NAM is go!
NAM is underway! Preceded by a slightly cheesy rendition of Star Wars played on the organ in the grand Bute Hall at the University of Glasgow (think Hogwarts but without the broomsticks), the week-long conference was kicked off by Professor John Brown, the Astronomer Royal for Scotland, noting the 250th anniversary of Alexander Wilson, the first chair of practical astronomy at Glasgow. The Wilson effect - an optical illusion of sunspots appearing to flatten as they near the Sun's limb as the solar surface rotates - was discovered by Wilson, proving that sunspots were physically attached to the surface of the Sun. Today, Scotland is still a powerhouse in European astronomy and space science, and as ESA's Professor David Southwood quipped, "Scotland once built the ships to let Britain have an Empire, now Scotland is building the spaceships to let Europe explore the Universe."
As NAM is organised by the Royal Astronomical Society, the society's president, Professor Andy Fabian, was also on hand for a few words. "Astronomy remains intrinsically exciting, with many puzzles still to be solved, from dark energy to gas venting on Saturn's moons," he said, before cautioning the audience with regards to UK astronomy's current funding problems. "In contrast to the USA, Germany and France, who are putting more public money into astronomy, the UK cannot expect to be a major international player without funding." To assist the current funding shortfall, which is seeing postgraduate grants cut by a quarter over the next few years, the RAS will launch three new research fellowships for outstanding young researchers later this year.
The parallel science sessions get underway within the hour, with massive stars, galaxy formation, Cluster and solar science all being discussed - stay tuned to Astronomy Now for more news!
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