Prof Richard Bower talks galaxies

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Professor Richard Bower of Durham University discusses galaxies and galaxy clusters whilst at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science with Astronomy Now editor Keith Cooper.

An interview with British born astronaut Michael Foale


Portal to the Universe opens its doors

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At a dedicated press conference held at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science (EWASS) yesterday, the International Year of Astronomy's Portal to the Universe - a one-stop-internet-shop for astronomy news - opened its doors to the public.

The latest Cornerstone project of the IYA, Portal to the Universe has been long awaited by journalists, scientists, teachers and members of the public alike. As well as collating astronomy news from a variety of sources, including the European Space Agency, the Royal Astronomical Society and the world's major telescopes for example, feeds from blogs and podcasts are also posted on the site along with live or near-live images of the Sun, spacecraft positions and telescope observations.

"It is clear that even in such a well-defined field as astronomy, there is much more 'information confusion' than you might think," says Project Manager Lars Lindberg Christensen. "There is a real need in the community for this kind of site, where astronomy content is gathered in one place and is easily accessible. The International Year of Astronomy 2009 seeks to bring the Universe down to Earth, and this Portal is an excellent way of achieving this. This website will provide a single entry point to stars and galaxies".

Thanks to technology such as RSS feeds, the Portal will act as a semi-automatically updating central repository of astronomy information from sources across the world. Data will be indexed and archived, providing a legacy that will long outlive the International Year of Astronomy itself. 

"This release is just the beginning," says Christensen. "The project will develop with, and around, the community's needs, and lots of new features are planned, including adding resources such as educational materials, addresses for all astronomy stakeholders such as amateur clubs, planetariums and observatories."

The Portal to the Universe team encourages everyone to participate and submit RSS feeds for relevant news, images, videos, podcasts and so on. Astronomy Now has signed up; get more information on how to join at

AN meets British born astronaut Michael Foale

Michael Foale.jpg

A fantastic end to a thoroughly enjoyable week at the EWASS conference was interviewing British born NASA astronaut Dr Michael Foale. He told us about his experiences on the space station and Hubble repair missions as well as Britain's participation in the human spaceflight programme. The full video interview will be online soon!

What is asteroseismology?

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asteroseismology.jpgAsteroseismology is the study of stellar interiors; a probe of the different modes of oscillations within their interiors that can be used to study the extent of a stellar core, convection, rotation, chemical composition and so on. It's a bit like how geologists use the propagation of seismic waves through the Earth to learn about the structure of our planet. 

In her plenary session this morning Conny Aerts (Leuven, Belgium) said that in order to improve evolutionary models of stars, asteroseismology is crucial. She said that if current stellar evolution models were totally correct, then some new exoplanets found around red giant stars, for example, should not exist, and that there was therefore still a lot of new science to be done in this exciting area of research.

Bridget turns heads

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bridget_KSC.jpgAttendees at the 2009 National Astronomy Meeting were met with an 'otherworldly sight' whilst eating their lunch. The ESA Exomars engineering model, dubbed 'Bridget', was spotted leaving the EADS-Astrium tent as it tried to escape over the hill. This image was fortuitously snapped by Astronomy Now's Assistant Editor before the six-wheeled rover could get away. In reality, the craft was being steered by employees of the Stevenage-based EADS-Astrium. Bridget certainly turned everyone's heads.

The radio telescope of the 21st century

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Joe Lazio of the Naval Research Laboratory began his plenary talk this morning with a statement that in the 20th century we discovered our place in the Universe, but in the 21st century we are beginning to understand the Universe we inhibit. This is in part due to the fantastic array of space- and ground-based telescopes reaching deeper and deeper into our Universe, but, "the Universe is patiently waiting for our wits to grow sharper." 

The Square Kilometer Array (SKA) is set to continue this theme, looking back to the Universe's transition from a largely neutral environment to a largely ionised one. Supported by other ambitious telescopes that are in various stages of development and construction such as ALMA and JWST, these telescopes will peek at the first stars and galaxies. The SKA will also use radio waves as a tool for detecting elusive gravitational waves, and will be used in the field of astrobiology to search for extrasolar planets and to study their chemistry. 

Known as the 'international radio telescope for the 21st century', the SKA will have two sites: one in Australia and one in Africa, with antennas grouped into stations to provide one million square metres of aperture. It will begin its early science phase in 2017, and be fully operational at a range of frequencies by 2023. 

Meet the Mini Brainiacs

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A group of Gifted and Talented Pupils led by Mrs Tina Sherwood of the Meden School and Technology College in Nottinghamshire captivated fellow astronomers at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science. Astronomy Now's Emily Baldwin caught up with them after their presentation.

What does the quiet Sun mean for us?

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Professor Mike Lockwood of the University of Southampton and the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory speaks to Astronomy Now editor Keith Cooper about what the quiet Sun means for those of us on Earth.

Mini brainiacs captivate conference audience

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A group of Gifted and Talented Pupils led by Mrs Tina Sherwood of the Meden School and Technology College in Nottinghamshire captivated fellow astronomers at the European Week of Astronomy and Space Science.

The keen 11 and 12 year old students - Chloe Johnson, Joshua Cantrell, Laura Simpson and Niall Evans - gave mini presentations on the subject of archeoastronomy, the study of how people in the past have understood the night sky. The audience learnt how to find the pole star, as well as how the stars in Orion's belt line up perfectly with the three pyramids at Gisa. We also heard about stone circles like Stonehenge and how the stones are used as compass points and to mark from which direction the Sun rises and sets.

From scientists to journalists, after stopping for a video interview with Astronomy Now and Starlight, and to pose for photos with the Mars Rover prototype Bridget, the students joined members of the media in the EWASS press room to write up the day's events for the Newsround blog. 

The team of young scientists will be repeating their presentation in a longer allocated slot at 8pm on Tuesday 28 April at The Open Dome at the Clifton Campus of Nottingham Trent University. 

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