Harry Potter and the Telescopes of Doom

You'll have guessed from the title that this post is about Harry Potter but it is also about astronomy so bear with me. Unless you've been living in a mine for the past month, you will be well aware that the seventh and final book in the Harry Potter series is due out on 21st July 2007. The online book sellers have gone crazy taking pre-orders even before the release date was announced.

So what has this to do with astronomy? Well, following some inflatable planetarium shows a couple of years ago, we started to realise that Harry Potter contains quite a few references to stars and constellations. For instance Andromeda Tonks, Regulus Black, Draco Malfoy and Bellatrix LeStrange. Perhaps the most obvious is Sirius Black who appropriately, given that Sirius is the dog star and part of Canis Major - the Big Dog - can turn into a large dog. That was about as much excuse as we needed at Jodrell Bank Observatory to organise a Harry Potter book six star party back in 2005. That was lots of fun so we are doing the same for the launch of book seven.

In 2005 we had a magical evening that started at 9pm with all arrivals being sorted into the four houses of Aquila, Delphinus, Lepus and Cygnus. Of course they aren't the same as those at Hogwarts but then Jodrell Bank Observatory isn't Hogwarts. Once sorted, house prefects (Jodrell Bank PhD and MSc students) took the new students to an outside star talk, a planetarium show, a 3D trip to Mars, wand and hat making, and let them look through real telescopes at the night sky. Oh and of course people were able to pick up their new books at 1 minute past midnight too. It was something a bit different to the standard star party with wizards and witches of all ages wandering around learning a bit of astronomy at the same time. We even filled the 42ft radio telescope with green smoke, making it look a bit like a cauldron.

Hopefully this year will be even better. I'm looking forward to it already.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 12th Feb 2007 (15:42 GMT) | Permalink
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