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Low-Cost Astronomy with the Planetary Nebula Spectrograph - Mike Merrifield

posted 15.10.12 at 9:22pm

Stars and Galaxies

We're not just talking about UCAS though, oh no! We're talking stars and galaxies as well. Well we were getting withdrawal symptoms...

So, what happens when a star dies? It depends on the size of the star, but our own Sun is likely to blow its outer layers off and form a planetary nebula. You say you don't know what one is? You've probably seen a picture of one before, a famous one is the crab nebula shown below.

Crab NebulaCrab Nebula

Mike doesn't study such pretty nebulas though, the ones he looks at are much further away and appear as green blobs. This is because when a star reaches the end of its life it only really emits green light in its spectrum. Our own Sun actually peaks in the green, but it appears more yellow than anything due to the way our eyes work.

The spectrum of light can be easily seen by yourself with just a CD. You've probably done it by accident before! Just reflect the light onto a handy near by wall and you'll see something like this:CD SpectrumCD Spectrum


Square GalaxySquare Galaxy

Applying to Uni; The UCAS Process - Prof. Mike Merrifield

posted 13.10.12 at 2:35pm

You can listen to the show on our URN Podcast Page now! Check out the astronomy section blog too!

After college or sixth form, the majority of students choose to make the decision to spend the next 3 or 4 years of their life at university. The number of students choosing this path has increased rapidly over the last decade and there are now over 2.5 million students attending University in the UK today - that's 4% of the population!

Universities & Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) makes applying to University a simple and easy process. You choose the universities you want to apply to, submit an application and cross your fingers for results day. And work hard, of course.

Insect Mimicry & Conservation with Dr. Francis Gilbert - 8/10/2012

posted 07.10.12 at 6:27pm

Insect compound eyes and antennaeInsect compound eyes and antennae
It's the middle of summer and you're sat outside at your BBQ with a cold can of cider loving life right now ... until you take your next drink and get stung on your tongue by THAT BLOODY WASP THAT WON'T LEAVE YOU ALONE. Ok, so that hasn't happened to me, but it could...

Found on every continent, and even under the ocean, insects are everywhere around us whether we like it or not. It is estimated there are up to 10 million species of insect alive today on planet Earth.

Insects are part of the Arthropod phylum, and as such have an external skeleton and jointed limbs. All insects have six legs, and are the only type of invertebrate which has evolved the ability to fly.

Today's guest is Dr. Francis Gilbert is particularly interested in the evolution of life histories and mimicry in insects. We will be talking about mimicry in insects, insect-plant relations and conservation.

Tune in to find out more!

Natural Selection

This is competition between those within a species rather than competition between species. This is one reason trees grow so large, the taller ones gather the most light and convert the most energy and are the strongest, this leads to them surviving longest.


Gravitational Lensing and Dark Matter - Meghan Gray - 11/6/12

posted 11.06.12 at 5:46pm

Today our guest is Meghan Gray and we're talking about Gravitational Lensing and Dark Matter. The universe is a pretty large place. Astronomers believe that the observable universe is a sphere, which measures 92 billion light years across. A light year is the distance light can travel in a year, which is roughly 6 trillion miles.

It is gravity, which governs the structure of the universe. Stars form into groups which orbit around a large mass in the middle – a bit like our atom. Our home galaxy, the Milky Way, is 100,000 light years in diameter.

Believed to be within all galaxies is a halo of a substance known as dark matter. This substance is incredibly dense and accounts for 80% of the matter in a galaxy.

Gravitational LensingGravitational Lensing However we have no idea where it came from or indeed what it looks like, as it doesn’t interact in ways like normal matter does, however we can passively detect dark from the effects it has on light and especially gravity.

A gravitational lens refers to a distribution of matter (such as a cluster of galaxies) between a distant source (a background galaxy) and an observer, that is capable of bending or lensing the light from the source, as it travels towards the observer.

The Zooniverse - Steven Bamford - 28-11-12

posted 28.05.12 at 5:59pm

Hi! I'm the blog, you may recall me from such shows as Galaxy Zoo with Boris Haeussler. Well today we shall be talking to Steven Bamford about the Zooniverse!

The Zooniverse is home to the internet's largest, most popular and most successful citizen science projects. Galaxy Zoo is just one of them. They also have projects like Old Weather, Planet Hunters and more...

The Alphabet in GalaxiesThe Alphabet in Galaxies

Stay tuned!

Although Galaxy Zoo and The Zooniverse seems like a outreach project, it's important to realise it's not just about selling science to the public. It's to get the science done that would otherwise take years to complete.

All 10 projects The Zooniverse has currently rely on humans and their brains to complete. There is a problem that computers cannot always distinguish the patterns the brain can, but one person cannot work as quickly as a computer does. This is the reason why their projects work.

Current Zooniverse Projects

Currently some of the active projects are Old Weather. Ancient Lives and Whale FM.

Current Zooniverse ProjectsCurrent Zooniverse Projects