In this first week of 2011, BBC Two is presenting three nights of extraordinary astronomical events and the team at Armagh Planetarium is joining in the fun with our own exciting contributions. Here is what is in store for the nation’s astronomers.
Hosted by Professor Brian Cox (science advisor to the movie “Sunshine”, but we won’t hold that against him) and comedian Dara O Briain (who trained as a physicist), BBC Stargazing Live will include live observing featuring epic images from observatories around the globe on 3 – 5 January, 2011. Mark Thompson, the One Show’s resident astronomer, will also be on-hand to offer viewers tips on how to navigate their own way across the skies.
There will be numerous events across the UK to tie- in with this exciting season of programmes. On Wednesday 5 January 2011, we at Armagh Planetarium will kick off with a Beginner’s Astronomy Day in association with the BBC and the NI Amateur Astronomy Society (NIAAS). This event will be a great introduction to everyone interested in exploring the topics of space and astronomy. The Stargazing Live Team will be at the Planetarium all afternoon with various mad scientist activities, workshops and even recording a radio drama.
At 5.30pm, Bangor man John Kennedy (of Craic Design) will take you on a sky-walk, and teach you how to map the skies for yourself! The Northern Ireland Amateur Astronomy Society will be on hand from 6.30pm giving everyone from total beginners, amateur astronomers and right up to professional stargazers the chance to learn about and explore the night sky (weather permitting). If you have received a telescope for Christmas this will be the perfect opportunity to bring it along for some expert advice on how to set it up to get stargazing! Armagh Planetarium’s Science Communicator Colin Johnston will also be giving a beginners guide to astronomy starting at 7pm. All activities on the 5th of January are free but please note booking in advance is essential (give us a call on 028 3751689).
On Saturday 8 January there will be free entry to any Digital Theatre show on this day (one free show per visitor), again this is in conjunction with in association with BBC Stargazing Live. As usual our team will also provide interactive workshops and you will be able to check out our new interactive iPad apps, Pocket Universe and Space Brains. Again note that pre-booking for shows is essential. Our Stargazing Live events conclude on 13 January with “Where are our alien neighbours?” a talk on exoplanets by that ace planet-hunter Prof. Don Pollacco of QUB at 8pm.
As well as the Stargazing LIVE events there will be other ways to get involved. The BBC is asking stargazers of all levels to share their photographs of the night sky, with the best showcased during the live shows. Whether the pictures are of the moon or the planets, galaxies or nebulae, comets or meteors, the Stargazing LIVE team would love to see them. You can upload your images and download a comprehensive starter guide to the night sky by visiting bbc.co.uk/stargazing.
(You can find useful charts, maps and even software, all completely free and easily downloaded at our Free Stuff page.)