IYA 2009

Get to know our neighbour this Moonwatch week

moonwatch1The Moon — an incredible sight through even a small telescope. Credit: WillGater.com

In the UK we’ve just started the Spring Moonwatch week, as part of the International Year of Astronomy. It’s the first of a handful of special lunar observing weeks planned throughout the year aimed at getting everyone out having a look at our nearest Solar System neighbour, the Moon.

Even a good pair of small binoculars can show you interesting features on the Moon’s surface like the larger craters, the darker maria (which are vast expanses of smooth basalt) and ray ejecta (the brighter streaks of material stretching across the Moon from when an asteroid hit the surface). If you own a telescope and maybe haven’t used it in months/years/decades why not get it out of the cupboard, dust it off and see what the Moon has to offer? And if you’re already a dedicated amateur astronomer then here’s a perfect opportunity to show some friends some stunning selenogical sights through your scope — there’s nothing quite as rewarding as giving someone their first view of the lunar surface at high magnification. Also be sure to look up your local astronomy society, as they may well have their own Moonwatch events already planned that you can join in with; a good place to start is the IYA UK events page here.

moonwatch2The craters Eratosthenes, Archimedes, Clavius and Plato as well as the rille the ‘Straight Wall’ are all visible during Spring Moonwatch. Credit: WillGater.com

The April Sky At Night Magazine has a special 6-page guide to the Spring Moonwatch week and there’s more info. about the whole project over on the Society for Popular Astronomy’s website here. Lastly, if you do observe the Moon and you tweet about them on Twitter, remember to tag it with #starparty. Happy observing!

IYA interviews and BLAST!

Well telescope night has been and gone and now the documentary BLAST! is up on iPlayer, for any UK readers. Having now seen it I can definitely recommend it. The way the film both generates and conveys the genuine drama and excitement, of carrying out a mission like BLAST, was particularly good. Worth watching right to the end to see what happens! You’ve got until 11:19pm on Wednesday 14th January to watch it, so log on here.

Lastly then, I’ll be doing several interviews over the coming weeks with BBC radio stations up and down the country about the International Year of Astronomy 2009. We’ll be talking about all aspects of the IYA, I imagine, so listen in if you’re interested. The first interview kicks off with a chat with BBC Radio Jersey’s Sara Palmer and Carrie Cooper at 11:15am on Monday morning. I won’t post any more about these interviews but if you want to keep up-to-date you can follow my Twitter feed here.

.astronomy, IYA 2009 new media and more

Yeah I’m great with catchy post titles I know but I have lots of things to blog about that are loosely related, so this is going to be a bit of a round up of the myriad of thoughts swirling in my head.

Today saw the .astronomy conference kick off in Cardiff, here in the UK. It’s being organised by Rob from the Orbiting Frog blog and addresses the rise of new media and networking and its impact on astronomy. I’m really disappointed I couldn’t make it over to Cardiff, but thankfully Rob has captured the talks from today, on Ustream, so we can all join in. When I get a chance I will try and post up my thoughts on press releases and new media, I had initially prepared to present, here on the blog.

Anyway, I’ve been watching the Ustream videos whilst having tea this evening and have so far seen Chris Lintott‘s and Paul Roche‘s talk. Both are well worth a watch, particularly Chris’s. He’s a great public speaker and his talk summarises very nicely the cool Galaxy Zoo project. It also seems that this week should see the opening of Galaxy Zoo 2, which is exciting – we’ll probably hear more about that soon. Paul’s talk covered the Faulkes Telescope and the work he and his team are doing with outreach and education. The Faulkes project gives schools and societies access to a huge 2-metre telescope via the Internet , which they can control to take their own images and data; if you think your local school or society might be interested you can find out more on the link above.

Paul also mentioned that the next step for this type of project is the Las Cumbres Observatory Global Telescope Network which looks very impressive. The aim is to get students in schools doing more of their own research via a large network of telescopes all over the world, alongside a similarly large network of actual research telescopes. The network should be able to study all sorts of interesting celestial objects including extrasolar planets, supernovae and gamma-ray bursts! There are more videos from today’s sessions on the .astronomy Ustream channel and you can follow tomorrow’s talks and events via the conference’s Twitter feed.

Moving seamlessly on to more new media news from the new media wing of the International Year of Astronomy. Via an email from Pamela Gay (a.k.a Star Stryder, the chair of the International Year of Astronomy New Media Task Group) comes news of the Portal to the Universe and the digital treasure amassing therein. Put simply, the Portal is going to be a vast repository of astro links, news, feeds and tools to get astronomers, educators and people from all over the world talking, interacting and communicating about astronomy via the web and in real life. Not just for 2009 but forever.

You can submit your own astronomy blog/website/feed if you have one, or you can use the already listed links to navigate your way to more content than you can shake a feed reader at. I’ve already found some very nice astro-blogs I didn’t know about! If you haven’t subscribed to my RSS feed then you can find it here, should you so wish. There are only 100 days left until the International Year of Astronomy so it’s time to get involved and make 2009 an international year like no other!

Finally, as part of the 2008 Magazine Week here in the UK BBC Sky At Night magazine will be guests (alongside BBC Focus magazine) at the Borders bookstore in Cardiff on Thursday 2nd October. Come and say hi if you are in the area. We will have a stand inside the store, for part of the day, where we’ll be displaying some of the latest NASA images from space and we should have a PST solar telescope with us too if the Sun comes out.

International Year of Astronomy 2009 trailer

Turn up the sound on your computer, get ready and watch this! It’s a new trailer for the International Year of Astronomy 2009. Very cool indeed. The Year is fast approaching and there will be lots happening around the globe. If you haven’t got any ideas on what to do (but want to get involved) contact your national node, get some ideas from here and get involved!

Credit: International Year of Astronomy 2009, IAU and UNESCO

P.S. another new site definitely worth a look is the new International Astronomical Union website. There’s a wealth of information on there. Especially make sure to check out the ‘themes’ section – it’s the definitive IAU reference for lots of subjects like naming stars, classifying planets and much more. Oh and if you want the HD version of the above trailer be sure to get it here.