Stargazing LIVE

12 January 2011

More than six hundred people took part in astronomy events across Wales, organised by the Institute of Physics following the BBC “Stargazing LIVE” shows with Prof Brian Cox and Dara O'Briain.

Brian Cox

“Stargazing LIVE in Wales” took place at four different venues, the University of Glamorgan, Glyndwr University, Christ College Brecon, and the National Botanic Garden of Wales. With no guarantee of clear skies, a series of talks, demonstrations and other indoor activities were scheduled for each venue.

At the University of Glamorgan, visitors experienced the stars inside the Dark Sky Wales digital Starlab planetarium.  There were displays of telescopes from Usk Astronomical Society, samples of moon and mars rock from the Glamorgan/National Museum of Wales “Down to Earth” project.  

The Herschel Space Observatory team from Cardiff University gave demonstrations of thermal infrared cameras, and visitors were able to view image galleries from the Faulkes Telescope Project. Professor Mike Edmunds, Emeritus Professor of Astrophysics at Cardiff, gave a talk on “Life in the Universe – a gentle introduction to Astrobiology”, to a packed lecture theatre.

The event at Christ College Brecon was coordinated by Gary Williams. There were telescopes on hand and some interested amateurs to offer advice for the many first time users. 

Other displays included a collection of meteorites, an inflatable solar system and astronomy books, a quiz and a computer controlled robot arm challenge as well as many free items to take away from the BBC, IOP, BSA and STFC.   

Laura Nuttall gave a short talk on her research into gravitational waves and she and a fellow astronomer took questions from those attending.

Cloudy skies prevented any live astronomy observations at Glyndwr University, Wrexham, with Andrea Fesmer, but there were sessions looking at the stars in the Starlab planetarium with Alan Brown of Daresbury Labs.  

Dr Andy Newsam from The Astrophysics Research Institute took visitors through the Universe at different wavelengths.  Dr Steve Barrett from Liverpool University a keen amateur astronomer showed photographs.  

The evening rounded off with question and answer sessions with both speakers.

There was rain, fog and cloud over the National Botanic Garden of Wales, where the event was coordinated by Dr Angharad Thomas and David Grace of the Institute of Physics. 

Professor Dave Dunbar (Swansea University) gave a talk on navigating the night sky and Dr Richard Lewis (Swansea University) spoke about online planetariums. 

Visitors also had the opportunity to try out telescopes, learn how to take photos of the sky at night, and learn more about the planets through a game. There was a wide range of resources available from the BBC, the IOP and STFC.

The idea for the series of events came from Cerian Angharad who says it was well worth all the hard work.  “Stargazing LIVE Wales really caught on with people, my phone hardly stopped ringing and I think I had more than a thousand enquiries about the events.  The whole thing was a fantastic success despite the weather!”, she says.

The feedback from those who braved the weather to learn more about the stars has been positive too. Here's a selection of their comments:

“I would just like to say the Wrexham event last night was fantastic, despite the best endeavours of the British weather.”

“Really enjoyed! Before I knew nothing… now I know a little + want to know more! Thank you!”

“Very interesting, loved it!! Hope they do one again!”

“6 of us attended across 3 generations and all found it very interesting and informative.”

“Some fantastic ideas I can take into school with me. Diolch yn fawr. “

“It was cool!”


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