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Ophiuchus – the ‘new’ zodiac sign? January 29, 2011

Posted by Marie in Astrology, Astronomy, Bad Astronomy, Constellations.
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As it’s my birthday today, I thought I would reflect on the effect the stars have on me because of the day I was born.  So here is my conclusion:

NOTHING

Earlier this month, I noticed that the word Ophiuchus was trending on Twitter.  Now aside from it being a strange word to see,  I also thought it odd because of what it was.

With my (still) limited knowledge of astronomy, I at least know that Ophiuchus is a constellation in the night sky.  Wikipedia tells me its name is from the Greek meaning serpent-bearer,  and that it was one of the 48 constellations originally listed by the 2nd-century astronomer Ptolemy.

2nd century? Hardly counts as new, then.  So why the fuss?

Well, my research (sounds good doesn’t it, but basically I googled it!) uncovered this:

Ophiuchus is a constellation lying between Scorpius and Sagittarius, but it’s not counted as a zodiac sign.  The sun’s path takes it through the constellations which are recognized as the 12 zodiac signs (Aquarius, Pisces etc).  The sun also passes through Ophiuchus, but because Ophiuchus is much fainter than Scorpius next to it, it’s not included in the zodiac.  On top of that, it wouldn’t have been good to have 13 constellations – too unlucky!

So Ophiuchus got bumped.

If you’re interested to know why the ‘new zodiac sign’ began trending in the first place, Phil Plait explains it much better than I ever could in this article.

If you’re interested in knowing what your ‘new’ horoscope will be, you can look here.

I was also amused to read these people reacting to the fact that they are now a different star sign.

Apparently I’m no longer an Aquarian, I’m a Capricorn.  Whatever that means.  As I said:

NOTHING

One thing’s for sure though – I now know how to spell Ophiuchus!

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A little plug … January 18, 2011

Posted by Marie in BBC Stargazing Live, Jodrell Bank, The Jodcast, Uncategorized.
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… for the Jodcast, which I have mentioned a couple of times already in posts.

Earlier this month, with Professor Brian Cox, Dara O Briain and Mark Thompson visiting Jodrell Bank to present the BBC Stargazing Live programmes, the podcast team based there took full advantage of the situation and persuaded all three to be interviewed behind the scenes.

This month’s Extra podcast (the regular one comes out towards the start of each month) contains interviews with each of the three guys.  It’s well worth a listen to get some background on the, er, backgrounds of the three presenters, and on top of that, it’s also very funny!

Do give it a little listen, I’m sure you won’t be disappointed.

Stargazing and Jodpub 2 January 16, 2011

Posted by Marie in Astronomy, BBC Stargazing Live, Jodrell Bank, MOSI, The Jodcast.
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An excellent day on Saturday, as events in connection with last week’s BBC Stargazing Live hit Manchester!  The venue was the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, and many of the day’s Stargazing events were led by a team of enthusiastic and tirelessly energetic people from University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank Centre for Astrophysics, and the Jodcast (an astronomy podcast which they produce).

Located in the Air & Space Hall of the museum, the Jodrell Bank team had a ‘draw your own constellation’ activity and a ‘planetary treasure hunt’  stretching across the whole of the grounds, both of which went down a treat with younger visitors.

Inside the Air & Space Hall is a small planetarium, which hosted a number of events during the afternoon.  I managed to sneak in to a talk by Gresham Professor of Astronomy, Ian Morison, who describes the night sky each month for the Jodcast – it was lovely to put a face to the voice, and a bit odd hearing the voice in front of me, and not directly in my earphones!

Another talk was given by Dr Paul Woods, also from Jodrell Bank, entitled Chemistry in Space.  There were also a number of opportunities to ‘Ask An Astronomer’ all kinds of questions, such as ‘How many stars are there in the universe?’ , ‘What’s a black hole?’ and ‘Do you believe in alternate universes?’.  These and many other mind-boggling questions were answered with good humour and in simple language by the Jodrell Bank team.

Afterwards, the intention had been to take telescopes out onto the street outside of the museum, and do some actual stargazing.  But the Manchester weather wasn’t co-operating, so this had to be abandoned :-(. It was the only disappointing aspect of the day – I had really been looking forward to having my first ever glimpse through a telescope, and hopefully getting to see Jupiter more clearly.  Still, the planet’s been around for 4.5 billion years, waiting another few evenings won’t make that much difference!

So the final port of call was the pub – the Jodrell Bank team had definitely earned a rest after their busy day, so we retired to a local hostelry (named for the occasion as Jodpub 2, the first Jodpub event having taken place last September).  Personally, it was lovely to be able to meet the presenters and people who work on the podcast behind the scenes – their enthusiasm and knowledge is something I really appreciate on the podcasts, and even more so face to face.  And it was nice to meet up with other podcast listeners, too, although not too many could actually make it to central Manchester on Saturday.

All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable and information-filled day, and another few pieces of knowledge gathered on my quest towards understanding what’s up there.

Still looking for clear skies though …

A week of two halves January 9, 2011

Posted by Marie in Bad Astronomy, BBC Stargazing Live, ISS, Look up, Sun.
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I’m choosing the above as my title for this post because my first full week of astronomy in 2011 has been exactly that – the first half inspiring and packed full of new things, the second half totally washed out. 😦

Or maybe that should be clouded out!  Although the moon made a brief appearance yesterday evening (Saturday 8th Jan), for most of the week the sky was actually covered in cloud, and there was nary a star or a planet to be seen.  Most disappointing.

Particularly as I, like many millions across the country, had been inspired by BBC’s Stargazing Live, three nights of live programming from just up the road at Jodrell Bank.  I loved watching this (except for the parts with Jonathan Ross :-D) to such an extent that, on Thursday at 8pm, I felt strangely bereft that there was no programme!

The programme advised of a partial solar eclipse, meteor shower, and planets in the sky, but as I couldn’t see any of them, instead I enjoyed images produced by others.  The most amazing one for me was of the International Space Station passing in front of the sun at the time of the eclipse.  I’d love to put the picture on here because it did make me go WOW!  But I don’t want to infringe any copyright, so here’s the link to the Bad Astronomy blog where I first saw the image – I do urge you to have a look, because it’s a-ma-zing!

Close to the Sun, but still cold? January 3, 2011

Posted by Marie in 365 Days of Astronomy, Meteorwatch, Sun.
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I have discovered that at 7pm today (January 3rd), the Earth will be the nearest to the sun that it gets all year.

So why is it so cold??!!

I won’t even begin to explain in any detail, because I’m not capable, but thanks to the links below, I can understand that it is because up here in the frozen north, we are tilted away from the sun and being as close as we are going to be for the year doesn’t warm us up any 😦

This first link helped me understand a little, and suggests an experiment with a left-over Christmas satsuma to provide a visual aid to explain.

365 Days of Astronomy – Why winter is so cold

This one has a good image which helped me, too.

meteorwatch

BBC Stargazing Live January 2, 2011

Posted by Marie in BBC Stargazing Live, Look up.
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It’s like the BBC actually asked me what I wanted for my licence fee!

I knew this series was coming up in early January, but it hadn’t occurred to me to check out the website.  But thanks to a message on Twitter, I have found a wealth of information to help me in my 2011 challenge.

BBC Stargazing Live – 3rd, 4th & 5th January 2011.

I am already encouraged that I appear to know more than Jonathan Ross – but then, some would say that’s not difficult (only joking, Jonathan ;-))

Now, all I need are some clear skies …

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