BBC Stargazing Live 2012

Our first Stargazing Live event for 2012 took place on Monday 16th January. Our Moon-themed event was led by Dr Daniel Brown from Nottingham Trent University. Common questions about the Moon were addressed such as the origin of its craters and maria and whether there is liquid water hiding beneath its surface.

This was followed by our first observing session in the new observatory; we were blessed with clear skies and were able to observe the planet Jupiter along with its fascinating cloud bands and four Galilean moons. There was active discussion about how Jupiter’s moons differ from our own. We were also able to view some of the winter constellations including Orion along with its nebula and Taurus with its famous star cluster the Pleiades, better known as the 7 sisters.

To coincide with our Moon theme we were very lucky to be able to loan a number of lunar samples and meteorites from the STFC. These samples were in school from 4th to 13th January for the students to study.

You can find out more about the loan scheme here: http://www.stfc.ac.uk/Public+and+Schools/2497.aspx

On Wednesday 18th January we held our Astrobiology-themed Stargazing Live event. Dr Lewis Dartnell from UCL gave a fascinating and informative talk on the subject to a selection of our students and members of the local community. Dr Dartnell’s work involves looking at the Earth’s extremophiles (organisms that can survive extreme conditions such as very low temperatures or high pH), some of these organisms could theoretically survive conditions on Mars or Europa.

Following the talk we headed over to the observatory. After a very cloudy start to the evening we were very lucky to observe Jupiter and its moons peeking through the clouds. Observers were able to spot the moon Europa, with its subsurface ocean it is probably the best candidate in the solar system for extra-terrestrial life.

Graham Ensor also joined us again with his amazing collection of meteorites. Of particular interest was a sample of a brand new meteorite that has just been confirmed as originating from the planet Mars. Astrobiologists are very interested in Mars as the possible home of extra-terrestrial organisms and the study of new meteorites is a very important part of this research.

The meteorite has been named Tissint, Graham has a 21g sample of it shown here:

Tissint was observed to fall in Morocco in July 2011. Scientists are very excited about this meteorite as it is the first confirmed Martian fall in 49 years! The sample that Graham brought along to our Stargazing Live events is one of the first examples of this meteorite to be put on display anywhere in the world!

You can read more about the Tissint meteorite here: http://asunews.asu.edu/20120117_martianmeteorite

Were you one of the first people to visit the Observatory on Monday night?

Did you attend the Official Opening on Tuesday?

Has Dr Dartnell’s fascinating lecture left you thinking about the possibility that there is life elsewhere in the universe?

Now that the Observatory is up and running we are hoping to make this blog a more interactive forum for discussion. Please use the comments facility to tell us what you think.

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About mpole2011

An astronomical observatory at The Long Eaton School, scheduled to open in early 2012
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2 Responses to BBC Stargazing Live 2012

  1. Richard Pearson says:

    Thank you for inviting me along to the opening ceremony of your new observatory, I enjoyed the evening very much. The buffet was excellent, and the Long Eaton School Flute Ensemble created a lovely atmosphere. In the school library I chatted to a pupil who was excited about his visit to the Russian Space Centre at Star City, with a sparkle in his eyes, he was enthusiastic and told me about the Russian space suite, and later the centrifuge, which pupils also tried for themselves.

    I found Graham Ensor’s meteorite collection very impressive, he showed a sample of the Tissint ‘Martian’ meteorite which was observed to fall in Morocco in July 2011. I did not mention it at the time, however I know Meteorite dealer Darryl Pitt, who sold a chunk of Martian meteorite recently, said he charges $11,000 to $22,000 an ounce ; at that price, the new Martian rock costs about 10 times more than gold – I was therefore looking at a rock sample valued at over £20,000!

    In the Orange room I chatted to girl pupil who had laid out a scale modle of the solar system using toilet tissue, and various fruits for the planets – and with no Andrex puppy in site to spoil the layout! Also the space food here tasted amazing.

    I really liked the look and atmosphere inside your new observatory, and Haley Flood seemed to enjoy every minute showing visitors the new 16 inch telescope and Jupiter through the eyepiece. While clear skies outside made temperatures plummet below freezing, it was a nice ambient temperature in your new observatory – that’s impressive.

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