Category: Astronomy

Shooting Stars (by )

Last night I watched the Geminid Meteor Shower - my great Aunt died the morning before and I feel isolated and cut off from the family that surrounded me as a child - she was the last link I had to that really - to that older generation - we all knew she was ill and in her 80's but somehow it still sliced as a knife and I cried and I wasn't sure weather I was crying for her or crying for my nan or the child that was or something else but I just remember all her jewellery and sitting around the kitchen table and darting between hers and my nana house - they were in the council houses at the base of the tower blocks and my great gran was just over the road in the old peoples home and sometimes we'd all go and see her and take her food.

This year has had death and life in it sometimes that spell in-between did not even get to birth. And I am dwelling, the sorrows piling up and threatening to drown me and an apathy is calling as I see the pain once more of those who chose to leave transferred and intensified in those who they have left behind.

So many things to worry about and I can't seem to help stem the tied of hurt and pain and death, I am still trying but the trying is getting harder.

I made mulled cider, hot apples and chocolate milks of varying temperatures and invited people round - they were already invited but I enhanced and kept it that way so as not to disappear into a ball of misery. I had canceled the plans of the previous day as a void yearned and pulled at me and the tears poured from my eyes with both intensity and numbness and there was just me in a pool of warmth that I know was my husbands arms but I did not really see him.

And so I had to make sure we still did something so we watched the stars, my little ice gems of twinkling sky that I know are hotter than fire and ring like bells and the shooting stars are rocks that I love the crystal patterns of and the ripples of cold melt that coat their surface once they have - if they ever do - reach the ground.

When I came to try and write all of this, to share with others what the night of light smudged night was like, it came as a poem.

I watched the shooting stars with my family and friends, there were a few around at in the early evening though the youngest grew bored. The meteors were glorious later on - everyone else had buggered off including my family to great Morpheus or sleep or a warm bed at least - so it was just me and bits of burning rock from space and the mortality pain hit - all of this wonderfulness often over ridden by pain and anguish and all that getting to know the world and just as life fits like a well fitting shoe no long giving blisters - whoompf you are gone to goodness knows where - maybe riding the back of those steaks of light or sitting with the sky daddy, or to be cradled by the arms of Gaia or just a nothing.

I watched the shooting stars remembering that like me they too were star dust and named them after the loved until I ran out of names and then I beheld the others as the lost ones I could not or did not want to know, held them as the sorrowful lonely deaths because though we all ultimately face death alone some of us have to face life on our own in desolation and that is a bone chill blood curdle of a thing that slices at the very humanity of us.

I watched the shooting stars and they reflected in my tears for the losses of this and all years and tears of gratitude at the wonders and spectacles and love that those same years have also brung. I watched the sky rocks blaze. And then folded strips of paper to glow in the dark as wishes, they were of course what we have decided is a star shape though it is pointy and not spherical. Tonight again I will watch the shooting stars.

Below the Surface (by )

Alaric discovered this amazing website Below the Surface. This is a fusion of maintaining environments, urban upkeep, archeology, social out reach and art!

Cataloguing all the finds from the river Amstel in Amsterdam during train line works they have built up an amazing image archive showing the depths and ages of the objects, you can explore this catalogue, find out things about the civil engineering around the project and create your own displays with the finds that catch your interest.

This is all free and on line - the internet is starting to have these little lovely treasure troves of sites. This was what I envisioned the Internet being used for. For me though this project is tinged with a "could have been" here in Gloucester something like this was created back in the early days of the Internet and had the scholars and volunteers and council members enthused and then... it basically got unplugged and lost (early days of the internet I did say - things were different in those call up days!).

Many museums and research institutes are also putting their photo archives on line - Below the Surface how ever is a lovely smooth and easily searchable interface which is slightly more unusual!

There are over 700, 000 finds and the time periods spanned is more than written history - it is an awesome resource!

SmashFest Photos (by )

Back in the autumn we took part in SmashFest Earth and Sky Tour when it came to Gloucester Library. It was an amazing day with lots and lots of people - so many that I we began to run out of our Space Craft supplies so that was more than I typically get through at a whole weekend of music festival!

As Cuddly Science we had a fantastic time and my new asteroid impact simulator went down very well as did the paper mΓ’chΓ© volcanoes!

Here is the SmashFest Flickr account with some cute pics of Mary etc... hidden in and amongst it all and maybe the rest of us as well πŸ™‚ Mary had her rainbow coat.

Ada Lovelace Day 2017 – Dr Rebecca Wilson (by )

Today is Ada Lovelace Day - an annul celebration of women in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM), named after the Victorian mathematician and visionary Ada Lovelace.

Each year we try to do a little write up on women who have inspired us in the sciences. There are many entries for previous years - in fact later today I am going to make a special category for them all πŸ™‚

This year I have chosen my friend Dr Rebecca Wilson.

Broken lift

Rebecca started off in Geology studying at Imperial College's Royal School of Mines, where she not only excelled in her own studies but helped me with some of the more advanced GeoChemistry elements, lending books and explaining things in multiple ways.

She was part of the posse that went with me to the Natural History Museum London to get work experience and helped me get into the meteoritics department. A PhD at the Planetary and Space Science Institute looking for organic material in micrometeorites.

She went on to post doc and research and science outreach at Leicester University and the associated Space Centre. During this time she developed some pretty awesome out reach kits. Those that can be available to the public/teachers are downloadable here.

Rebecca also won an science journalism internship which took her to Ireland, she has in fact been all over the globe studying, researching and presenting.

She has side stepped into medical data visualisation realm where she is pushing the frontiers of science ever forwards as well as highlighting the issues of accessibility on her various travels.

Rebecca has rubbed shoulders with the top people in both space and planetary science as well as within the deep data computering spheres not to mention the odd science communicator such as Brian Cox! Becca he is highly versatility and extremely dedicated and she is also a hell of a lot of fun to be around πŸ™‚

She was even chosen by Jean for a school project on role models and heros!

Celestia and Watching the Night (by )

Celestia the Telescope

Thankyou so much to everyone who gave Alaric and Jean money towards the telescope at Christmas. It has arrived!!!! We put it together last night. The actual telescope arrived a few days ago but we couldn't really do much other than play with the finder scope looking out at Robins Wood Hill through my attic window - which was of course all upside down!

This was because the tripod had not yet arrived but it arrived yesterday πŸ™‚

It's the kind that bounces light around inside of itself and is kind of the biggest a beginner should get.

Jean and Al have been very excited about it and I was being reserved though I have dug out lots of my old astronomy mags and what have you but I kept reminding myself it was theirs and not mine. Turns out it is also for me and Mary πŸ˜€ With our January birthdays!!!!!

Mary loves the thing!

Mary meets Celestia the Telescope

Infact both kids pretty much rushed straight over to this morning when they saw it sadly I don't think we are going to get to play on it tonight as it is currently thick fog here.

We are going to make a case for it with good made to fit holes in padding because we are going to be bundling it into the van and going up into various bits of the cotswolds!

Al and Jean made sure there was a camera mount so I can take my "arty" photos as Jean has started to call them (whilst looking down her nose at me!). Sadly my camera doesn't fit - also said camera is rubbish at low light levels as in REALLY bad. It is an amazing camera and takes magnificent photos of animals in broad daylight - which is what it was bought for, but low light... just kind of no. I'm sure it's me and I should read the manual or something.

And.... I want to look at the moon, Jean is interested in stars, Mary wants to look at the smoke (nebulea) and Alaric... I think is looking forward to motorising it and linking it to computers and stuff but that is a guess.

Local peeps are already interested in a starparty but we need to work out how to use the thing first!!!

Getting a camera that fits is high priority for me, Alaric reckons we can 3D print and adapter, which might be a waste of time with the low light stuff. However my friend reminded me that some amazing photos have been taken by smart phones including iphones that are the model before mine so that is an option as well though again is going to need an adaptor of some kind.

Thinking of my friends who have and are working with the large observatories and how they will no doubt laugh at our enthusiasm for our little Celestia. But I'll remind them of this when they have to go out to break the icilces off their huge one πŸ˜‰

Mary loves the telescope

Lastly I am getting myself some new make-up, I was tempted by it anyway as it is all on sale reduced from £6 to like £1.50. The nail vanish is called eclipse and the perfume midnight and then there's galatic glitter and so on... And well they match the telescopes glittery finish so I can match the telescope!!!

Yes yes I know shhhhhh.

sparkly finish on the telescope

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