Monday, 14 March 2016

Starlearner @ The Norman Lockyer Observatory

A good day on Saturday at the Norman Lockyer Observatory, Sidmouth - 
Meeting up with Starlearners as they wrote up their controlled assessments.
Well done to Theo, Africa and Rosanna for your efforts and Kathleen for your support -
Good to meet up with Radio Astronomers, Chris (seen in the 'office'), Ian and Clive.  
An impressive show of the meteor spotting that is carried out at the Observatory -

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Northern Lights success!

Our cruise, as Guest Speaker, on board Magellan - Land of the Northern Lights was very successful.  The Northern Lights performed.  It was such a privilege to be asked by Cruise and Maritime Voyages to give talks on Astronomy and meet so many wonderful people.  Thank you to Cruise Director Jon and the team.  Jon's enthusiasm for seeing the Northern Lights was fantastic and he maintained his 100% success rate of seeing them on Cruise and Maritime Voyages!  Great fun!

Christina, who ran brilliant craft sessions with Isabel, made us laugh with her email to us today:-
Well they say you never appreciate what is on your doorstep and last night I found that to be true.
My Son came in at 10:45 last night and asked if I’d looked out of the window...Now who looks out of the window on a cold night at that time I ask you?...Ooops sorry...You do David! He proceeded to open the curtains to show me a faint green tinge to the sky...Come on Mam get your coat on we are going to the beach! Well I was wrapped up with more clothes than I wore in the Arctic Circle and off we went in the car half a mile to the local beach and there in the blackness of the sky was an amazing display of the Aurora Borealis. Colours from green to purple, pink and blue but unfortunately by the time we got the cameras (my cheap one and my Son’s hugely more expensive one) set up most of the colours had diminished.

The shooting star in the last one just is amazing!  Well done Christina.  One of the brilliant advantages of living in Northumberland.  

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Michael makes it 3 years in a row!

Michael Culver has achieved a Top 12 in the country A* grade for his GCSE Astronomy this year. This makes it 3 years in a row (and 5 awards in 5 years) for Starlearner. Many congratulations to Michael for his hard work - this is a terrific achievement. Thank you to Malc Beesley and the team at Holmes Chapel Comprehensive School who made this possible by allowing Starlearners to enter with their candidates. (This is the second Top 12 award in the 3 years that have come via Holmes Chapel)! Michael is seen with his Royal Astronomical Society certificate alongside his GCSE certificate.
Starlearner has had some other remarkable results this year. Our youngest ever entry, Xiaoli Biggs, (just 10 years and 3 months at examination day) gained an amazing A grade.  The Bowers family entered their 3 children Xende, Maeloc and Caleac - they came over to The Trinity School in Nottingham from home in Sant Pere de Ribes, near Barcelona. Three good passes. Well done!  Thank you to Jill at Trinity for all your support with the entries. Congratulations are also due to Clay Smith at Hadley Learning Community in Telford on a fantastic reward for overcoming all the hurdles along the way. A brilliant performance and what a learning support team you have had at Hadley!

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Star Learners doing wonderful things!

Martyn Dolton is a Star Learner!  Official. He gained a grade A in this summer's GCSE Astronomy examination. Here's what he has said about our course:-

"I’m sure you’ve seen the results, but I just wanted to say how pleased I am at getting an A overall and to thank you for all of your help and support over the past year. When I consider what a challenging year I faced, it’s quite an achievement! For me, this was an opportunity to study something that I’ve always been passionate about, but I wasn’t able to do at school, and getting a qualification at the end of it was a bonus, so I thank you and Liz for making it possible. It’s amazing at how many people I now find myself explaining things to and see them get quite excited about it all – only the other day a friend sent me a picture on Facebook asking me to identify the ‘really bright star next to the moon’. When I told him it was in fact a planet – Venus – and not a star, he was gobsmacked, and keeps asking me questions, which is great! This course has really helped me find out and understand more about something I’ve been interested in since I can remember, and I’m sure it will continue. Here’s to the Lunar Eclipse at the end of the month and for clear skies!"

And look what Martyn has sent through. Brilliant!

"I attach a montage of my pictures. It was great to watch the eclipse, especially after the extra knowledge gained from the course. I kept looking and seeing all the different features going into the shadow. I particularly remember saying 'there goes Tycho'. Before the course it would have been 'there goes that round bit on the bottom!'

This has really opened up the door for me to learn, so once again, thank you!"

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

My very special Battle of Britain +75 day

I saw an elderly man slowly walking along the path, carefully supporting himself with his stick.  The day was sunny and windy on the Dorset coast and the man sat by the Radar Memorial near Worth Matravers.  I left my post at the National Coastwatch Institution lookout because I wanted to take a photo of the flypast of Spitfires, Hurricanes and the Lancaster bomber with the Radar Memorial in the view. As I approached the man sitting down, I just knew this was a very special person - he was there for a reason - this was a precious place for this man to be at this time. This man was Dr Bill Penley - the man mentioned on the memorial.  He was there that day when the memorial was unveiled by none other than Sir Bernard Lovell.
You see something very, very special went on in the early part of the war at Worth Matravers.  Something 'Most Secret' that was to have far reaching importance, not just for victory in the war, but for Radio Astronomy as well.  At this location Dr Bill Penley (now just 98 years of age) told me how he built the first hut.  Scientists were brought in - 2,000 of them to this remote part of the coastline.  Many became world famous during their careers - Nobel Prizewinners and the father of Radio Astronomy, Sir Bernard Lovell.  Together, these scientists developed radar, bouncing radio waves off the coastguard buildings and off a cyclist peddling along the coast path - the first radar view of a moving target!

We chatted and it was wonderful to listen to Bill sharing those memories of one of the most vital scientific breakthroughs of wartime Britain.  Bill's team of clever minds meant that those airmen that went into battle, "The Few", were given warning of the enemy approaching.  Those vital minutes notice provided by the new radar system were the difference between success and a failure too ghastly to ponder.
With Dr Bill Penley and the Radar Memorial

I told Bill of my Dad being on guard duty at the radar base at Worth Matravers. Churchill realised that after the Bruneval Raid to capture German radar receiver equipment in late February 1942, the establishment at Worth Matravers was wide open to a tit-for-tat raid by the Germans.  Bill spoke of how Churchill ordered the whole of the radar research to relocate to Malvern College 'before the next Full Moon'.  Pickford Removals were commandeered and the move was made.  At around this time Churchill called on mathematicians to train in the new radar and radio systems.  Dad trained at Malvern College and in 1943 went out to serve in Burma, tracking the Japanese behind enemy lines and radioing back their location.  This put a stop to the surprise attacks on allied troops that were causing so much harm.  Dad returned home to Lincoln in January 1946 - mission accomplished.

How amazing to meet Bill today.  We owe him and his team so much.  I was able to give him my thanks.  The planes never came - the weather was against them.  My day was incredible for other reasons.  A few weeks ago I had been with friends visiting the world famous Jodrell Bank Radio Telescope (also the headquarters for the Square Kilometre Array).  What started out as ideas in great minds at Worth Matravers led Sir Bernard Lovell to realise that radio/cosmic waves were entering the Earth's atmosphere from space.  A whole new branch of Astronomy was to begin just as soon as the war was over.
The 76 metre dish at Jodrell Bank

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Great results on GCSE results day!

Congratulations to all the students and teachers Jacquie Milligan and Eleanor Edwards at Glenlola in Bangor, County Down in Northern Ireland.  Here's what Jacquie said today on receipt of the GCSE Astronomy results:-

We got our results today and have 70% A*/A grades in our cohort of 34 girls. 

One of the A* grades was achieved by a very bright primary 7 girl, who is just 11 years old!

Thank you for your excellent resources - we'll be logging on again this year :)

Best wishes, 

Friday, 31 July 2015

Blue Moon tonight

Friday 31st July
The second Full Moon in a calendar month is called a Blue Moon.
Check this from our Skylab viewing guide for July 2015:-