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Doctor Who the Astronomer July 7, 2011

Posted by Marie in 365 Days of Astronomy, Doctor Who, The Jodcast.
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I love Doctor Who. And I love learning about our universe.  So I love these two podcasts!

Megan Argo is a professional radio astronomer, who is also a major contributor to one of my other favourite astronomy podcasts, The Jodcast.

Megan has now made two short stories available via the 365 Days of Astronomy Podcast, in which she allows the Doctor himself to explain events which happened in our universe as if he (and we!) were actually there.  Of course, the Doctor probably was there …

Anyway, do spend a few minutes to listen to these podcasts – they’re as cool as bow-ties and fezes!

Doctor Who and the Silver Spiral



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!

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 …

2011 – a year of looking up December 31, 2010

Posted by Marie in 365 Days of Astronomy, Look up, The Jodcast.

For most of my life, I’ve had an amateur fascination with the universe, stars, planets etc.  When I say amateur, what I actually mean is total beginner, because I have no background in science whatsoever.  You can’t count my failed attempts at school many years ago, which was the last time I ever formally tried to understand anything scientific.  I remember watching Carl Sagan’s series Cosmos on TV when I was young and being amazed by his descriptions of the vastness of our universe, and our place in it (more about Cosmos later).  I’ve held this fascination ever since, and I love watching TV programmes and listening to podcasts on this theme, even though I still don’t always understand everything!

In November 2009, I went to a live recording of The Jodcast, a fab astronomy podcast produced by astronomers based at the University of Manchester’s Jodrell Bank .  2010 then found me watching the BBC’s Wonders of the Solar System and catching up with myriad 365 Days of Astronomy podcasts (and others) and although often overwhelmed, still loving the experience of discovery.

Therefore, my challenge for 2011 is to feed my fascination, and to blog about this experience of discovery.  By this time next year, I want to be able to look up and know even more about what I see, understand a tiny fraction of what’s up there.  And hopefully have some fun learning!

I hope you’ll follow me on my journey.

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