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All Blogs (most recent first)

  • Falling in Space (613) Erik Vermaat 2016-11-08 19:33:53

    A comprehensive primer on the technique of space travel, i.e. how we travel from A to B in space An extended version of this article can be downloaded as an off-line resource in pdf-format  Download pdf here WEIGHTLESS Why are astronauts in the International Space Station (ISS) weightless? “Because there is no gravity up there” you often hear. “Astronauts and scientists themselves often talk about zero-gravity, don’t they?”. Weightless in Space. Image credit: NASA A satellite orbit in its...

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  • STARMUS III - Wednesday 29 June (602) Erik Vermaat 2016-07-23 16:44:47

    Wednesday 29 June 2016     Stephen Hawking opened this session with a talk entitled “A brief History of Mine”. Born on 8 January 1942 in Oxford he had an unremarkable time as a student at various schools until he started with his PhD study. At that time Cosmology and Gravity were areas that were ready for development. His first book was “The large scale structure of Space Time” written with Ellis (1973). Stephen Hawking 8 January 1942 with his parents Stephen talked about how he discovered the...

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  • STARMUS III - Tuesday 28 June (553) Erik Vermaat 2016-07-23 16:41:03

    Tuesday 28 June 2016     Brian Schmidt of the Australian National University gave a good overview of the discoveries that lead to the notion of Dark matter and of Dark Energy, from Edwin Hubble’s observations to the discovery of an accelerating Universe. The latter was first proposed in two papers in 1998. Computer simulations of the evolution of the Universe and detailed analyses of the Cosmic Microwave Background radiation (CMB) are the resources to establish the ratio 5, 26 and 69% for a...

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  • Enlightening the Future: The Quality Lighting Teaching Kit (559) Dr. François Shindo 2016-07-18 10:34:22

    The CIE National Committee of New Zealand (International Commission of Illumination) is supporting a program developed by the NOAO to promote Education & Public engagement on better quality lighting. The kit was inspired by the International Year of Light and was funded by the Optical Society of America (OSA) Foundation, the International Astronomical Union (IAU) and the U.S. National Optical Astronomy Observatory (NOAO). Using quality lighting, the QLT kit allows students to creatively...

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  • STARMUS III - Epilogue (659) Erik Vermaat 2016-07-17 12:56:33

    Epilogue       Thursday 30 June (Asteroid Day) saw a round-table discussion in the great dome of the La Palma Observatory Roque de los Muchachos.This was streamed live to the venue at Teneriffe. Discussed were planetary defence in view of Asteroid Day, abrupt climate change and science communication. An interesting discussion, very well lead by Russell (Rusty) Schweickart, but without clear results as could be expected. Friday 1 July we first had organised a private excursion to the Teide...

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  • STARMUS III - 2016. Introduction (865) Erik Vermaat 2016-07-03 04:01:28

      2016   What is STARMUS? Brian May, founding guitarist of the rock band Queen, completed his PhD dissertation in Astrophysics in 2007. His advisor was Garik Israelian, and as both of them are musicians as well as astronomers, they came up with the idea for STARMUS, a festival celebrating stars and music. STARMUS aims at making astronomy, space sciences and the arts accessible to the general public, while bringing together the brightest minds in these areas. The first STARMUS festival was held in...

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  • STARMUS III - Monday 27 June (662) Erik Vermaat 2016-07-01 02:17:31

    Monday 27 June 2016     It was a great first day at STARMUS. The organiser Garik Israelian opened the festival emphasising how special this third STARMUS is going to be. Special first of all while the festival Tribute to Stephen Hawking – Beyond the Horizon is dedicated to the life’s work of Stephen Hawking, who is unique in the world (maybe in the Uni-(multi-)verse). In addition the more than one thousand delegates will be feasted not only to latest developments in astronomy, but to those in a...

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  • The World's First Dark Sky Island - The Isle of Sark (1261) Kyra Xavia 2016-04-15 10:55:52

    Photograph of the Milky Way over the avenue in Sark by Sue Daly While researching a topic very close to my heart, namely the night sky and the importance of darkness, I discovered a remarkable destination which has great appeal to stargazers, nature lovers and tourists alike: the small Isle of Sark, in the Channel Islands. Self governing Sark, has a population of around 550 people. It has no public street lighting or cars and the only form of transport is by bicycle, boat, tractor and foot. Aware...

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  • Ceres, the nearest Dwarf Planet (2288) Erik Vermaat 2016-01-15 10:41:41

    This spherical asteroid, with a diameter less than the direct distance between Auckland and Dunedin, is going to be big news this year. NASA’s spacecraft Dawn will arrive at Ceres in early March 2015. Ceres is the largest member of the Main Asteroid belt between Mars and Jupiter. It may be the nearest dwarf planet to us, but it took Dawn some seven years to get there. To be fair we must note that Dawn has spend more than a year at the third largest object in the Asteroid Belt, Vesta. We will...

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  • 2015, Year of the Dwarf Planets (1713) Erik Vermaat 2016-01-14 20:15:49

    Many spacecraft are active in the Solar system at present, some in orbit around their targets, some driving around on its surface, some still on their way. Two robots in particular which are still speeding towards their targets, are going to make the biggest headlines this year. This will give us close up views and many details of two Solar system objects that we know almost nothing about, apart from a few vague images. These are two Dwarf Planets that are representative and therefore crucial...

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  • Education with SOFIA (1210) Haritina Mogosanu 2015-07-24 14:17:27

    SOFIA is a very powerful astronomical observatory but it also has a very strong education section.  There are many educational materials that teachers from New Zealand can also use in their classroom. For instance, on SOFIA's page there are presentation that have been used for Educators and Students in the past and also classroom activities to learn about infrared light. You can download a great NASA Poster about the invisible light and literature and promotional materials. SOFIA Presentations to...

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  • It will all be over in a few hours (1415) Erik Vermaat 2015-06-25 15:51:12

    We are counting down to 14 July 2015 when the New Horizons spacecraft will fly by the binary dwarf planet Pluto-Charon. A lot of people, especially the New Horizons team at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory in Maryland, will keep their fingers and toes crossed, hoping that the painstaking preparations and the navigation of this unique mission will render the results as planned. New Horizons will approach the Pluto system face-on almost perpendicular to the Pluto-Charon orbit which...

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  • Eric Becklin tells about SOFIA (1109) Haritina Mogosanu 2015-06-25 12:28:03

    In 2013, I  had the great opportunity to interview the Chief Science Advisor of SOFIA, Eric Becklin whilst the flying telescope was here in New Zealand for its first southern deployment. During the interview, Eric Becklin told us about the telescope, the aircraft, about why SOFIA is in New Zealand and Southern Hemisphere, the wonders of infrared astronomy, favourite discoveries and what he thinks about the future of humankind. Find out more and watch the video here: http://astrobiology.kiwi/eric-becklin-tells-about-sofia/...

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  • Help needed: Questions from the Middle Pod (age 7/8) (1051) Haritina Mogosanu 2015-06-24 16:50:38

    I received this email from Lee - who organised the fantastic Space Night last week. The Middle Pod felt obviously VERY inspired by the amazing lineup of people who participated in the Space Night.   We need your help to answer these questions back to the kids!   'The middle pod (age 7/8) are doing space as an inquiry topic and have come up with some questions. Quite an impressive range of thinking.   I'm happy to research and answer, but if anyone wants to send me either some info or a full reply to...

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  • SOFIA is back in New Zealand (1289) Haritina Mogosanu 2015-06-18 21:58:17

    In April 2002, whilst visiting NASA Ames' most priced building in the campus (energywise), I bumped into a poster of a huge aircraft. I love airplanes so my question was what was so special about this one that they had a poster of that size up on the wall. The answer came very quick. The aircraft (SOFIA) had a telescope inside it. Suffice to say that for me this is the epitome of heaven. Seriously, what can be more amazing (to an airplanes and stars lover) than an airplane with a telescope in...

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  • Request for submissions from students and educators in New Zealand (1458) Stella Kafka 2015-06-18 18:03:19

    Motivated by the UNESCO’s initiative to announce 2015 as the International Year of Light, the AAVSO is celebrating more than a century of commitment to collecting photons in order to study the variable sky. As part of that celebration, a set of activities has been announced, engaging everyone interested in astronomy to share their favorite story, research project, pretty picture, observing experience, or art work. We invite you to join us and share with us your passion for observing the night...

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  • Mutual Events of the Satellites of Jupiter, 2014-2015 (2336) Brian Loader 2015-04-07 12:54:29

    It happens only for a few months every six years, that we can see mutual occultations and eclipses of the Galilean moons of Jupiter. We are presently in such a period but for only a few months more. During a mutual eclipse one satellite passes through the shadow, cast by the Sun, of a second satellite. At an occultation one satellite passes in front of another as seen from the Earth. The precise times of the resulting minimum brightness and the measurement of the reduction in brightness...

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  • An out of this world opportunity for New Zealand educators (1299) Haritina Mogosanu 2015-01-03 19:26:46

    This weekend I have been driving up and back to Rotorua to scout the location of the upcoming Spaceward Bound expedition. The expedition will take place from 16-21 January 2015. New Zealand teachers and students will join a NASA Astrobiologists and New Zealand scientists in the North Island to explore extreme environments and conduct scientific experiments that might one day provide insight for the search of life on other planets.  The expedition is part of NASA’s Spaceward Bound programme,...

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  • Pluto the Dwarf Planet (2250) Erik Vermaat 2014-12-17 11:25:04

    When the International Astronomical Union (IAU) decided in 2006  on a modified definition of the concept “Planet” and consequently Pluto was demoted to the class of “Dwarf Planet”, there was big international outcry by many who seemed to take this kind of personal. However this icy body itself, in its elliptical and tilted orbit mostly beyond planet Neptune, remained exactly the same as it has always been during the last 4.5 billion years. We will hear a lot more about Pluto in the near future...

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