Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Open Observatory - Monday 14th December 9pm

Astrochemistry - The Cradle of Life

Our next Open Observatory event will take place on Monday 14th December and we are very excited to welcome Professor Nigel Mason, OBE from the Open University. Professor Mason will be giving a talk about the exciting topic of astrochemistry.

Refreshments will be available from 8.45pm with the talk starting at 9:00pm. After the talk there will be an opportunity to view the night sky in the observatory if the weather is clear, don't forget to wrap up warm!

This month we are aiming to observe the Geminids meteor shower. This year is ideal for observing the Geminids because there will be no Moon visible to drown them out. The Geminids are caused by debris left in the Solar System by a passing asteroid and appear to originate from the constellation of Gemini. It helps to be seated or lying down when observing a meteor shower so you may wish to bring a fold up chair or sun-lounger if you have one.

The meeting is open to all students, staff and members of the public, please email office@spacestudiobanbury.org or contact Miss Flood to book your places. Children under the age of 16 who are not Space Studio students must be accompanied by an adult. Space Studio students will need to collect a permission slip from Miss Flood.


Thursday, 12 November 2015

Open Observatory - Thursday 19th November 7pm

Gaia - Mapping the Galaxy

Our next Open Observatory event will take place on Thursday 19th November and we are very excited to welcome Andrew Norton, Professor of Astrophysics Education at the Open University. Professor Norton will be giving a talk on the Gaia mission. Gaia was launched in 2013 and aims to map a billion stars in the Galaxy over the next five years.

The meeting is open to all students, staff and members of the public, please email office@spacestudiobanbury.org or contact Miss Flood to book your places. Children under the age of 16 who are not Space Studio students must be accompanied by an adult. Space Studio students will need to collect a permission slip from Miss Flood.

Refreshments will be available from 6.45pm with the talk starting at 7:15pm. After the talk there will be an opportunity to view the night sky in the observatory if the weather is clear. This month we are aiming to observe our Moon and the planet Uranus.

Gaia
Image credit: ESA

Sunday, 4 October 2015

Open Observatory - Thursday 8th October 8pm


This week is World Space Week and to mark the occasion we will be holding our first Open Observatory Event!

We are very pleased to welcome Dr Helen Walker who will be giving a talk on infrared astronomy and some of the latest developments on Mars. Dr Walker is an astronomer, working in the Satellite Operations Group at STFC Rutherford Appleton Laboratory. She has around thirty years experience of working with astronomical satellites, both as researcher and planning specialist. For five years she helped ESA plan science observations on the Mars Express satellite and now works with the four Cluster satellites. She is Test Team Leader for the Mid-Infrared Instrument (MIRI) which will fly on the James Webb Space Telescope. Her research interests focus on planets, and the material around stars which might form planets.

The meeting is open to all students, staff and members of the public, please email office@spacestudiobanbury.org or contact Miss Flood to book your places. Children under the age of 16 who are not Space Studio students must be accompanied by an adult. Space Studio students will need to collect a permission slip from Miss Flood.

Refreshments will be available from 7.45pm with the meeting starting at 8pm. After the talk there will be an opportunity to view the night sky in the observatory if the weather is clear.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Super Moon Eclipse - Monday 28th September

We have taken the decision not to run an event at school for Monday's eclipse due to the questionable weather forecast. You may like to keep an eye on the weather though as it could still clear up and you may catch a glimpse of the totally eclipsed Moon between 3:11 am and 4:23 am.

You do not need any special equipment for the eclipse and can enjoy it with your naked eye only. However, you could use a small telescope or a pair of binoculars if you have them available. Make sure you are wrapped up warm and in a safe location.

If the weather is cloudy you can watch a live feed of the eclipse on NASA TV or at the Virtual Telescope Project.

In the meantime here is a video all about the eclipse:


Monday, 21 September 2015

Open Observatory Update

Now that the summer break has finished and the longer nights are approaching it seems a good time to give you all an update on our coming Open Observatory events.

The weather forecast for the lunar eclipse due in the early hours of Monday morning is not looking good. The current forecast predicts that during the eclipse there will be 98% cloud cover! We all know that the weather forecast can change but if it remains unfavourable then this event will not run. If this happens we will aim to link to a live webcast of the eclipse so that you can enjoy it from home. Keep an eye on this page for further updates.

We have some exciting guest speakers lined up for our other Open Observatory events over the next few months, including:

  • October 8th at 8pm: Dr Helen Walker, Rutherford Appleton Laboratory - Seeing the Invisible Universe.
  • November 19th at 7pm: Professor Andrew Norton, The Open University - Gaia: Mapping the Galaxy.
  • December 14th at 9pm: Professor Nigel J Mason, The Open University - Astrochemistry: The Cradle of Life.
  • January 21st at 6pm: Professor John Bridges, University of Leicester - Mars Curiosity.

These talks will go ahead even in the event of bad weather and we will go out to view the night sky in the observatory following the talk if the skies are clear.

If you would like to book places for any of these events please contact: office@spacestudiobanbury.org or Miss Flood. All events are free to attend and open to the public. Children under the age of 16 who are not Space Studio students must be accompanied by an adult. Space Studio students must have a signed permission slip (see Miss Flood).

Tuesday, 28 July 2015

Upcoming Events

We have lots of exciting astronomy planned for next academic year including our brand new, monthly, Open Observatory events. The usual format of these will be a talk on an astronomical topic followed by observing if the weather is clear.

Open Observatory events are open to the public and to members of the Space Studio. To book please email: office@spacestudiobanbury.org with the date of the event and the number of places you would like. Children under the age of 16 who are not SSB students must be accompanied by an adult, SSB students must have a signed permission slip (see Miss Flood).

The planned schedule is as follows:

Month
Date
Day
Time
Observing targets
September
28th
Monday
1:00 am – 5:30 am
Super Moon, Total Lunar Eclipse, Venus, Jupiter, Mars
October
8th
Thursday
8:00 pm – 10:00 pm
World Space Week Deep Sky Special: M57 (Ring Nebula), Andromeda Galaxy, Albireo (double star), M13 (globular cluster), M27 (Dumbbell nebula), Neptune
November
19th
Thursday
7:00 – 9:00 pm
Moon, Uranus, Taurus
December
14th
Monday
9:00 – 11:00 pm
Geminids meteor shower
January
21st
Thursday
6:00 – 8:00 pm
Moon, Orion
February
11th
Thursday
8:00 – 10:00 pm
Jupiter, Orion
March
17th
Thursday
8:00 – 10:00 pm
Moon, Jupiter, Taurus

Events after Easter are to be confirmed.

Events are subject to change so please check the Upcoming Events page (on the right) regularly to stay up to date.

Friday, 24 July 2015

Red Bull Stratos Exhibition Launch Event

Last night, A Level students Natt, Patricia and Charlie visited the Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham for the launch of an exhibition celebrating the Red Bull Stratos mission to the edge of space.

The speakers at the event were:
  • Dr Helen Sharman OBE: the first Briton in space and the first woman to visit the Mir space station.
  • Anu Ojha OBE: skydiver and Director of Education and Space Communications at the National Space Centre in Leicester.
  • USAF Colonel Joseph Kittinger: setter of four world records for skydiving in 1960, the first person to make a solo crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a balloon, the first person to witness the curvature of the Earth and Red Bull Stratos Fight Operations and Safety Officer.
  • Felix Baumgartner: skydiver, base jumper and Red Bull Stratos record breaker.
  • Art Thompson: Red Bull Stratos Technical Project Director and the engineer behind the capsule.
In October 2012 Felix Baumgartner traveled by balloon to an altitude of 38,969 m (127,851 ft) and then jumped! He broke the world record for the highest altitude jump previously set by the legendary Joseph Kittinger in 1960 and became the first person to break the sound barrier while in free fall.

As well as being hugely inspirational to people everywhere the mission had a number of scientific benefits. Felix's pressure suit and capsule are some of the most advanced systems ever developed for flight and will continue to have an impact on future high altitude travel. The mission also enabled medics to study the effects of supersonic flight on human beings, something that had never been done before in this way.

Here at the Space Studio we held a competition for 6th form students to produce a piece of work about the mission. The winners were able to go along to last night's event, listen to a set of inspirational talks and meet some of their heroes. The evening had many highlights including opportunities to chat to all of the speakers about their experiences.

The students had a wonderful time and would like to thank Anu, the Red Bull Stratos team and Magna Science Centre for the invitation to such a brilliant event. Their work will now be displayed as part of the Red Bull Stratos exhibition.
Dr Helen Sharman giving a talk about her experiences in space
L-R: Natt, Miss Flood, Patricia, Mr Grocott, Charlie and Dr Helen Sharman
A Sokol suit similar to the one that Dr Helen Sharman wore for her flight on Soyuz
Anu Ojha using a marshmallow to demonstrate the effects of altitude on the body!
L-R: Patricia, Miss Flood, Charlie, Mr Grocott, Joseph Kittinger, Natt and Anu Ojha
With the Red Bull Stratos capsule
Felix's suit
Felix Baumgartner and Art Thompson discussing the mission
Felix signing Natt and Patricia's work
L-R: Anu Ojha, Patricia, Felix Baumgartner, Mr Grocott, Charlie, Miss Flood and Natt
You can view an amazing video of the Red Bull Stratos mission here:


To read more about Red Bull Stratos visit: http://www.redbullstratos.com/

CERN 2015

On 30th June a group of A Level Physics students from the Space Studio flew to Geneva in Switzerland to visit the particle physics laboratory at CERN.

CERN is also known as the European Centre for Nuclear Research and is the home of the famous Large Hadron Collider (LHC). The LHC has a circumference of 27 km and accelerates beams of protons to 99.9999991% of the speed of light! This enables scientists to study the different particles produced when the protons collide helping them to understand the fundamental laws of nature. The LHC is located on the border between Switzerland and France with its main headquarters being in Geneva.
An overview of the experiments at CERN.
Image credit: CERN
We arrived in Geneva at 10 am to glorious sunshine and headed straight out to the lake to enjoy the weather, scenery and local ice-cream! The students had the opportunity to go out to the Jet d'Eau, Geneva's famous water fountain. The water leaves the nozzle at 124 mph propelling 7000 litres into the air!
After visiting the lake we headed into Geneva's old town for lunch and stopped off at the Reformation Wall. This landmark is in the grounds of the University of Geneva and depicts protestant figures from across Europe.
After our visit to the old town there was just enough time for a rest before heading out to a traditional Swiss restaurant for dinner.
Sampling some Swiss cuisine (and chips!)
After a good night's sleep we were all up bright and early on Wednesday morning for our trip to CERN. On arrival at CERN we attended a particle physics lecture which set the scene for the day and gave the students an opportunity to ask any preliminary questions that they had.
We began our tour with a visit to the Synchrocyclotron which was the first particle accelerator at CERN and was built in 1957. The students were able to learn all about the accelerator and ask questions about the history of particle physics.
The Synchrocyclotron
After the visit to the Synchrocyclotron we were lucky enough to be taken 80 metres underground to the control area for the CMS detector. CMS stands for Compact Muon Solenoid and it is one of the detectors for the LHC (you can see its location on the diagram above). CMS is a multi purpose detector and was partly responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2012.

A cross section of the open CMS detector
Image credit: CERN
The students were given a tour of the underground area and were able to learn all about the construction and achievements of CMS.
The detector collects a huge amount of data and needs a lot of computing infrastructure to be able to analyse it all.
Underground CMS computers!
Safety was an important consideration during the visit. CERN is a working physics laboratory and the students underwent a safety briefing before travelling underground.
After touring the underground CMS area we traveled back to the surface and visited the control room where physicists were hard at work analysing the data gathered from the collisions. The students were also able to view many of the different components that make up the detectors and accelerators at CERN.
Tom inspecting a part of the detector that tracks the positions of charged particles emerging from collisions
After our tour we had lunch in the CERN cafe before heading back into central Geneva for a visit to the Natural History Museum.
Making friends with the exhibits at the Natural History Museum!
On our final day in Geneva we spent time in the Botanical Gardens before visiting the Place des Nations and the UN building.
Relaxing in the Botanical Gardens
The United Nations
It was a scorching 37 degrees and the students decided to take the opportunity to cool off in the water fountains at the Place des Nations!
Before heading back to the airport we visited the broken chair sculpture near to the UN building. The monument symbolises opposition to land mines and cluster bombs and was constructed in 1997.
We hope to make the trip to CERN available to all future cohorts of students who study A Level Physics at the Space Studio. If you would like to find out more about the trip please get in touch with Miss Flood.  

The students produced a video about the visit which you can watch below:


If you would like to learn more about CERN visit: http://home.web.cern.ch/

Monday, 6 July 2015

GCSE Astronomers visit the Royal Observatory


On 16th April astronomy students from the Space Studio visited the Royal Observatory in Greenwich. During the day the students had the opportunity to tour the historic site and see a number of famous instruments including the Great Equatorial Telescope and a section of William Hershel's Great Forty Foot reflecting telescope. The remaining section is 10 feet long and has a primary mirror that is 47 inches in diameter. William Herschel is famous for his discovery of Uranus in 1781!

SSB students gathered in front of a section of William Herschel's famous forty foot telescope. 
A panoramic view of the Great Equatorial Telescope taken by Myles Thompson. The telescope tube is over 28 feet long!

In addition to their tour of the observatory and grounds the students also had the opportunity to take part in a workshop about the detection of exoplanets. Exoplanets are planets orbiting stars other than our Sun and many have been found so far using the transit method. This method involves searching for the tiny reduction in light intensity detected from a star when a planet passes in front of it. The students used foam balls to represent exoplanets and a torch to represent the parent star. They were then able to use light meters and data loggers to collect and analyse their results.




The reduction in brightness that occurs when an exoplanet passes in front of its parent star can clearly be seen on this read out.

Before leaving for the day there was time for a planetarium show, a visit to the meridian line and a quick photo with Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space!
Saffron, Myles and Bryony at the Yuri Gagarin statue. 

Friday, 17 April 2015

Views from the Space Studio: Partial solar eclipse 20th March 2015

On the morning of Friday 20th March we were all very excited for an opportunity to experience a partial eclipse of the Sun. We arrived early and set up our equipment and experiments and then waited to see if we would catch a glimpse of the Moon crossing the face of our nearest star.

Year 12 student, Natt, with a range of equipment set up ready for the eclipse.
The National Eclipse Weather Experiment data collection sheet.
Kyle, Charlie and Matthew ready to collect weather data.
The students used a number of different methods to safely observe the eclipse, these included: projection, eclipse glasses, white light filters and hydrogen alpha filters.

Zach showing how binoculars can be used to project an image of the Sun.
An image of the eclipsed Sun obtained by projection.
Ryan, Kyle, Myles and Charlie wearing their eclipse glasses.
Miles was surprised by the excellent view through the eclipse glasses!
Photo by Ben Talbot, year 10.
Kim photographing the eclipse through the hydrogen alpha telescope.
Photo by Natt Donaldson, year 12.
Students and staff enjoying the eclipse.
An image of the eclipse taken through the eyepiece of an 80 mm telescope set up with a homemade Baader film filter.
Taken through the 80 mm telescope using a webcam.
Two of our students were selected to view the eclipse from the air with our chair of governors and resident pilot Capt Apos Katrantzis. The students chosen were Aaron Moate in year 10 and Patricia Valimaa in year 12, they were chosen as a reward for showing an excellent level of effort last term. They were able to obtain a completely clear view of the eclipse from above the clouds while students back at the Space Studio were able to listen in to the cockpit radio.

Flying over Banbury!
Photo by Aaron Moate, year 10.
Our students also took some excellent photographs and video footage of the eclipse. A selection of these can be found below.

Photo by Jon-Luc Mombrun, year 10.
Photo by Natt Donaldson, year 12

A still from some excellent video footage taken by Alex Short, year 10.

Photo by Sam Hepworth, year 10.
We were also joined on the day by Philip Mercer from BBC Radio Oxford, you can listen to the coverage here: http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02l3zbg

The National Eclipse Weather Experiment Results - Space Studio Banbury

We took part in the National Eclipse Weather Experiment organised by the University of Reading. As you can see from our results the cloud began to clear just after 9 am allowing us to experience some wonderful views of the eclipse.

Air temperature (measured in the shade)

Time
Air temperature (oC)
8:00
12.7
8:15
11.2
8:30
10.1
8:45
8.6
9:00
7.7
9:05
7.8
9:10
8.4
9:15
7.6
9:20
7.8
9:25
7.6
9:30
6.9
9:35
6.4
9:40
6.8
9:45
6.4
9:50
6.4
9:55
8.5
10:00
9.0
10:15
12.1
10:30
13.3
10:45
15.4
11:00
15.3

Cloud cover

Time
Describe the cloud cover (clear sky, some cloud, much cloud, totally overcast)
8:00
Much cloud
8:15
Much cloud
8:30
Much cloud
8:45
Much cloud
9:00
Much cloud
9:05
Some cloud
9:10
Some cloud
9:15
Some cloud
9:20
Some cloud
9:25
Some cloud
9:30
Some cloud
9:35
Some cloud
9:40
Some cloud
9:45
Clear sky
9:50
Clear sky
9:55
Clear sky
10:00
Clear sky
10:15
Clear sky
10:30
Clear sky
10:45
Clear sky
11:00
Clear sky

Wind speed and direction

Time
Wind speed (km/h)
Beaufort scale (0-6)
From which direction is the wind blowing? (N, NE, E, SE, S, SW, W, NW)
8:00
0
0
N/A
8:15
0.4
1
NE
8:30
0.1
1
NE
8:45
0.1
1
SE
9:00
0.1
1
E
9:05
0.1
1
E
9:10
0.1
1
W
9:15
0.0
0
N/A
9:20
0.5
1
E
9:25
0.1
1
E
9:30
0.1
1
E
9:35
0.1
1
E
9:40
0.1
1
E
9:45
0.1
1
E
9:50
0.1
1
E
9:55
0.0
0
N/A
10:00
0.1
1
NE
10:15
0.1
1
E
10:30
0.1
1
E
10:45
0.1
1
SE
11:00
4.2
1
NE

You can also see from the results that we experienced a drop in temperature while the Sun was eclipsed as shown on the graph below.


Visit the National Eclipse Weather Experiment Results page for more information.