The long cold dark nights have well and truly settled in, and now that it’s December it’s officially acceptable to say the C word. Christmas, Christmas is coming! And so is Santa Claus! Decorations are going up, there’s mad panic to buy Christmas presents and families are organising who’s having dinner and where. Ahh I love this time of year.
The discovery of planets orbiting around other stars has been one of humankinds greatest achievements. The existance of these ‘exo-planets’ can challenge our perception of our place in the universe. Since the first confirmed detection of a planet around another normal star (51 Peg) in 1995, many thousands of planets have been discovered. Indeed, it is likely that most stars will have their own system of planets. It is important in answering the question – is there intelligent life out there?
October is here! It is one of our favourite months as there is so much more to see in the sky and the nights are getting deliciously darker. One thing to remember when you are stargazing is to wrap up warm when you venture outside. The nights are getting much colder, and with some of the best stargazing occurring in the early hours of the morning, we don’t want anyone catching a chill. Thermals and a thermos filled with hot chocolate or coffee will do the trick. Also don’t forget that we will be starting our Star Tracker evenings in the coming months!
Have you ever been worried about the impact of an asteroid wiping out human life? Well, I have some disturbing news for you: there is another possibility involving the explosion of a massive star that gives rise to a gamma-ray burst (called by astronomers simply a GRB), when the star ends its life producing a black hole.
September 2018 will see over 50 astronomers from around the world gather at the Armagh Observatory and Planetarium to discuss the latest news about hydrogen-deficient stars. These stars have lost nearly all the hydrogen from which they were made, to leave only nuclear ash. Astronomers want to learn how these rare and short-lived remnants formed, and what drives their spectacular changes in brightness.
July 4, 2018 saw the 150th birthday of Henrietta Swan Leavitt (1868 – 1921), one of the most important astronomers of the 20th century. Born in Lancaster, Massachusetts, Leavitt graduated from Radfcliffe College, Harvard, in 1892. She then stayed on at the Harvard College Observatory as a volunteer research assistant. Whilst attempting a graduate degree in astronomy and travelling in Europe, she became ill with grave consequences for her hearing. In 1902, then director, Edward Pickering, invited Henrietta to join the permanent staff at Harvard, where she was assigned to study “variable” stars.
The Armagh Observatory and Planetarium are holding a special event to mark the lunar eclipse, coming at almost the same time as the opposition of Mars. The event has proved so popular that tickets sold out within a couple of hours of being released, so we have written this blog entry to tell you about what will happen if you missed out on obtaining a ticket or are going to try to observe the eclipse from elsewhere.
Space is always changing. New things are discovered frequently, and the latest discovery was made inside our own solar system. Jupiter, the largest planet in our solar system, now has a staggering 79 moons in its orbit. Compare this to Earth’s lonely, singular moon and this shows you just how monstrous the gas giant planet is in size.