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What colour is the universe? April 30, 2011

Posted by Marie in Astronomy, Jodrell Bank, Nebula, Planetary Nebula.
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In a long and convoluted story, my last post about the new Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre led a Twitter friend to look at my favourite images page.  This then resulted in a twitter-sation about why the images are so pretty!

The colours in the images are ‘false’; that is,

Credits: Raghvendra Sahai and John Trauger (JPL), the WFPC2 science team, and NASA

if you were to actually be able to travel to see the galaxies or nebulae with your own eyes, you wouldn’t see the colours which are in the images, because our eyes don’t register them.

So I discovered that the people who take the pictures get to choose the colours!

It’s all to do with the chemicals which are detected in the objects, and their wavelengths.  Red indicates the longest wavelength and blue the shortest, with the other colours somewhere in between.

Cats Eye Nebula Credit: NASA, ESA, HEIC, and The Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA) Acknowledgment: R. Corradi (Isaac Newton Group of Telescopes, Spain) and Z. Tsvetanov (NASA).

But however they decide on the colours, they look lovely anyway! Keep an eye on the favourite images page, because I’m adding more all the time. Or if you like, feel free to send me your favourites and I’ll add them to the page.

A visit to Jodrell April 19, 2011

Posted by Marie in Jodrell Bank, Neutron star, The Jodcast.
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A short while ago, I mentioned that the new visitor centre at Jodrell Bank was about to open (post is here).  As I had a day with nothing specific planned, I decided to take myself off for a visit.

The designers have done nice things with the space available – it’s surrounded by the Cheshire countryside, and the new buildings housing the displays are not too intrusive.  The pathway leads visitors through the different exhibition

Lovell Telescope at Jodrell Bank. Image: Reesiepie

spaces and out towards the largest of the radio telescopes on site.  On such a lovely day it was glorious, and as I sat in a quiet corner, the telescope slewed round gracefully.  She moves quite quickly for a large bird!

The entry/exit building (named The Planet Pavilion) contains the cafe and a (currently very small) shop on one side, and the beginning of the exhibition on the other.  There’s an image of the cosmic microwave background around all of the walls, an orrery, and some interactive computer installations where you can explore the planets, comets and asteroids further.

The Space Pavilion is the next building, which has a large room for lectures

Jodrell Bank. Image: Reesiepie

and a smaller meeting room, as well as the exhibition space itself.  I hope I’m right in thinking that eventually the displays will be added to, as there are a lot of empty walls which have the potential to be used.

The Space Pavilion contains small exhibitions on black holes, gravitational lensing, the big bang, and the opportunity to touch a meteorite.  There’s also a ‘Film Pod’ with some cute short films about the role Jodrell Bank played in the space race, and video journals from people who work in different capacities at Jodrell Bank.

The most interesting part for me was the section on collecting sounds from space.  Put the headphones on, and you’re taken through a symphony from space – what material sounds like when it’s falling into a black hole, or landing on Saturn’s moon Titan, or what noise a pulsar makes (you can listen here to an example I mentioned in an earlier post on the Crab Nebula).  Although, I do think it was either a bit mean or a bit of an oversight not to credit The Jodcast, seeing as the interview being used (between Stuart Lowe and Tim O’Brien) was taken from the August 2008 Extra episode!

You can also see realtime what the Lovell telescope is doing and take home your own printout, as well as listen to the sound of the first million years of the universe compressed into 10 seconds.

The biggest disappointment was the absence of a planetarium – I really feel that it is an opportunity missed by such a prestigious centre.  I suppose it all comes down to funding, but I can’t help thinking it is a big omission.

After a lovely lunch in the cafe, I left still mulling over a statement which I read whilst listening to the sounds of the beginning of the universe:

0.0000000000000000000000000000000000000000001 seconds = the Planck time – before this we don’t understand physics.

We don’t understand physics.   Wow – I have no chance, then!

Jodrell Bank Discovery Centre April 6, 2011

Posted by Marie in Jodrell Bank.
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I’m really excited about the fact that the totally new Jodrell Bank visitor centre is to open on April 11th 2011.

Artist's impression of the view from the cafe in the admissions building for the new Jodrell Bank discovery centre | University of Manchester/Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

When I first came to live in Manchester, I remember visiting the original centre, complete with planetarium, and I loved it.  In recent years, the visitor centre became much smaller, which always seemed such a waste of a great opportunity, therefore I can’t wait to see what the new one has to offer.

I’ll have to wait until at least the week after the official opening because I will still be at work, but in the meantime, the new website looks very impressive.

Watch out for my update once I’ve visited.

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 …

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