Latest Posts

Transit of Venus – Webcast from Astronomers Without Borders

First contact of Venus

It seems that the whole world is watching the transit of Venus right now, its a strange time of day here as I am at home in Manchester and its 12.20am where the webstream from Mauna Kea via Nasa Edge’s webstream is showing 13.20pm. After several attempts to get online and connect to various webstreams I finally found the U stream site for the Astronomers Without Borders stream. I remember vividly watching the transit of Venus 8 years ago from the Godlee Observatory, again from Manchester where we had 150 members of the public and staff from Manchester University and UMIST come into the Observatory to observe the transit.

We are already over an hour into the transit now where gathered round my laptop at home with family members amazed at the views coming over the internet viewed the first contact of Venus and then second contact with the black drop effect, what is especially special for me is my son’s interest this time round as he is now old enough to understand that this is a once in a lifetime event and he thinks astronomy is now (after 12 years of cajoling him to take an interest) “really cool”. He is now fast asleep as thank goodness to modern technology tomorrow there will probably be a Youtube video somewhere where he can watch a repeat of the event. Its amazing to think that only 8 years ago technology and web-streaming was not as advanced as it is today and even I could not have imagined that I would be joining thousands of people across the globe view the second transit of venus and be able to share images here on Cosmic Diary. So I’m sharing some screen shots which I have taken over the course of the transit so far.



A day in the life of an Astronomer on their birthday!

Today I am catching up on work related stuff, I’ve just returned from a great trip to Cyprus where I am currently setting up a science festival and schools national STEM fair, and some people might say hey its your birthday, relax and take a break but as the saying goes there is no rest for the wicked! Today so far has been a typical Monday, take Alex to school, catch up on emails and try and stay awake by drinking coffee. The highlight of today will be going to Nando’s later ( a Portugese franchised restaurant – selling my favourite custard pastries ) and ordering a birthday cake.

Now as a typical science communicator in times of a global economic crisis I know that the first thing to happen on a global level are funding cuts to front line services – typically science and technology are the first subjects to be cut – so I am buried deep in funding proposals to keep a number of projects going. In the UK we have already seen a number of services cut which were available to the public ranging from regional development agencies, education and information portals to civil society organisations having contracts cut because of the economic and change of government shake ups. In Greece and Cyprus it is far worse, and Italy, Spain and Ireland along with most of Europe are heading in the same direction.

On a personal level the economic crisis seems to have hit home!

Virtual Telescope Live Observing Session – First Light

Right now I am really excited, Gianluca Masi with his Virtual Telescope is sharing first light with his new set up for the Virtual Telescope, and there are some amazing images coming through right now!

Here are some of the images, with no image processing , just raw images from the new Telescope, Gianluca has just told us that 2600 people were online to see the broadcast, seems that th VT continues to break records!

Partial Solar Eclipse Jan 4th 2011

Seems we are clouded out, or should I say SNOWED out here in Manchester! Yes the site for today’s live BBC Stargazing LIVE broadcast from Jodrell Bank and my home further down the road have snow!

I was very kindly sent this image after numerous attempts to connect to Ido Bareket’s live webcast of the partial solar eclipse from Israel, here are some images which you can see here at:

Did try loading the images up here and had some trouble  so for those of you who have just tried clicking on my broken link through facebook apologies!

BBC Live Stargazing Astrocast

Its been a while since I have posted here,  almost a year has passed since the closing ceremony of the International Year of Astronomy and as a legacy to IYA a number of initiatives have carried on carrying the torch of astronomy/science communication. One of these initiatives is Global Astronomy Month, which says what it does on the tin – a whole month of celebratory global activities from starparties to astropoetry, and everything in-between taking place throughout the month of April.

A few months back the BBC started approached astronomers both in the UK and internationally to begin organising what may become a TV first – a 3 day marathon of live stargazing events happening simultaneously across the UK. There are of course participants from other nations involved, especially a group of educators and astronomers using the Faulkes Telescope as part of the European/Global Hands on Universe Group.

The 3 day marathon kicks off on January 3rd with a live TV programme going out on BBC2. The programme goes out again live on 4th and 5th of January. Coinciding with the live broadcast are a number of astronomical events including a partial Solar Eclipse on the morning of January 4th. It also coincides with an annual science teachers conference which takes place in the UK every year. This year we will be at the University of Reading and to allow teachers to share in the magic of the live BBC broadcast a number of activities have been organised to be held at the Association for Science Education’s Annual Conference.

As part of the national events taking place up and down the UK, a twitter feed (@universequest), live blogging (here!) and live Web casts have been organised to take place from 5th to 7th Jan from the ASE conference. To coincide with the stargazing events there is also the launch of a new science film competition with the winners receiving the opportunity to have their films shown in science centres and planetaria across the globe:

Seems New Year will be a very busy period indeed! But no doubt a lot of fun!

Walking on the Moon

This month has been designated Global Astronomy Month, those of us who were involved in 100 Hours of Astronomy and couldn’t get enough so here we are now taking a walk on the Moon with the Virtual Telescope during the Global Astronomy Month Lunar Week Remote Observing event which is happening NOW at:

Beyond 2009

Well, I’ve been quiet for a while and its good to still be able to post here, so far 2010 has been a productive year! Last week I was out with the “Space Bus”, which is single deck coach stripped of its inside and replaced with a 3D screen to watch movies on, and have school children come onboard and participate in interactive activities. The last week has been spent with much scratching of heads and figuring out what kind of new experiments we can do on the bus, with the idea of being as close to living and working in space as possible. I have to say one thing the kids loved was the touch and feel session on geological rocks. Amber, fossils, Meteorites, Tecktites, they all were fascinated.

In the meantime its back to what seems to be soaking up all of my time at the moment, yes you guessed it, Grant proposal writing! seems to be the pass time of most astronomers and science communicators looking to find funding for their next project, so will post more here in the weeks ahead.

A New Dawn for Astronomy

Its the Christmas holiday season and as we draw to a close with the International Year of Astronomy there are already a milliion and one projects waiting to be brought off the drawing board to be put into action. This year has been somewhat of an emotional roller coaster for me, both work and family wise, and to some extent I will be glad to see the back of 2009.

So I will start these last posts of the year with a series of images that to me are simply awe inspiring. For the reason that they defy our current understanding of our Universe and may herald a new dawn of astronomy (quite appropriate for bringing in 2010 I think!). As they say, out with the old in with the new, so lets see what 2010 may bring.

Number 1. A better understanding of magnetic fields on cosmological scales

In a news story released by the Hubble Space Telescope Press Office, Perseus A is described as a “Erupting Magnetic Monster”.  Plasma from the nucleus of NGC 1275 is being ejected out into the surrounding galaxy cluster and is forming giant filaments which are then shaped by the magnetic fields of NGC 1275. These energetic filaments stretch out for over 20, 000 light years. The press release continues to comment that it has been a challenge for astronomers to understand how the delicate structures withstood the hostile, high-energy environment of the galaxy cluster for over 100 million years. They should have heated up, dispersed, and evaporated by now, or collapsed under their own gravity to form stars. A new study published in the August 21(2008) Nature magazine proposes that magnetic fields hold the charged gas in place and resist the forces that would distort the filaments. This skeletal structure is strong enough to resist gravitational collapse.

Similar networks of filaments are found around other more remote central cluster galaxies. However, they cannot be observed with comparable resolution to the view of NGC 1275. The team will apply the understanding of NGC 1275 to interpret observations of these more distant galaxies.

So, to conclude, a new explanation as to how plasma can withstand gravitational collapse and how it can lead to new structures forming in the Universe on cosmological scales.

007 Licence to Observe

Gianluca has just made the joke to the VT Galilean Nights webchat that the time is now 00:07, just like 007, the webchat participants have erupted with 007 jokes, its good to see that astronomy can bring so many people together in one evening from all over the world.

which draws the observing event for Galilean Nights with the Virtual Telescope to an end.

But some amazing pictures and much banter were shared between participants, and here are some more images:

The Virtual Telescope Galilean Nights

So, the Tetraverse crew are simultaneously observing with the Virtual Telescope for the Galilean Nights event, there’s me in Manchester, UK and one part of our team, Virgiliu Pop in Timisoara in Romania joining in the observing fest also.

Dr. Gianluca Masi has opened up the Virtual Telescope and as promised, the telescope is available for people to request images, here are some below :