Paper ALMA

Back in 2005 I mentioned the cut-out and build models of the ExoMars rover as well as a few other space missions. Now, courtesy of the Japanese ALMA Outreach folk you can construct your very own Atacama Large Millimetre Array at home as it gets constructed for real in Chile. You can make your own antennas in paper form complete with a paper telescope transporter (PDF). They have other telescopes and satellites in paper form too so go check them out. This shouldn't be confused with PaperScope.

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 28th Jan 2009 (13:44 GMT) | Permalink

Hubble Observation - You Decide!

Via the @sciencemuseum on twitter I discovered that the Hubble Space Telescope is going to let people around the world vote on the next observation target. This is a pretty amazing opportunity to have a say and the close for votes is March 1 with the image released during the 100 Hours of Astronomy global event. In true Oscar style... the nominations are:

  • NGC 6634 - star forming region;
  • NGC 6072 - a planetary nebula;
  • NGC 40 - a planetary nebula;
  • NGC 5172 - spiral galaxy;
  • NGC 4289 - edge-on spiral galaxy;
  • Arp 274 - interacting Galaxies.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 28th Jan 2009 (11:43 GMT) | Permalink

Astronomy Hack Day

Back at the first .Astronomy conference in Cardiff, Rob, Alasdair and I got talking about computer code during one of the coffee breaks. Following talks about things like PaperScope there was a joke suggestion for a Google Sky/astronomical papers mash-up. This was partly in jest but Alasdair had duly hacked together something that worked by the end of the morning session. Impressed by what could be achieved I suggested we have an Astronomy Hack Day. Brilliantly, Alasdair didn't say this idea was rubbish and even volunteered to host one at Exeter. And so Astronomy Hack Day was born.

The event will be a chance for a bunch of people to code, solder, tinker and come up with some interesting ideas using astronomy data and services available on the web. These ideas may be earth-shattering or, more likely, they may be frivilous. Either way it should be fun to hack together something astronomical in a short space of time.

These days though, everything needs a logo. I've been rather lacking in inspiration - there are only so many times I can use a star in an astronomy-related logo - but have managed to create two potential logos. Which do you prefer? Can you do better? Let me know in the comments below or send me a tweet.

Astronomy Hack Day
Astronomy Hack Day Logo 1 CREDIT: Stuart

Astronomy Hack Day
Astronomy Hack Day Logo 2 CREDIT: Stuart

Astronomy Hack Day
Astronomy Hack Day Logo 3 CREDIT: Robert aka @maltesk

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Monday 26th Jan 2009 (15:44 GMT) | Permalink

Telescope night on BBC Four

Tonight, if you have access to digital TV in the UK, BBC Four has a series of four programmes about astronomy:

  1. 20:00 -21:00 The Sky at Night: Sir Patrick Moore charts the development of the telescope over four centuries.
  2. 21:00-22:00 Hubble Telescope Documentary about the work of the world's most famous space telescope. (Repeat)
  3. 22:00-23:20 Storyville: Blast! Scientists launch a revolutionary telescope to try and explain the formation of galaxies. This looks like our chance to see the film for free!
  4. 23:20-00:00 Time Shift Adam Hart-Davis explores the world of Britain's 40,000 amateur astronomers
All times are given in GMT. Looks like it should be a good night of programming.

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Wednesday 07th Jan 2009 (17:37 GMT) | Permalink

2008: My digital year

At the start of the holidays I calculated my year in travel and discovered that I had done the equivalent of a circumnavigation of Mars. Since then Sarah has calculated that her year has been the equivalent of a circumnavigation of the Earth. My previous post covered my journeys in the real world but doesn't say anything about my digital life. So I thought I would account for some of my digital year during 2008.

I'll start with the area that feels like an climb up an Alp every day; emails. I get an average of 33.4 emails per day but it is growing. As you can see below, those that are specifically about my job (not general employer spam) don't make up a very large fraction of them (although those tend to come with attachments to read so take much longer to deal with).

Emails per month during 2008. Does not include spam filtered mail. Calculated by my email client. CREDIT: Stuart
Moving on to blog posts, the year started with the UK physics funding crisis which prompted a flurry of posts from me but dented my enthusisam as it wore on. Thankfully, the International Year of Astronomy is starting to pick up my mood again.

blog posts
Blog posts per month during

2008 CREDIT: Stuart
One of the other reasons for a decline in blog posts was simply a lack of time to sit down and write them. However, it doesn't take very long to post an update to Twitter so my twitter feed has seen an increase over the year. I'm tweeting 4.4 times per day on average which is probably too much. I'll try to stop it rising during 2009. Apparently the people I 'reply' to the most are @davepdotorg, @pierrenel, @orbitingfrog and @aallan. I'm also most likely to post a tweet on a Tuesday - not sure why.

Twitter updates per month during 2008. Monthly counts from Tweetstats. CREDIT: Stuart
Another part of my digital life is my camera. These days I tend to take photos when I'm visiting somewhere interesting so the plot for the year shows Himalyan peaks that correlate to my travels and deep valleys when I'm back home. I took the most pictures in July whilst working in Belgium but Belfast (NAM), a work trip to Paris, and a weekend in the mountains of North Wales show up clearly too.

Photos per month during

2008. CREDIT: Stuart

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Tuesday 06th Jan 2009 (09:53 GMT) | Permalink

Space @ Sundance

Amongst the world's famous film festivals is the Sundance Film Festival held in Utah. This year there are a number of space-themed films on show. Interestingly, several of the films seem to be exploring what it might be like to be isolated in space. One is UK film named Moon (screenings Jan 23-25) that centres around an astronaut living on a lunar base with a robot named Gerty. It sounds like it may be as much about the exploration of the mind as it is of space. The Japanese film - The Clone Returns Home - involves a Japanese astronaut dying during a mission and his clone then returning to his childhood home. Field Notes from Dimension X and Captain Coulier seem to continue the theme of isolation.

Elsewhere at Sundance, artists Nova

Jiang and Michael Kontopoulos will be projecting hand puppets onto a large floating Moon in Moon Theatre. Some of these sound quite interesting and it is just a pity that I live nowhere near Utah.

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Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Sunday 04th Jan 2009 (00:46 GMT) | Permalink

SpaceBuzz 0.3

With it still being the holidays, I've been trying to catch up with some things I've been meaning to do for ages but not got around to. Today I added a tag cloud to SpaceBuzz. The tag cloud shows the top 20 tags used across 154 blogs in the astronomy blogosphere. The increase in the number of blogs is because I've now added the Cosmic Diary blogs. I'm also testing the idea of letting other people add the tag cloud to their own websites via a simple Javascript line. It is pretty basic at the moment and just links to Technorati for now. When I next get time, I'll sort out linking to special pages for each tag with all the latest posts on it.

If you own one of the blogs on the list but don't use tags, please do consider adding them. Oh, and iya2009 is quickly becoming the de facto tag for all blogs and tweets related to the International Year of Astronomy.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Saturday 03rd Jan 2009 (23:59 GMT) | Permalink

The International Year of Astronomy Begins

I first heard about the proposal for the International Year of Astronomy when it was being discussed at the IAU General Assembly in Prague. Now, almost two and a half years later, the year has finally begun! There seems to be a buzz of excitement and I'm sharing in it.

The year celebrates the 400th anniversary of the first use of the astronomical telescope and also happens to be the 40th anniversary of the Apollo Moon landings so there could hardly be a better year for these cosmic celebrations.

Throughout the year there will be plenty of activities all over the globe so you should check with your National Node for events near you. If there are none, you could consider organising some along with local astronomers or astronomical societies. One big event to look out for is the 100 Hours of Astronomy which aims to be a 100 hour long global star party. Given that it stretches over 100 hours, it might give those of us in cloudy places a chance to participate! On the net you can also participate in the year through podcasts, blogs and twitter (I'm involved in two of those).

If you own a telescope that doesn't usually see the outside of a cupboard, then this is the time to take it out and share the wonders of the night sky (or Sun if you have a solar filter) to friends, family, neighbours, and co-workers. The International Year of Astronomy hopes to let millions of people see the night sky this year and that will only happen if we all do our bit. Go on, it'll be fun.

It's a big universe and it's ours to discover.

Posted in astro blog by Stuart on Thursday 01st Jan 2009 (23:45 GMT) | Permalink
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