Whatever happened to Sidereal Time?

Tomorrow (or is that today - why can't we keep GMT in the summer?) I'm off to the concrete wonders of Milton Keynes for the National Astronomy Meeting (NAM). The reception is tomorrow night and the first talks are on Tuesday. Perhaps I'll find out what happened to sidereal time in the Astronomy Education session. I am *still* not certain exactly which sessions I'll go to - it depends how I feel at the time. I don't know whether to go to 'Extraterrestrial sample analysis I' or the 'New ground-based telescopes'. The first has a talk by Dr Monica Grady (Do Kuiper Belt Objects fall to Earth as Meteorites?) but the second gives me a chance to heckle my supervisor!

Friday sees a series of talks on planetary exploration but there is no mention of Beagle 2 - I guess that the OU doesn't want to talk about it yet.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Sunday 28th Mar 2004 (23:35 UTC) | Permalink

Spaced Out in the News

Although the Spaced Out launch was over a week ago, it seems that it has finally been published on the BBC Sci/Tech news pages. I like the photo caption that says "Jodrell Bank: The centre of the Solar System" - a Jodrocentric model?!

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Saturday 20th Mar 2004 (18:07 UTC) | Permalink

Astronomers and the Public

Last night I went to a talk by Dr David Whitehouse, the BBC's Science Editor, at Goostrey village hall. Dr David Whitehouse did his PhD at Jodrell Bank - his thesis is sat on a shelf in the library - so he is an astronomer who turned to journalism. The fact that he was an astronomer shows in his reports on BBC News Online - he is much better at presenting correct science than the journalists who are forced to cover science stories. However it was interesting to see stories from the point of view of a journalist with the need to provide 'different angles', on stories, for their editors.

The talk was about science (mainly astronomy) in the media but very nearly went ahead without any slides. It seems that Powerpoint did its old trick of refusing to work and even caused his daughter's laptop (Win98) to have a fatal exception error and the blue screen of death. After several attempts to get it going I volunteered the use of my laptop which seemed able to cope with the 200MB file running from CD.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 17th Mar 2004 (11:32 UTC) | Permalink


It is that time of year again. The National Astronomy Meeting (known as NAM) is being held this year in Milton Keynes as it is being hosted by The Open University. I have only just registered as I had forgotton all about it, so I am now too late to submit an abstract for a poster or talk. It is just as well that I submitted a poster to last year's NAM in Dublin.

There should be some interesting sessions this year but I'm waiting for the final programme to be released so I can make up my mind on some of the sessions. For instance I'm not sure whether to go to the Cosmology session on galaxy formation or the astronomical computation and virtual observatories session.

After all my complaints about light pollution I am certainly going to the Adverse environmental factors affecting astronomy session. Jodrell's own Dr Jim Cohen is giving a talk on radio pollution and Bob Mizon is giving a talk on light pollution in the UK. I also want to catch Dr. Derek McNally's talk on global warming and astronomy which is going to discuss the possibility of an increased water content in the atmosphere.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 15th Mar 2004 (01:20 UTC) | Permalink

Spaced Out

Space is big. Really big. This means it can be very difficult to get an idea of the scales involved. Spaced Out (not to be confused with the fan site for Channel 4 comedy Spaced) plan to bring the scale of the solar system home, to school children all around the UK, quite literally.

The plan is to have a 15 million to 1 scale model of the solar system with the Sun placed at Jodrell Bank and Pluto being in Fort William. Mercury will be in Chelford, Venus in Alderley Edge, Earth in Maccelsfield and Saturn in Lancaster. There will be 18 solar system objects in total with Halley's Comet in London and the furthest object, Quaoar, in the Shetland Isles.

Megan and I both went to the special launch (no pun intended) yesterday morning at the Jodrell Bank Visitor's Centre. The project hasn't actually been funded yet and they want to raise around £125,000 to pay for some of the 'installations' and the associated website. The plan is to have everything ready by National Science Week next year. The launch was attended by the BBC - both Radio Stoke and North West Tonight.

The TV reporter and camera man decided that they would use some G.C.S.E students to create a human model of the solar system for a short (1 minute 20 seconds) segment at the end of the news. As there were only seven present, Megan and I were drafted in to act as the Earth and Pluto respectively. In order that we could be seen on the shot, the camera man distorted the distance scale quite a bit - there was no way that I was 29 times further from the camera than Megan. To make the science a little better, I managed to convince the other outer planets to move more slowly than the inner ones. Still, considering that Pluto's orbit takes 248 Earth years, I was moving much too fast and I should really have been nearer to the camera than Neptune as Pluto became closer in February 1999. I also tried to go in a slightly eliptical orbit but you can't notice this on the TV.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Saturday 13th Mar 2004 (17:03 UTC) | Permalink

Thought for the day

Radio 4's Thought for the Day this morning happened to mention Dr Richard Davis who works in an office just along the corridor from me. It was discussing the recent VSA (Very Small Array) press release about the very early Universe.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 10th Mar 2004 (12:57 UTC) | Permalink
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