Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Have a Happy Christmas!

Have a Happy Christmas from all at Starlearner.  Ours started earlier than usual with the news that our daughter has become engaged.  Brilliant!!!!  The celebrations have already started.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

Well done to the Rosetta team

The landing of the Philae lander on Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko is one of the most spectacular space events ever.  Such an incredible work of engineering at the highest levels of difficulty.  Well done to ALL the team.  Here's hoping that the harpoon not firing will not leave Philae vulnerable to a blast of comet gases forcing the craft away from the surface.  There are so many very clever scientists in the team that an answer will be found.

Why so important?

The comet has the chemical archive of our Solar System's history within it. Questions could be answered about whether components for life came originally from comets and whether our oceans were created from the water within millions of comets that have flown into the earth's atmosphere over billions of years.  We are about to find out the answers.

My favourite comet image:-

  • Title NAVCAM top 10 at 10 km – 5

    • Released 11/11/2014 8:00 am
    • Copyright ESA/Rosetta/ NavCam – CC BY-SA IGO 3.0
    • Description
      In this scene from the large lobe of Comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko, sets of long, parallel grooves and ridges in the foreground draw the eye up to a block of layered material (appearing as vertically stacked layers in this orientation) in the centre of the frame. This ridge traces up to a peak in the distance, through a cascade of boulders. To the left, flat-topped steps contrast against a ‘pinnacle’ seen against the horizon. To the right, a patch of brighter material lies crumbled at the base of a steep wall – perhaps signalling material that has been freshly exposed.
      In a different orientation, the ‘peak’ actually appears as a flat ridge that slopes down onto a flat plateau, showing the importance of viewing features from different angles in order to understand them fully.
      This single-frame NAVCAM image measures 1024 x 1024 pixels. It was captured from a distance of 9.8 km from the centre of the comet (8.8 km from the surface) at 22:18 GMT on 23 October 2014. At this distance, the image resolution is 83.5 cm/pixel and the size of the image is 855 x 855 m. 
      This work is licenced under the Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 IGO (CC BY-SA 3.0 IGO) licence.  The user is allowed to reproduce, distribute, adapt, translate and publicly perform this publication, without explicit permission, provided that the content is accompanied by an acknowledgement that the source is credited as 'European Space Agency - ESA', a direct link to the licence text is provided and that it is clearly indicated if changes were made to the original content. Adaptation/translation/derivatives must be distributed under the same licence terms as this publication. To view a copy of this license, please visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/igo/

    Monday, 10 November 2014

    Astronomy at the National Memorial Arboretum

    We visited the National Memorial Arboretum at Alrewas this week - to pay our respects to the fallen and to honour the service men and women who stood for the freedom that we enjoy today.  We were surprised to see that the main Armed Forces Memorial incorporated a special astronomical feature.  As the time of the 11th hour of the 11th day in the 11th month arrives, a shaft of light will pass through the memorial wall and shine on to the central memorial wreath. How clever. What a stunning memorial - one of many at Alrewas.

    Monday, 27 October 2014

    Starlearner on Countryfile

    Great to see Ian Glendinning on Countryfile Northumberland last night.  Ian gained his GCSE Astronomy with Starlearner in 2013, passing with a high grade!  His photography is outstanding and it was wonderful to see him showing Ellie Harrison the wonders of the night sky near home in Northumberland.
    Ian has a real talent for astrophotography and the picture above is one he has taken of the Milky Way.  His original photograph is much sharper than the image displayed here.

    Friday, 24 October 2014

    Royal Astronomical Society at 200 years old

    In 2020, the Royal Astronomical Society will be 200 years old.  Ideas to receive awards of up to £100,000 for the promotion of Astronomy and Geophysics are being gathered at meetings like the one held in Winchester on Wednesday at the Winchester Science Centre and Planetarium.
    It was great to hear the ideas and experience the enthusiasm from scientists from the area. Town Hall meetings are being held all over the UK to find the best projects - most to run in the UK, but some overseas as well. 

    Local or national organisations are in the running for the awards.  The RAS fund itself will support up to 20 projects with sums between £50,000 and £100,000.  The grants will be released in two calls – the first in 2015, the second in 2016, to initiate projects that run up to and beyond the RAS bicentenary.  Dr Sheila Kanani, the Education, Outreach and Diversity Officer at the RAS is the organiser of all the meetings that will lead to the best ideas being chosen to compete for the awards.  If you have a good idea, get in touch with Sheila at https://www.ras.org.uk/200.

    RAS 200: Sky & Earth

    Timetable for RAS200 grants

    Deadline for Outline Proposal

    Applications open on the 1st December 2014.
    Deadline for outline proposal is on the 2nd February 2015.

    First meeting of Grants Panel

    This will be on the 16th February 2015.
    Maximum 12 proposals will be chosen.
    These people will be notified by the 2nd March 2015.

    Deadline for Full Proposal

    Deadline for full proposal is on the 10th April 2015.

    Second meeting of Grants Panel

    Grants panel will meet to pick the maximum 6 finalists (first tranche) on the 24th April 2015.
    The ‘winners’ will be presented at the RAS AGM on the 8th May 2015.

    Friday, 26 September 2014


    Saturday 13th September 2014 was a red letter day for Star Learner.

    Xende, Maeloc and Caleac Rivero Bowers (3 of our Star Learners in Spain) were online and loaded up page number ONE MILLION since we opened our website.  We are thrilled with the way our website is being used all around the world.  Only this month a leading school in Switzerland joined the many schools who are using www.starlearner.com - helping their students learn more about Astronomy and Astrophysics.  Come and join us! 

    Shown below is a page from our website showing how clearly details are explained:-

    Demonstrate an understanding that a star’s colour is related to its temperature 

    Monday, 1 September 2014

    That's what I call "A pile of marking"!

    This was the pile of controlled assessments that I moderated for the GCSE Astronomy this year!  Took a while to get through - but there were many terrific pieces of work.

    Monday, 17 March 2014

    New e-textbook completed and online

    The OCR P7 Further Physics - Studying the Universe has been completed to match the current specification.  We love the look of our latest work and already schools have been in touch to use the new resource with their students.  There are superb images from our visits to Astronomy centres around the globe.  Simulations to help explain the Physics concepts are included.  The nuclear reactions of stars are clearly presented in balanced equations matched by straightforward diagrams.  Every aspect of the course is covered and as always, Starlearner has matched our work with the exam board specification.  We are starting to renew our other OCR courses to match the current specifications and once complete we will be sending our work to OCR for their endorsement. 
    Telescopes are massive - compare the size to the people.  The Subaru 8.3 metre telescope is seen with the incredible dome of the  Keck 1 10 metre telescope towering above.
    (Part of our new Section 5.2 describing major astronomical observatories)

    Friday, 3 January 2014


    One of our successful GCSE Astronomy students from last summer is in for a big surprise.  She is to receive a Royal Astronomical Society award for being one of the top 12 students in the country.  We are delighted for her - all will be revealed once the surprise has been sprung!

    Starlearner is proud to say that this is the fourth time an award of this nature has been made to our students.  This is a great honour.