Monday, 21 March 2016

#AstroAirport Prize Winners

For four consecutive days, Monday 15th – Thursday 18th February 2016 a group of four astronomy researchers from the University of Southampton engaged passengers waiting in the departure lounge at Southampton Airport with their world leading astronomy research on supernovae. To start up a conversation with passengers waiting in the lounge the astronomers were handed out compressed towels with supernova printed on them. 

The scientists then used various hands-on demos to explain what a supernova is and why the research they do at the University of Southampton is so important and exciting. The astronomers hope had conversations with over 1,450 passengers about their scientific research across the four days of the activity.

There were a variety of other freebies available to passengers such as pens, cloth bags and colouring in sets. 

The activity was funded by a Science & Technology Facilities Council (STFC) public engagement small award to see how members of the public who wouldn’t normally choose to attend science events respond to discussion about astronomy research in an environment where they would not be expect it. This is also one of the first attempts to communicate science in an airport departure lounge (beyond the security gates).

The Southampton airport astronomers were engaging the public with the research of the University of Southampton Supernova Group. More information about the members of the group and their astronomy research can be found here:

Solomon checking out the new planets on the ceiling.

Passengers we spoke to were encouraged to tweet pictures with their freebies using the hashtag #AstroAirport and fill out a paper evaluation form. For those people who tweeted or instagramed we entered them into a prize draw to win glow in the dark planets and for those who filled out the paper form they were entered into a prize draw to win a Lottie Stargazer Doll and/or a Lego Research Insititute set. Photos of the prize winners can be seen below: 

Emily & Shannon complete with solar system earrings
Amy looking up at her own room solar system 

James & Olivia arrive home from school to their prizes!

The Wearn Children

        “A towel is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have.”

Douglas Adams - The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Zak is very happy with his prize

Monday, 14 March 2016

Stargazing Resources for Princes Trust RAS2020 Project

Apps for #Stargazing

Planets – Free – tells you which planets are visible on the night of observing and you can find their position in the sky by holding up your phone to the planets i.e. the bright non-twinkling objects.

SkyView – Free –Shows the constellations and planets, but shows you it in an Augmented reality platform (uses the camera to show you the planets and constellations on the background your camera sees live) & you can search for objects by typing them in and then an arrow will point you toward them.

Star Chart – Free - app that shows the constellations, planets, and constellation art and gives information on interesting objects in the field of view

Star Walk 1 or 2 - £2.99 – More powerful than Star Chart and has more features and more info on objects.

Sputnik! – Free - tell you when the ISS and other satellites are visible from your location

GoISSWatch – Free – As above but just for the ISS and has cool map showing you where the ISS is live and will send you notifications when it is overhead.

Night Cap - £0.79 – (low light) Astrophotography app allows you to take photos of stars, planets and do stair trails etc but you need to experiment with exposure times and ISO sensitivity within the app. Can use the iPhone headphone mic as a camera shutter so you don’t shake the camera when you take long exposures.

Night Cap Pro- £1.49 -  As above but has ‘stair trail’ and ‘iss’ options so it picks the correct exposure and ISO settings for taking pictures of certain things. Also does video recording.

Free Software for PCs/Macs
Just ‘Google’ the names of these programs and download them to your computer for free.

Stellarium – Like SkyView and other apps above but very easy to use and you can type in the date you want to go observing and it will tell you exactly what the sky is like on that date. So perfect for using to plan a stargazing evening event and knowing what is visible at what time. It is best to view/photograph objects when they are directly over head so this is a great way to view this.

World Wide Telescope – this software can be downloaded or just the webclient. Shows how the universe is looks when observed by different telescopes looking at radio through to gamma waves. It has lots of amazing images from Hubble in the locations of the objects on the sky.

StarStax –for making star trails or timelapse videos from multiple/burst of images. Just select all the images you want to use and the software does the rest!

Useful links
Zooniverse -
 - Many different citizen science projects for YP to contribute to scientific research online. These include several astronomy-focused projects like analysing galaxy shapes and finding exoplanets but also many other projects like observing penguins and plankton.

-Google ‘ keplers tally of planets’ – shows exoplanets that the Kepler telescope has found and their orbits.

Star Size comparison YouTube video -
starts with moon and then scales up to largest star (VY Canis Majoris) then back to Earth

Google ‘nasa retro posters’ – Put up these posters in your centre & use to start up discussion about planets around other stars, and life on other planets, maybe get the YP to design their own poster for a newly discovered exoplanet.