Thursday, 6 October 2011

Rest in peace Steve Jobs.

We are very saddened to hear the news of Steve Jobs' passing. He was a true visionary and his Apple products have revolutionised the way we work and communicate with each other.
Last year we made Starlearner completely compatible on Apple's and PC's, and it was only when I'd bought my first iMac that I really appreciated what Little Miss M had been raving about for years...
He had a unique insight to forsee what people would need before they realised it themselves - he created the technology to make our lives more creative and interesting.
Our thoughts are with his family. Rest in peace Steve Jobs.

Friday, 23 September 2011

See a Supernova!

A supernova can be seen in the sky with good binoculars or a telescope.  The star blew up recently in M101, a faint galaxy in the Messier catalogue.  The supernova is named SN2011fe.  At magnitude 11, it is not bright, but compare what you see with a low power image of M101 - the supernova will be just like ‘spot the difference’.  A star chart is given to help you locate M101 and a photo to show the area to look:-

Monday, 12 September 2011

Incredible results: Starlearner student achieves highest result in all of the country!

Incredible results all round - so chuffed to report that ALL of our Starlearner Distance Learner's achieved a grade B and above! 
Not only that, special mention needs to go to Liz Walker, who completed the Starlearner distance learning course and came top in the whole country. 
Liz can be seen writing up her controlled assessment practicals in the glorious setting of Thoresby Hall - one of Warner Leisure Hotels flagship hotels, which we had booked for the day. Liz decided to use the floor so that she could lay out her mountain of notes and photographs! 
Congratulations Liz and to all of the Starlearner Distance Learning students who've worked so hard - it was totally worth it and we're very proud of all our STAR LEARNERS!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Lanzarote viewing...

Little Miss M was in Lanzarote last week and saw this brilliant image in a restaurant taken by none other than NASA. Such a good picture of the island. She was happy to report back that there were plenty of miles of untouched, dark beaches for viewing but the best overall place that she saw was Ermita de Las Nieves, a small church that over looks Famara in the north of the island. Super dark for super viewing.

Image courtesy of NASA

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Google celebrates the Lunar Eclipse

Did you view the lunar eclipse last night? I hope you all saw a glimpse of it despite the not so perfect conditions over here in the UK... it only ever occurs on the night of a full moon when the Earth, Sun and Moon are all in alignment and the Earth blocks the Sun's rays from reaching the Moon. Viewers all over the world enjoyed seeing the Moon turn a stunning red colour last night when it looked more like Mars than our Moon!
Google have celebrated it with their time lapse forming one of their 'o's' check it out here.

Lunar Eclipse from Tenerife - Getty Images

Monday, 23 May 2011

NASA image picks of the month!

Well it's been very hectic here at Starlearner but everything is going well for the students and I thought it was high time that we profiled some more of NASA's amazing imagery...

Sunset over South America taken by Expedition 25 Crew

Lightening rages near Endeavour at the launch pad at Kennedy Space Center - Bill Ingalls for NASA

A T-38 Jet, with astronauts training inside, is caught silhouetted against the sun in flight - Terry Virls for NASA

NASA Engineer Ernie Wright looks on as the first six flight ready James Webb Space Telescope's primary mirror segments are prepped before final testing.
David Higginbotham for NASA/MSFC

Endeavour is docked at the International Space Station during its 14 day mission.

The whole month of images can be viewed by clicking here

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Good luck Starlearner students!

Well, your hard work has been done and all of the controlled assessments have now been filtered through me and sent off to the moderators.  I have piles of big envelopes building up from schools and centres around the country so I'm off to the Edexcel Head Office on Saturday to prepare for the moderation process.  To all of the distance learners who are receiving their trial exams today - Good luck. I hope they go really well!

Monday, 2 May 2011

View the exoplanet Cancri e for the next two months...

In the news today more details were revealed of the 'super-exotic' exoplanet called Cancri e. It is 8 times as large as Earth and is the densest, most solid planet found anywhere to date. A human would weigh three times as much on the planet! 
Scientists believe that temperatures on the planet could reach 2700 degrees Celsius so not quite right for human inhabitation but as Josh Winn, of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology said: "it is the perfect laboratory to test theories of planet formation, evolution and survival."
It was found using the Doppler method and I'm going to blog about that in my next post.
Now whilst Cancri e is 40 light years away and not visible through our telescopes, its host star, 55 Cancri A, can be observed over the next two months by naked eyes on a dark clear night or using binoculars or a telescope, it is an extrasolar planetary system found in the constellation Cancer the Crab and here's a map to help guide you in...

This image found here illustrates the positioning of the extra-solar system in comparison to ours to give you a feel of the positioning...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Virgin Galactic is recruiting pilots - apply now!

To our US readers, if you're a pilot with a deep interest in space or have NASA experience then Virgin needs you! They are now recruiting for the world's first three commercial spaceline pilots for their Virgin Galactic experience.
What an incredible job that would be - click here to apply!

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Google celebrates Yuri Gagarin's 50th anniversary as the first man in space.

Check out Google today! Very pleased to see that they've honoured the 50th anniversary of Yuri Gagarin, the first human to ever enter space. The USSR pipped the US to the post on this one and he orbited the Earth once on his 108 minute mission, returning home safely to become a national hero. Here's a little video from YouTube on his mission...

Monday, 11 April 2011

Small camera - BIG results!

Last month I took little M's advice and purchased a small camera to transport around easily with me to different Starlearner events. I went for the Canon Powershot SX210IS and I haven't looked back.
Over the weekend the moon looked incredible through my telescope so I started experimenting with my camera and I was pretty chuffed with the results. Check these out...
Two days later, you can see that the shadow has shifted and more sites are in view...

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Four iconic images from NASA - Endeavour, Discovery, Mars and Mercury!

Wow! This is Endeavour attached to its external fuel tanks ready and in position for its final space flight penned in for April 19th from the Kennedy Space Centre, Florida. It looks majestic in its floodlights.
Credit: Jim Grossman

Discovery comes safely home with it's crew after its 13 day mission to the International Space Station.
This was Discovery's 39th and final mission. It just looks like a normal plane doesn't it - amazing to think how far it's been and how well it's served us. 
Credit: Jack Pfaller

This is Chasma Boreale a long, flat-floored valley which cuts deep into Mars' north polar icecap. Its walls rise about 1400m above the floor. Where the edge of the ice cap has retreated, sheets of sand are emerging that accumulated during earlier ice-free climatic cycles. Winds blowing off the ice have pushed loose sand into dunes and driven them down-canyon in a westward direction. Such an incredible image constructed by NASA from their Thermal Emission Imaging System instrument on Mars Odyssey between 2002 and 2005.
Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

First ever obtained image from Mercury, the innermost planet during an orbit on March 29th 2011! Over the subsequent six hours, MESSENGER acquired an additional 363 images before downlinking some of the data to Earth. some of which is still continuing to come down...
Credit: NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Carnegie Institution of Washington

To see all 31 images from March click here and enjoy!

Friday, 1 April 2011

Meteor Marvel - The Barringer Crater

Astronomy Magazine has an excellent article this issue on meteorites hitting the Earth - which is always a possibility but hopefully with today's technology we'll have a bit more warning of where to avoid! After reading it I just thought I'd share with you the link to the Barringer Crater site. It was formed when an iron meteorite measuring an estimated 50metres across hit Earth some 50,000 years ago causing an impact area of over 1.2km and 175m deep. You can visit the crater today (sometimes known as Meteor Crater or Canyon Diablo) so if you're ever in the US state of Arizona make the trip over to see it - believe me this is another holiday going on the list for Mrs M and me! 

Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Super Moon - too big to miss!

Well there's nothing like a super Moon to bring everyone together worldwide with their cameras.
It was stunning to watch the perigee moon travelled 30,000km closer to Earth (356,575km away) as it's been in three years. Here's a selection of images I've found from all around the world. If somehow you missed viewing this one the next one will be almost as close on 26th October (357,052km away).
It's a stunning sight to see and these images make it look like you could reach out and touch it - if only...

Century Tower, University of Florida, Matt Stamey @ The Gainesville Sun via AP

Washington DC's Lincoln Memorial - Bill Ingalls, NASA

Fred Thornhill, Canada, Reuters

Emanuel Lopes, Lisbon

Suzanne Plunkett, London, Reuters

Thursday, 10 March 2011

This is AMAZING - well worth watching!

Last one of these then I promise I'll move onto something new... although you have to admit that this is incredible. Paranal Observatory again shot from inside with a fish eye lens by Stephane Guisard

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Discover time lapses this lunchbreak on Youtube!

Everyone knows that logging onto Youtube uses up serious amounts of time, but one thing that I can't get enough of searching for on there is time lapse movies that people have made of observatories. This one is shot with a fish eye lens to capture the whole surroundings of ESO Paranal observatory in Chile -  which is why the laser star guides that would normally be in a perfectly straight line are distorted but apart from that it is an incredible sequence to watch... enjoy.

Credit due to:
Stephane Guisard

Monday, 7 March 2011

Incredible spacewalk images from NASA of astronauts Steve Bowen and Alvin Drew

Anchored to Canadarm2 mobile foot restraints, NASA astronauts Steve Bowen and Alvin Drew participated in the STS-133 mission's second spacewalk to perform valuable construction and maintenance on the International Space Station. During the six-hour, 14-minute spacewalk they tackled a variety of tasks, including venting into space some remaining ammonia from a failed pump module they moved during the mission's first spacewalk. Here are NASA's shots from the expedition - what an incredible experience to have had - these are making me want to go into space more than anything!

Russian Soyuz Spacecraft and the International Space Station backed by the thin blue line of the earth's atmosphere...

Steve Bowen works hard...

Beat this for a profile picture - Steve Bowen poses for the camera...

Look closely and you'll see both astronauts hard at work. This was actually from their first spacewalk...

Alvin Drew emerges from the Quest airlock...

Discovery and Canadian built Dextre are cojoined...

President Barack Obama talks to the team on board Discovery from the Oval Office...

All images are courtesy of NASA

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Sign up now for the next Astronomy & Spaceguard Experience break at Holme Lacy House Hotel.

Well today finds me busy working on the content for our next Starlearner Experience Break - we've teamed up with Warner Hotels at their amazing Holme Lacy House Hotel resort in Herefordshire to give guests a whole weekend of galactic fun, learning and viewing through our Celestron telescopes as well as a trip to the Spaceguard Centre at Knighton and keep your eye on Asteroids, comets and Meteoroids. 
I'll be there the whole time to help you discover Saturn's Rings, Jupiter's moons and delve into the Moon's craters and guide everyone through their space black holes of knowledge.
Mrs M enjoys it as there's a lovely spa, as many extra sports and activities as you want to do and delicious food... 
I love meeting people who are into their astronomy - whether they've just started viewing or have been doing it for years the buzz is great. That's what it's all about.
If you've never been on a Star Break before come and experience a weekend away with Herefordshire's dark viewing skies, it would be great to see you there!

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Young kids or adult kids - Redshift is our astronomy app of the month - get orbiting planets now!

Redshift's app takes your outdoor viewing with your family to the next level - To be able to walk inside or have your iPad with you on the viewing session (screen light turned down low of course!) and actually have a 3-D tour of what you've just viewed and then finish with a full orbit of a planet just like an astronaut would, at this standard is fantastic and it only makes you want to view more...

It's available for your iPad and iPhone so it could also make long car journeys a lot more interesting - probably not for Mrs M because she'll have to be the one driving so I'll have to buy her a big bar of chocolate to make up for it - which makes it possible...

Friday, 18 February 2011

Act NOW and be part of history on the Mars mission.

Me and Mrs M are off to Mars - well our names are and we'd like to have all of our Starlearner students with us!
It's free and so simple to do and a once in a lifetime opportunity, find five minutes this weekend and print your certificate out!
Have a great weekend Starlearner's!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Talk to NASA today at 4pm!

On February 14th NASA was given its proposed budget for future spending for existing and new programs and projects. Today NASA's Chief Scientist Waleed Abdalati and Chief Technologist Bobby Braun will answer people's questions about NASA’s direction over the next few years - this could be anything you want from exploration technology to planetary probes...
All you have to do to be a part of the conversation is to join the link below and log in to be ready to ask questions at 11am EST that's 4pm to all UK residents...

Monday, 14 February 2011

No hearts but astronomy love all the same - failing a new telescope we want these...

Valentine's Day inspired goodies for the astronomy lover in your life...

These can all be found on Cafe Press.

Mars 500 Mission goes for it's first walk on the surface of 'Mars' today in Moscow...

Sky News has just broken the story of the six man cosmonauts simulated trip to Mars mission 'Mars 500' which began in June last year, and today three of the cosmonauts left their capsule for the first time in eight months for their initial practice 'walk on Mars.' This is all taking place in Moscow where they are undergoing experiments to see the effects of long term space travel. This is crucial to any mission to Mars and we look forward to hearing more from their findings... for now you can view the news clip here and see the full story.

The six volunteers at the start of their mission...

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Still time to be Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2011...

Get viewing and get snapping - the annual competition launched in January and people all over the world are already submitting entries but everyone's still in with a chance until the closing date for entries by midday on the 13th July.
Competition judge and Sky at Night Magazine Editor, Graham Southorn said “I’m looking forward to joining the panel of judges again this summer. Last year’s winning photos were incredible - this time around I’m hoping to see some great shots of Mars and Jupiter, both of which were prominent in 2010.”

Look at last year's winning images for inspiration:

Last year’s overall winner was American astrophotographer, Tom Lowe, for his picture Blazing Bristlecone, depicting the star-studded Milky Way arching over an ancient bristlecone pine tree, thought to be one of the oldest living trees in the world, having clocked up over 4,000 years, standing sentry over the Sierra Nevada. Dr Marek Kukula said “This beautiful picture perfectly combines the awe-inspiring vista of the night sky with life here on Earth. The bristlecone pines maybe old but they are babies compared to the starlight shining behind them, some of which began its journey towards us almost 30,000 years ago.”

The winner of the deep space category was Rogelio Bernal Andreo (USA), with a highly detailed panorama of a section of the constellation of Orion, including the three famous stars of the belt, the Horsehead Nebula and the Orion Nebula. Andreo said “Since winning the prize I believe more people are aware of my work. I hope my images increase people’s wonder and interest in astronomy.”

A cliff top view of the evening sun as it sets behind a rock formation in Big Sur California submitted by Steve Christenson (USA)...

Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2011 has four main categories:
Earth and Space – Photographs that include landscape, people and other earth-related
things. Alongside an astronomical subject ranging from the stars, the Moon or near-Earth phenomena such as the aurora.
Our Solar System – Imagery which captures the Sun and its family of planets, moons,
asteroids and comets.
Deep Space – pictures that capture anything beyond the Solar System, including stars,
nebulae and galaxies.
Young Astronomy Photographer of the Year – pictures taken by budding astronomers under the age of 16 years old.
There are also three special prizes: People and Space recognises the best photo featuring people in the shot and Best Newcomer is awarded to the best photo by an amateur astrophotographer who has taken up the hobby in the last year and who has not entered an image into the competition before. The Robotic Scope Image of the Year is a new special prize introduced for 2011, which will be awarded for the best photo taken using one of the increasing number of computer-controlled telescopes at prime observing sites around the world which can be accessed over the internet by members of the public.
The winners of Astronomy Photographer of the Year 2011 will be announced at an award ceremony at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich on the 8th September 2011.
Photographers can enter online by visiting and entrants may submit up to five images to the competition. The winning entries will be showcased in the annual exhibition at the Royal Observatory, Greenwich from 9 September 2011 to February 2012. Entry to the exhibition is free and we'll cover the winners stories on here as it happens...
Find out updates by checking out the Royal Observatory Greenwich site. It would be amazing to have a student win, get in touch if you want some photographer pointers...Good luck!

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

54 more planetary candidates - thank you Kepler

The Kepler Mission was brought about with the aim of finding more planets in our universe around the same size as Earth where water could exist in a liquid form on their surface.
Last week NASA revealed that they'd managed to find 54 candidates in the hospitable zone...54!

"Some candidates could even have moons with liquid water," said William Borucki of NASA’s Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California, and the Kepler Mission’s science principal investigator. "Five of the planetary candidates are both near Earth-size and orbit in the habitable zone of their parent stars."  

Stunning impression by: NASA/Tim Pyle

"We have found over twelve hundred candidate planets - that’s more than all the people have found so far in history," said Borucki. "Now, these are candidates, but most of them, I’m convinced, will be confirmed as planets in the coming months and years." 
The findings increase the number of planet candidates identified by Kepler to-date to 1,235. Of these, 68 are approximately Earth-size; 288 are super-Earth-size; 662 are Neptune-size; 165 are the size of Jupiter and 19 are larger than Jupiter. 
This is exciting discoveries all around - if you're interested in this follow the Kepler Mission - it's pegged to keep researching and searching until November 2012...

Source for more extensive pictures, videos and information: NASA Kepler

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Get clued up on where and when to look for solar eclipses in 2011...

If you missed the partial eclipse on 4th January this year, here's some pictures to whet your appetite for the next three partial eclipses this year....
1st June in East Asia, North America and Iceland
1st July in the South Indian Ocean
25th November in South Africa, Antartica, Tasmania and New Zealand
Passports at the ready folks...

Stunning imagery captured by the Japanese-American Hinode satellite

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Exciting times with Sky At Night Magazine...

Well after being featured in last issue's article on how hobbyists can learn more about astronomy we're making plans to get involved with their April edition (out March) which is going to have an extra treat for hobbyists to get them through the summer this space for more news.

We love receiving our monthly magazine insight into the skies and in case you didn't know they've got a selection of free images to download as desktop backgrounds so enjoy your lunch hour choosing one of them...'Orion Rising' by Pete Lawrence shall be this February's I think...