical galaxy which are the other kind.
Play ‘highresgalaxycollision’ movie 53secs
Lots of astronomers work to try to understand how the different kinds of galaxies formed and how they got the shapes they have.
Now hopefully some of you have heard of the Galaxy Zoo project. This is an site where members of the public, like yourselves can help the astronomers by classifying galaxies. You do this by going on the website and just looking at the shape of the galaxy to decide which type you think it is.

Our view of the universe has changed. 

It is only since the 1500’s that we have really started to understand the solar system and our universe.

Play ‘Solar system’ 1 min 05:15-06.09
Before telescopes were invented everyone believed the earth was the centre, we thought the sun, moon and planets orbited around it.
Then in 1543 Nicholas Copernicus proposed a different model with the Sun at the centre, it was a radical idea and he didn’t have any evidence to prove it. Nearly 65 years later, Hans Lippershey fixed 2 small pieces of glass into a tube and made an Eyeglass. Galileo saw these designs and made his own telescope and observed Jupiter, and noticed some points of light either side of Jupiter which appeared to move around it. He soon discovered these were moons orbiting around Jupiter, and this made people realize that the Earth wasn’t actually so important, since objects could clearly orbit around other planets like Jupiter. The telescope was then used to prove Copernicus’ new theory that the earth was not the center of the Universe. It was also used to learn more about our Galaxy
Play ‘’ 1 min 48  12.37-14.33

Our Galaxy and Other Galaxies

We have only known that we have lived in a galaxy for the last 100 years. Before the 20th century thought the universe consisted of a flat disk of stars with the earth and the solar system at the centre.
Caroline Herschel made a map of this disk, but because telescopes did not have the resolving power of todays telescopes. They thought the other galaxies were part of this disk. An astronomer named Edwin Hubble observed Cephid Variables and was able to determine that these galaxies were extremely far away.
There was a massive public debate in 1920 between two astronomers about if “spiral nebula” were external, or in our own Galaxy. Harlow Shapley thought they were in our Galaxy because it was really huge. Heber Curtis thought our Galaxy was smaller and the others were all external. Turned out they were both right as the universe is much bigger than they could imagine. Our Galaxy is as big as Shapley thought it was and the others are all outside it!

An astronomer named Edwin Hubble observed Cephid Variables in the mid 1920s and was able to determine that these galaxies were extremely far away. He also used these measurements to show that the further galaxies get from us the faster they are moving away from us (using measurements of their redshift). This demonstrated that our Universe is not only vast, but also expanding!

Play ‘Fly through HST galaxies’ 1 min 20.48-21:33 
We now have such good telescopes (like the HST) that we can see galaxies that are so far away that the light from them has taken almost half of the age of the universe to reach us.
Light travels very fast – about 1 metre in 3ns, but it still takes 8 minutes to reach us from the Sun, 3 years from the nearest star, and millions or billions of years from the external galaxies.
These galaxies show an incredible variety of different types of galaxies even very early on in the Universe.

Sloan Digital Sky Survey

Play Journey_3D_HD (on desktop) 1min 23sec
This visualization presents a 3-D view of the largest structures in the Universe via data from the Sloan Digital Sky Survey. The SDSS is the most ambitious astronomical survey ever undertaken. It provides a 3-dimensional map of about a million galaxies and quasars. As the survey progresses, the data are released to the scientific community and the general public in annual increments.

We also have massive surveys of galaxies in the Universe. This movies shows 1 million galaxies which have been mapped by the Sloan Digital Sky survey.
We can’t see galaxies everywhere. These black areas are the modern equivalent of “here be dragons” anything there is hidden from our view by our own galaxy.
But the web like structure is real. This is showing how galaxies formed where there were clumps of dark matter in a filamentary web. We can understand things about cosmology from carefully mapping the shapes seen in this structure.
When we look at the most distance galaxies, we are looking further back into time. This is because the light from the most distant galaxies has taken such a long time to get to us. Therefore, the furthest point we want to look back to is the creation of the Universe, the time of the ‘Big Bang’.
Each marker here is actually real data , which is why there is a big gap in this data. It doesn’t mean there aren’t galaxies there; we just haven’t looked there yet.

Quasars are thought to be the first massive structures which formed in the beginning of the universe, half a billion years after big bang. In this data you can see a clustering of the galaxies in certain areas. Astronomers think the reasons why quasars seem to be surrounded by dense clusters of galaxies is because the jets from these early quasars actually played a part in fuelling the formation of galaxies.

The CMB represents the edge of observable universe. When I say observable universe what I mean is there are galaxies and quasars out beyond this boundary it is just that we cannot see them, remember this is real data taken by telescopes and they can only observed the light from galaxies out to a certain distance. Just like when you are in power cut with a candle and can only see things right in front of you.


End with CMB on sky from movie
Beyond the quasars we have the light from the Cosmic Microwave Background or CMB , this light marks the edge of observable universe. This is not really the edge of the Universe but it is the light from the very beginning of the universe 380,000 years after the Big Bang when electron and protons started to form into hydrogen atoms...and we can’t see the light from back any further than this

The CMB fills the universe almost uniformly. It may not look like it from this image of the CMB but Astronomers say that the CMB shows us that the Universe is Isotropic and Homogeneous Isotropric means the same in all directions, and Homogeneous means the universe will look the same from whatever position you stand in.
The CMB is at a temperature of 3 degrees above absolute zero(or 3K)
And has a wavelength between the mm-cm regime, which is comparable to radio and TV Wavelengths.
This means you can use your TV to detect radiation from the big bang, if you tune a TV between channels about 1% of the static is from the CMB.
These spots of different colour represent very small fluctuations in the density of the CMB and it is in these most dense regions where galaxies would have formed.


Take questions outside of dome for 5 mins….