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:

Observing targets
1:00 am – 5:30 am
Super Moon, Total Lunar Eclipse, Venus, Jupiter, Mars
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
7:00 – 9:00 pm
Moon, Uranus, Taurus
9:00 – 11:00 pm
Geminids meteor shower
6:00 – 8:00 pm
Moon, Orion
8:00 – 10:00 pm
Jupiter, Orion
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.