Monday, 10 March 2014

#StarSoton - International Women's Day and National Astronomy Week

National Astronomy Week this year fell on the 1-8 March, and the theme was Jupiter, as early this year is one of the best times you'll get in a while for good views of Jupiter, as it moves through its closest approach to the Earth, which comes around about once every 11-12 years. 

At the University of Southampton, we held an event here in the physics building on Saturday 8 March to celebrate both National Astronomy Week and International Women's Day, celebrating women in astronomy. 

Along with the usual attractions of roof observatory tours and mobile planetarium shows for all ages, there were three talks given throughout the night by researchers from the University of Southampton, as well as hands-on demonstrations of planetary science, and the phases of the Moon, a chance to take a look through a telescope or binoculars, as provided by myself, Sadie Jones, and SAS (Southampton Astronomical Society), and a Galaxy Zoo workshop led by Dr Jen Gupta from the University of Portsmouth. 

Photo by Duncan McBryde, PhD Student
Dr Catriona Jackman gave a talk on "Jupiter, King of the Solar System", linked to her own research, taking the audience on a tour of the giant planet Jupiter, from its famous Red Spot to its fascinating moons, enormous magnetosphere and dynamic aurora. Our knowledge of Jupiter is based on telescopic observations as well as visits by spacecraft such as Voyager, Galileo, and New Horizons. The Juno spacecraft is currently on its way to Jupiter, and we are excited for what it will find when it gets there.

Professor Malcolm Coe talked about "Tides in the Clouds", with a focus on his research studying pulsars in the SMC (Small Magellanic Cloud, a dwarf galaxy close to the Milky Way). His research is only possible because of the pioneering work of two famous female astronomers - Henrietta Swan Leavitt, responsible for the discovery of a type of star called Cepheid variables in the SMC and our ability to use them to measure the scale of galaxies and the Universe, and Jocelyn Bell Burnell, famous for discovering the first pulsar, a rapidly-spinning, extremely compact neutron star previously only speculated about. Malcolm Coe is discovering large nests of pulsars in the SMC, thought to be the result of massive tidal interactions on an intergalactic scale. 

Dr Sadie Jones then gave a talk about her PhD research into supermassive black holes and jets using radio data, including an introduction to the LOFAR radio array of telescopes, and links to important female astronomers working in the field of radio astronomy. 

Photo by Duncan McBryde, PhD Student

It was wonderful to see so many people - and so few clouds!! With the weekend being full of the feelings of looking forward to summer, we look forward to seeing lots more people at future events engaging with and enjoying physics and astronomy. Thank you to all of you who came and we hope you enjoyed it as much as we did!!

Jen  x (that's me below, adjusting the binoculars to try and bring the Moon back in view to say hello to its adoring fans)

Photo by Duncan McBryde, PhD Student
PS. Search #starSoton on twitter for more pictures from the evening. 

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