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‘Where are the aliens?,’ asks astronomer for Stargazing Live

Other posts by  |  Sheelagh Caygill on Google+ |  January 6, 2012 | 0 Comments
The night sky from Kielder Observatory

The night sky from Kielder Observatory © Kielder Observatory

A prominent Northumberland astronomer will ask “Where are the Aliens?” during a talk at Bamburgh Castle on January 14.

Dr Adrian Jannetta’s talk is part of BBC Two’s Stargazing Live 2012 programme, which has events taking place across the UK.

He notes that astronomers have found more than 700 planets orbiting other stars. The day is fast approaching when astronomers will find another Earth. Running parallel to this search for extrasolar planets is the Search for Extra Terrestrial Intelligence (SETI).

Although planets seem to be commonplace in the Galaxy, with potentially millions of Earths among them, intelligent life is seemingly not so widespread. So where are the aliens?

Dr Adrian Janetta

Dr Adrian Jannetta with his 16" Meade Lightbridge

A short Q&A will take place after Dr Jannetta’s talk. Participants can then enjoy an observing session on the castles Inner Ward with Northumberland Astronomical Society (NASTRO) telescopes and a laser-guided tour of the night sky, featuring views of Jupiter and moons.

Bamburgh Castle will turn its floodlights off for the event. And because the fortress itself forms a shield between Bamburgh village and the coast there should be some very darks skies, allowing for some great star gazing.

The event is being organised in conjunction with Mel Nicholls of the Northumberland Coast Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty with the aim of promoting dark skies awareness.

It runs from 7.30pm until 9.30pm. If you are interested in attending please take along any binoculars or telescopes you have. Book a place by contacting or call 01670 534059.

The BBC’s Stargazing Live returns for a three-night series this month to encourage everyone – from the complete beginner to the enthusiastic amateur – to make the most of the night sky.

Professor Brian Cox and Dara O Briain will broadcast live from the control room of the Jodrell Bank radio observatory in Cheshire, interacting live with the audience and calling on a starry collection of the country’s finest astronomical minds to explore the majestic wonders of the skies above Britain.

Stargazing Live airs on BBC Two at 8.30pm on January 16 and 8pm on January 17 and 18. Following each night’s main episode will be Stargazing Live: Back To Earth, a 30-minute special in which viewers can put questions directly to Brian and Dara, send in their favourite astronomy pictures and take part in astronomy related discussions and debates.

Stargazing Live: Back To Earth goes out at 9.30pm on January 16 and 9pm on January 17 and 18.

Last January about 40,000 people took part in Stargazing Live astronomy events in the UK to coincide with the BBC series. This year it is hoped that even more people will become involved, with hundreds of events and Star Parties being organised from Land’s End to Aberdeen with the help of partners around the country, including Dark Sky Discovery.

The North of England, and in particular Kielder Forest, is home to the darkest skies in Europe and therefore is probably the best place in Britain to stargaze.

There are many events taking place across the region and some of them are listed below.  Be sure to wrap up warmly when attending outdoor Stargazing events.

January 7:  Enjoy An Evening with the Hubble Telescope at Kielder Obervatory, starting at 8pm. Participants will investigate the Hubble Space Telescope and observe the images it has taken.

These images have helped science understand how the Universe has evolved as well as star clusters and dying stars. Star nurseries are observed with startling resolution. Attendees will then be able to sit in the classroom warmed by the log burning stove and listen to an astronomer explain how Hubble works and what will happen when it reaches the end of its useful life.

There will then be a session of stargazing. The event will use Kielder’s telescopes to look at planets, galaxies and other objects in our Universe. Cost: £8.

Astronomers have found more than 700 planets orbiting other stars. The day is fast approaching when astronomers will find another Earth – Dr Adrian Jannetta

January 11, 18 and 31: Kielder Observatory will hold a Public Observing Night where people can gaze at and learn about Kielder’s dark sky with the naked eye, binoculars, or their 14 inch and 20 inch telescopes (or bring your own).

Turn up and use Kielder’s incredible equipment under supervision – including the computer-controlled 14 inch Meade telescope and the 20 inch Newtonion reflector telescope – and observe some of the most incredible objects in the Universe.

See the planets and Moon in unforgettable detail before travelling back in time to look at supernovae remnants, star clusters and distant galaxies. Experts will help beginners and experienced astronomers alike to find their way around the sky and to use advanced instrumentation.

January 13:  Robert Naylor will give a talk at Druridge Bay Country Park near Morpeth outlining the history of human spaceflight, from Vostok 1 to the retirement of NASA’s shuttle.

He will then go into the reasons behind human spaceflight, and will evaluate whether it really is essential to our species. Finally the future of human spaceflight will be considered, including a look at Virgin Galactic, and the recently announced Space Launch System.

Arranged by NASTRO, participants will be able to use telescopes to see the planet Jupiter and its four brightest moons. The Orion Nebula, a nearby stellar nursery, should be an astounding sight.

Participants will also get a chance to see star clusters and distant galaxies. The event starts at 7.30pm. Wrap up warmly and take binoculars or telescopes if possible. Find our more here.

Stargazing at Kielder

January 13: Kielder Observatorywill host Big Universe! This event will explore scientific efforts to understand the universe, from the Big Bang to the cold, dark, empty end of everything.

After the talk, participants will be able to use Kielder’s powerful telescopes to look out into space. The event starts at 8pm and costs £8, concessions £6.

January 16: To coincide with Stargazing Live, BBC Learning is presenting a free evening of astronomy, observing and other fun science activities at the National Trust’s Gibside.

Local astronomical societies will be running observing sessions with their telescopes to show people the wonders of the night sky.

Gibside Chapel will host a presentation of music and astro projections, the science marquee will be running fun hands-on astronomical and science related activities and there will be stalls with local organisations and warm food and drinks.

January 17 : Jason Russell of Newcastle Astronomical Society will give An Introduction to Astronomy at Seaton Sluice Middle School, Whitley Bay, starting at 7pm. Weather permitting, members of the public will have the chance to use telescopes to view the night skies. The event is organised by the Newcastle Astronomical Society. Find out more.

January 18: Head to Cawfields Car Park, Haltwhistle, Northumberland, at 7pm for a chance to stargaze under dark skies with the help of astronomy experts.

January 18: Dr Jannetta will give another talk on the 3D Solar System Tour. It will be followed by another stargazing session at Fenham Farmhouse, Beal, Berwick upon Tweed.

He will give a summary of current knowledge of the solar system and highlight some of the outstanding images returned by spacecraft studying the sun, the planets, their moons and comets and asteroids too.

Dr Jannetta’s talk will be followed by a brief Q&A session and, weather permitting, a laser guided tour of the night sky and views of Jupiter and its moons through telescopes. The event starts at 7.30pm and is organised by NASTRO and Mel Nicholls of the Coast AONB. Find our more here.

January 21:  The wonders of the night sky will be the focus of investigation at St Mary’s Lighthouse, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside at 6pm. Join experts on St Mary’s Island for an evening of stargazing (weather permitting).

South Tyneside Astronomical Society will be bring its powerful telescopes and will give all budding astronomers advice on stargazing.

See the moon, the stars and other wonders of the night sky like never before. Admission is free and there is no need to book. Refreshments will be available on the evening.

January 27: A Telescope and Imaging Workshop followed by stargazing will take place at Druridge Bay Country Park, Northumberland, at 7.30pm. Are you frustrated with your telescope? Just getting into astronomy or imaging and don’t know where to begin?

This is the event for you. Members of NASTRO will be on hand to show the different types of telescopes and eyepieces and how they work together. There will be a range of scopes and equipment for enthusiasts to see and ‘Nastronomers’ to answer questions.

Find out how to astro image both with and without a telescope, learn processing techniques, see a slideshow of astro images from members and find out how to do your own.

January 28: The Lights Out Star Party is NASTRO‘s annual stargazing live get together at Druridge Bay Country Park starting at 7.30pm. Join Malcolm Robinson for a short talk about the effects of light pollution on astronomy, followed  by  an interactive resource session where participants can make their own Planisphere, followed by more some stargazing.

Attendees will learn how they can help make a difference to the effects of light. NASTRO will show superb views of Jupiter and its moons, as well as star clusters and galaxies. Deep craters and volcanic plains will be visible on the crescent moon.

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