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JULY 2012 ISSUE

P a ge s 4-5

Majorca Trip 2012 - Page 8 RAL Field Trip - Page 9

6- 7 e g Pa

THE SKY AT NIGHT PAGES 8-9

Cheltenham Science Festival 2012


EDITORIAL So, we have reached the last issue of the academic year and I would like to thank everyone who has been involved in making Editor: Chloe Partridge Copy Editor: Martin Griffiths

the first ever Astronomy magazine at Glamorgan! I would especially like to thank our columnists Martin Griffiths and Phil Wallace who have tirelessly contributed every month since

Contributors: Chloe Partridge, Louisa Connolly, Kate

that magazine started – one gold star each! No doubt next

Middleton.

year’s issues will be jam packed with even more fascinating

Columnists: Phill Wallace, Martin Griffiths

articles by them and other writer. I already know we can look forward to some good expo’s on the Higgs. To conclude however, this month we have tried to summarise

If you would like to contribute in any way, either by sending us your Faulkes images, or perhaps even writing an article, then get in touch, we would love to hear from you. Editorial Contacts :

and highlight some of the best bits of the year so far - from trips to events, which have taken place across the country so we can go out with a Bang! Hopefully your summers are filled with lots of fun , Astronomy

10017607@glam.ac.uk

related activities which can hear about in September.

mgriffi8@glam.ac.uk

Enjoy the rest of your summer, Clo

Our Book of Faces group has been buzzing this year with loads of posts and feeds from our students from the world of science media, as well as the odd funny picture that has arisen from some archive: My favourite this year being the Oreo Moon phases. Us geeks know how to rock it when it comes to nerdy humour !

Carl Sagan has also been receiving quite a few ‘likes’ on the threads this year, and has become somewhat of an Icon on our page - No surprise really.

IMAGE REFERENCES: PG 4-5. Clock face - www.wired.com PG 6-7. John Ellis - ftpi.umn.edu, Helen Czerski– Twitter, Shawn Domagal-Goldman- researchpages.net, Litmus- designscience.org.uk PG 8-9. Night Sky - Heavensabove.com, Moon& Brecons - Martin Griffiths PG 10.Photography by Kate Middleton and Gien PG 11. RAL - www.stfc.ac.uk , Earth’s magnetic field - www.newscientist.com, Solar Weather - solarb.msfc.nasa.gov PG 12. Max Planck-Wiki commons


GLMAORGAN ASTRONOMY

JULY 2012 ISSUE

CO SMO L O G ICA L

4-5. THE PERILS OF TIME TRAVEL.

N EW S

4-5

TIM E TRA VE L IS A HIG HLY A TTRA C TIVE P R OSP EC T TO MA NY OF US. THE C HA NC E TO M EE T LE GE NDS FA CE TO FA CE A ND SEE HIS TORY B E ING MA DE. B U T I T IS A LS O R IDD LE D W ITH TE RR IB LE DA NGERS.

6-7 6-7. THE TIMES CHELTENHAM SCIENCE FESTIVAL. A S UMMA RY OF S OME TH E BES T B I TS OF THE 2 012 C HE L TE NHA M SC IE NCE FES TIVA L.

8-9. THE NIGHT SKY IN JULY.

8-9

TH IS M ON TH W E C ONC E NTRA TE ON THE L OSS OF OUR NIG H T S KY TO THE INS IDIOUS E FFEC TS OF L IG H T P OLL UTI ON. THIS IS A P ROB LEM WE CA N A LL D O S OM E THING A B OU T.

10

10.MAJORCA TRIP 2012. TH E F I R S T Y E A R A S TR O N O M Y S TU D E N TS P A R TI C IP A TE I N A O N E WEE K TR IP TO MA JORCA TO W OR K IN SPA IN'S M OS T EA S TE RN OB SERVA TORY.

11. TRIP TO RAL 2012. TH IS YEA RS FIE LD TR IP TO THE R U THE RFORD – A PP LE TON LA B - FIRS T HA ND OP E RTUNI TY TO OB S ERVE A ND HEA R ABOUT CURRENT REASRCH.

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COSMOLOGICAL NEWS

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As regular readers will know, I have something that time travellers will not be able to change

one time traveller. You would be directly re-

of a fondness for catastrophe. We started with history as they know it. So, no going back and

sponsible for millions of deaths. Which is bound

atom bombs, then the Apocalypse, so now I feel killing Hitler unfortunately.

to land you in some legal trouble if you return.

we can move on to something even worse: the annihilation of not just the human race, but it’s very erasure from history. Yes, I’m talking about Time Travel. More specifically, the dangers that careless time travel can cause and how easy it might be for some moron with a time capsule to erase all life as we know it. This is the bottom line; Time Travel is obscenely dangerous!

There are two variations to this model however. It also leads us to one of the nastier paradoxes The first is that some kind of TimeCop or cos-

that occurs. Let’s take a nicer example. You are

mic censor stops time travel from messing with a big Shakespeare fan, and go back in time to history. The sniper lining up to blow away Hitler meet the Great Bard, taking with you a copy of will find his rifle jams, or he gets discovered by his completed works as a gift. However, you the Gestapo, or he misses, or Jean Claude van

unknowingly make a cock-up and wind up meet-

Damm turns up and drags him back to the fu-

ing old Will before he’s finished writing, say,

ture. Suffice to say, it’s impossible to mess with Hamlet. Seeing him struggling, you give him the the past. This is a version that is safe from

book to serve as inspiration. Will, being an op-

We all know the dream. You’ve finished your

paradoxes and universe-ending side effects,

portunistic git, simply copies the play verbatim

greatest invention and decide to sample Histo-

luckily.

from the book.

The second variation is more of a problem. It

The paradox arises from the question: “If

states that any time traveller seeking to pre-

Shakespeare copied his plays from a book of

ries’ delights. The Fall of Troy, the Battle of Trafalgar, Jimi Hendrix in concert. But Time Travel packs a dangerous set of problems that you need to be wary of.

vent or alter a historical event will instead wind his plays brought from the future, who actually up causing that event to happen. To use the

wrote them?” It’s a good one. That book is a

First, let’s look at the two basic models of time

Hitler example; we go back in time to kill Hitler

record of the original play that is a copy of the

travel. Model number one: A single, fixed time-

as a child, but the attempt fails and traumatizes book. It’s become a time loop. This is known

line. Once something has happened it cannot be the young boy, turning him in to the monster

affectionately as “the free lunch paradox” as

changed. This might sound safe, but it contains

that history remembers. Now that’s a problem. history gets something for nothing. It’s the time

its own share of terrifying possibilities. To ex-

Not least because you could trace all of the

travel and intellectual version of a perpetual-

pand upon the basic model, the supposition is

suffering Hitler caused to the actions of that

motion machine.


JULY 2012 ISSUE

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This model of Time Travel also leads to the

as planned and you get chatting, and eventual- evolve. Suppose you went back in time to a

bizarre problem with changing bad events.

ly get so engrossed in talking that he misses

Would the event have happened if you hadn’t

his train; the same train that he coincidentally on the sand. In a fit of kindness you throw the

tried to change it? The answer is: most likely

met your grandmother on. Your grandparents fish back into the sea. Well done, you just

beach and saw a weird-looking fish struggling

not. But since it has happened, someone has to never meet, your father is never born and

stopped the first creature crawling on to land

go back and make it happen. Keep thinking

neither are you. Congratulations, you’ve just

and mammalian life, let alone Homo Sapiens,

along those lines and you’ll get a nasty head-

wiped out your own timeline.

never evolves.

Or even worse, you go back in time to stop

There’s one final pitfall that seems to crop up

yourself making a mistake a decade ago. You

time and again. It’s called Godwin’s Law of

get into an argument with your younger self

Time Travel. Basically: “As the amount of time-

(who, naturally, considers whatever choice

traveling you do increases, the probability of

ache. This single-timeline model, while not being free of paradoxes and perils (predestination paradoxes are a real pain; you go back and change something, and that change is the reason you went back in the first place) it does at least have safeguards that

you made a brilliant idea, no matter how dumb Hitler winning World War II approaches one.” it is in retrospect) and in a fit of rage, you

In other words, every Time Travel adventure

punch yourself in the face (time travel even

gives Hitler another chance to win. Even the

The second model is much more problematic.

messes with grammar and pronouns, that’s

slightest change could irrevocably alter the

In basic terms: Time is fluid and can be

how bad it is!). Your younger self falls awk-

future and make it something far worse. In-

changed with ease, as easily as stepping off a

wardly and smacks his head on a desk, killing

deed, in fiction, it is usually the case that time

pavement or sneezing. Yes, it’s the good old

him and negating your history. Somehow you

travel results in a Nazi triumph.

stop Humanity being erased.

Butterfly Effect. And although some may scoff just committed both manslaughter and suicide

So then, between paradoxes, killing your ancestors in an eternal loop and, by the way, will displace air, which pushes more air. This can’t have killed your younger self, so you do letting Hitler win WW2 over and over again, you exist to go back and kill yourself and so on. makes a small breeze with enough force to have a whole heap of problems. Simplest answer to these problems? Don’t use your fancy rustle the trees, which startles a small animal, A weirder version is one shown in Futurama. In new time machine. Destroy it. Destroy all demaking it dart out of a hunter’s sights. The an attempt to stop himself from killing his tails of it. Better yet, don’t build it in the first hunter then changes target and nails somegrandfather while in the past, Fry hustles the place. Just don’t decide to go back and stop thing else. Boom, history has changed, but (I man to “safety” in an isolated house, which yourself building it… hear you say) in a tiny way. But…suppose that happens to be on a nuclear testing range. Fry this new animal is harder to kill, making the doesn’t disappear, making him realise the man hunter leave later. He’s driving home but the wasn’t his ancestor. Consequently he has no traffic is different and he’s tired from a longer problem with comforting the dead man’s widthan planned day. He doesn’t see that cyclist BY PHIL WALLACE ow. Fry winds up sleeping with her and consecoming out of the side road and bam, quently becoming his own grandfather. Now someone’s dead. That’s a BIG change to histothat is bound to make family reunions awkry, and all because you just arrived in the past. ward. Plus it also would make you horribly it actually makes sense. You arrival in the past and no longer exist. But if you don’t exist, you

That’s an extreme example, so let’s go for the ultimate one. You go back in time to meet your grandfather, who died before you were born so you only have stories of him. You meet him

inbred. The grand-slam version of this problem though is that you travel far enough back in time that your slight change makes Humanity never


COSMOLOGICAL NEWS

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The Times Cheltenham Science Festival 2012 The Cheltenham Science Festival is an annual event that has grown over the past few years . It is one of the leading science festivals in the UK, and this years festival theme was Generation. A whole host of guests spoke on topics, covering everything from renewable energy, medical advances, the changing climate to new technologies . The talks and events aimed to inspire and engage people of all ages, in an exciting environment which allowed them to enter into discussion on topics that effect us now only now, but in the future.

SCIENCE QUESTION TIME

EUREKA LIVE

STAR GAZING LIVE

Science question time was a daily

The Eureka editor, Giles Whittell, invit-

The Cotswold Astronomical society

event which took the hot topics of the

ed the public to come and share their

created an evening event where the

day and allowed an audience to debate

ideas about what they thought might

public could come and learn about

and discuss their opinions on such

make a great feature article – the

the night sky , and offered the chance

matters—sometimes controversial.

best idea being published in the Octo-

to observe late in the evening when

ber edition.

the stars came out.

John Ellis: Physicist

Hunt for Higgs– An excellent talk summarising subatomic particles which make up the Universe and the Higgs place in it.

Helen Czerski: Physicist and

Shawn Domagal-Goldman: Astrobiologist

Earths Journey - An epic explo-

Alien Hunters- An explanation of

ration of the Earths changes over

how life outside our universe is

a year as its orbits our Sun.

being detected and of the question Are we really alone?


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JULY 2012 ISSUE

The Festival gave a great platform for new and inspirational talks by people throughout science- Some of my personal favourites are listed below.

3D Printing: What an amazing event, it literally was what it said on the tin— A 3D model, like a car or a walking stick ,for example, was sent to the printer and then printed. The science behind the L I TM US PA P ER A T THE TI M ES C HE L TE NHA M SC IE NCE FES TIVA L 2 012 IN C OL LA B ORA TION W ITH THE BRI TIS H L IBRARY.

printer was amazing. A microscopic layer of desired material was sprayed onto a surface and then lasered to set, the next layer was then sprayed on top and lasered and so on and so forth. The end result was a 3D shape which had essentially been stacked together. The examples to touch and hold where incredible, but the print-

Each morning a summary of the previous days mains events would be featured in the Festivals Litmus paper . The paper included a list of all the free events available that day and gave a great brief summery of the events that had been enjoyed the previous day . In total 5 papers were produced over the course of the festival, all of which can be found and enjoyed at : www.design-science.org.uk/

er wasn't cheap!

litmus-paper

book, which I highly recommend buying, is easy to read and so

Alexander's Adventures in Numberland: Not only is this an amazing book, but Alex Bellos’s brief summery of it was incredible. Alex Bellos spent a year traveling the world to discover where numbers came from, and what an amazing job he did. The fascinating and funny. His adventures took him to India where he discovered zero, and to Japan where the abacus is shown to be quicker than the calculator, not to mention his encounter with monkeys who can count.

BY CHLOE PARTRIDGE

#cheltscifest @cheltfestivals


COSMOLOGICAL NEWS

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The Night Sky in July Observing in July is generally hampered by the late twilight but does improve toward the end of the month. On a late July evening, Vega is directly overhead and the summer Milky Way arcs from North to south horizons. Lots to see in the way of globular and open clusters, planetary nebulae and HII regions – a great season if we get the weather!

Planets in July: Mercury: Is at greatest eastern elongation on the 1st July and can be seen as a magnitude 0.6 star in the NW setting within an hour of the sun. Venus: Is a brilliant morning object located amongst the stars of the Hyades in Taurus and only a few degrees from Jupiter, rising over 1.5 hours before the sun and shining at magnitude -4.4 Mars: Is still visible in the evening sky in Virgo and continuing to diminish in brightness throughout the month as it nears the horizon. It should be magnitude 0.8 and glow with a dull red colour.

Moon In July First quarter: 26th July Full: 3rd July Last Quarter: 11th July New: 19th July

Jupiter: Is in Taurus and is an early morning rising almost two hours before the sun and Uranus: Rises just after midnight in July and shining at magnitude -2.0. On the 15 th of the is located in the constellation of Pisces month a crescent Moon is only 1 degree where it shines as a magnitude 5.8 greenish away. star. Saturn: Transits before midnight and is visible all month as a bright star to the NE of Spica in Virgo. It is beginning to fade to magnitude 0.6 and its low altitude means that it sets about an hour after midnight in July.

Neptune: is also a faint early morning object in Aquarius shining at magnitude 7.8 and rising just before midnight though an early morning observation about an hour past midnight is best to see this elusive planet.

The sky in July The sky as it would appear at 22:00 on the 10th


JULY 2012 ISSUE

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A round up of the year! don’t have a clue why they need the lights or how to ensure they are directed toward the ground rather than the sky. A quiet word with them to turn them off as reasonable times of the night (between midnight and 5:00am) and an invitation to come and look through binoculars or a telescope so they can enjoy the wonders of the universe usually works well and builds a rapport with them. Extend this to the rest of your neighbourhood and an impromptu star part (with some drinks – but not too much!) usually Talking of enjoying the night sky, many are not goes down very well at raising awareness of the even seeing the stars anymore and have stopped looking up. Most of the public would fail problem and allowing them to address it. miserably to identify a constellation or a planet and only really notice the moon when its on the For local companies with warehouses or office horizon looming large and painted in a reddish complexes, it may be a good idea to approach hue to due dust in the atmosphere. Beyond that one of the managers and deal with their light looking up does not occur to most people. The pollution on a cost effective basis. All companies night skies are fading from memory because hate paying bills, so trying to save them money they are almost rendered invisible by a common in electricity by turning the lights off or at least foe – light pollution. down, does them and you a favour. Even directActually the last observing year has been punctuated by ceaseless rain, missed opportunities, lack of anything really interesting happening in our skies such as eclipses and the only worthwhile event, the Transit of Venus totally swamped by clouds. Its not that I’m jaded by the experience – this is what we have to put up with as British astronomers. However, is it too much to ask for some decent weather to enjoy the night sky?

You can also write to your local councils and advocate a policy to turn street lighting off after midnight, or turn off half of their streetlights in a cost saving exercise. Many councils are following new regulations and are replacing old bulbs with more efficient ones and are lowering their wattage by 50% and more – commend them for this move and nudge them towards a full saving by turning the lights off.

Use the environmental factors too in your education of others. Lighting at night is now increasingly responsible for certain types of cancer (Breast, Colon and Rectal) due to the reduced production of the hormone Melatonin, which the body needs to maintain good health and rest. Additionally, turning the lights down or even off has a massive effect on crime according to statistics from the UK, Europe and America with between 50 – 80% reductions in the crime rate in some cases. It is also environmening any external security lighting downward so tally friendly too as the circadian rhythms of that it’s illuminating the yard or car park rather wildlife return to their proper diurnal modes. Light pollution is eroding the heritage of the than the surrounding area is always an imnight sky and is rendering the starry night down provement. These are measures that are perto a constellation of barely discernible dots that sonal and are generally appreciated by all. If you Much can be done to combat light pollution. have no relationship to us or to each other. get no joy, you can always address the problem Merely from an economic standpoint, why waste What can we do about it? by means of the Clean Neighbourhoods and £1.8 billion a year lighting up the sky? This public As individuals we can actually do quite a lot. Environment Act 2005 which gives redress money could be better spent elsewhere and Most of us are aware of local lights which inter- through the local councils who can nominate local councils could save the public purse by fere with our view of the skies either here in such excessive lighting as a nuisance and apply investing in better lighting – or less lighting than we have at present. However, this educational Treforest or when we return home. Many of the law to tone it down. these lights are needlessly bright security lights work, the letter writing, star parties and interinstalled by security conscious neighbours who action with the public can only be achieved if we work at it consistently and appropriately – it is down to us as observational astronomers to do Llangorse lake in Brecon – once a dark sky haven, light pollution from the valleys to our part in reducing light pollution so that futhe south is creeping in and destroying the night sky ture generations will have a chance to enjoy the night sky before it disappears from the public consciousness for good. M57 The Ring Nebula BY MARTIN GRIFFITHS


COSMOLOGICAL NEWS

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Majorca Trip 2012 During early May this year, lecturers Martin

complete the last assessment for the mod-

Griffiths and Fraser Lewis and the large group

ule—a detailed poster consisting of one astro-

of first year astronomy students visited Spain’s nomical object ranging from the planets, to most eastern astronomical observatory, home deep sky objects such as planetary nebulae of the replica of the Lunar Module and the large and galaxies. Many of the students chose deep planetarium, the Observatorio Astronómico de sky objects such as nebulae and different Mallorca in Costitx, Majorca. For six nights the

types of galaxies. Whilst all was well for the

Above—OAM main observatory active at night— photography by Kate Middleton

students were to study the practical aspects of first two nights, the students practice with the

from the archives were provided. Exercises

the Exploring the Sky module. These consisted

telescopes ceased during the third night due

were given to the students such as creating a

of using several 12 inch Meade LX200 tele-

to an exhilarating lightening storm which

light curve of an eclipsing binary star and deter-

scopes, each with a STL1001E CCD camera. The lasted all night. Although the telescopes were

mining the physical properties of the binary

telescopes were situated in small domes

out of use for that evening, the students had

star, the familiarization of the image processing

named after famous astronomers such as

plenty of work to attend to. As the weather

software Maxim DL and undertaking photometry

Christopher Clavius, Gallileo Gallilei and Johan- was bad during the night, students were not

of standard stars to determine the limiting mag-

nes Kepler. The purpose of the field trip was to able to collect data from the scopes, so data

nitudes. Two other nights were affected by cloudy weather. Observation planning along with further exercises and image processing were reacquainted to the students. The further two clear nights gave the students the opportunity to take their plans out and image as many objects as they needed for their posters. Overall, the Astronomy students obtained most of what they required. It was quite unfortunate about the bad weather we received however, the students thoroughly enjoyed the trip. A small

Above—The first year Observational Astronomy students sitting on steps opposite the replica Lunar Module.—Photo taken by technician Gien.

group of the students plan on going next year with the new first years and hope to expect better weather.

Bottom left—a glimpse of the exciting lightening storm—Image taken by Kate Middleton


JULY 2012 ISSUE

Page 11

Trip to RAL 2012

One of the bonuses of the Observational Astronomy course is the opportunity to visit places of industry and active research. This month we visited the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory (RAL); a globally recognised scientific research laboratory.

During our visit we were given a guided tour the possible use of magnetic "deflector of some of these facilities. A particular high- shields" to guard future astronauts from harmful space radiation. light of the day included the chance to see some of the original controls used for the Apollo missions. Previous students of Glamorgan certainly made an impression at RAL when a past visit saw them press a button belonging Named after two physicists of which our stu- to these controls that, well, should not have dents are well familiarised with – Lord Ernest been pressed. This resulted in the shutdown of Rutherford and Sir Edward Appleton – the site active research. It is safe to say there is now boasts many facilities enabling a variety of a sign which clearly states no public access, research to take place. Such research covers to prevent an incident like this happening topics including: research into new materials again! and structures, for example from battery electrolytes to turbine blades, X-ray laser A number of talks given by scientists at the The Earth’s magnetic field reaches out into research, space-based astronomy and many top of their field gave us a unique insight into space forming the magnetosphere. This more. their current research. One such talk was deflects energetic plasma of the solar wind given by Ruth Bramford whose work involves which is harmful us .

Other talks involved the effects of space weather and the impact solar activity has on human activities.


“A scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” — Max Planck

BSc (Hons) Observational Astronomy

July 2012  

July 2012 issue