What do constellations, the Mars Rover, the Sun and local school pupils have in common? AstroSoc!

This year has been a big one for AstroSoc! We’ve been part of two major outreach projects and enjoyed a wide range of activities including a Mars Rover challenge and talks from inspiring academics.

At the end of 2017 AstroSoc were delighted to be asked to be part of a project organised by the Big Bang Fair to design a set of modern constellations. The constellations we use at the moment have complicated Latin names and often don’t really look like the things they are named for. We really wanted to design some that would help people of all ages develop their interest in space and astronomy. We held a workshop with some of AstroSoc’s committee and members to come up with ideas, which we drew like a dot-to-dot on star maps for different regions of the sky. Trying things out and researching the stars we included was great fun, and all the materials we used are freely available online so anyone can have a go! Our Publicity Officer created digital versions of our best constellations which provide information about what time of year you can see each of them and which direction to look in, along with facts about these interesting objects. The reception we’ve received so far has been great, with the project featured in national and international newspapers, on television and radio. We hope our modern constellations will help to get people of all ages inspired and that you have fun stargazing!

We’ve been lucky enough to welcome speakers from the University of Manchester and the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, University College London at this year’s ‘Tea, Talk and Telescope’ evenings. Dr Anita Richards from Manchester gave us an insight into radio astronomy based on her experiences at ALMA - Atacama Large Millimeter/sub-millimeter Array, while Dr Sarah Matthews, Head of the Solar Physics group at Mullard, spoke to us about the wide range of activity on our nearest star. We are always pleased to welcome members of the public to the TTTs so if you would like to keep up to date with our public events please email us to be added to our mailing list. Other highlights this year include the hugely successful ‘Mars Rover Challenge’ and a blast from the past in ‘An Astronomy Slideshow’ with real photographic slides, and of course the hugely popular Astronomy in the City lectures.

Most recently, we hosted 120 11-13 year olds from local schools for an afternoon of exploration and discovery as part of British Science Week. The students took part in four workshops, written and presented by the AstroSoc committee and membership: ‘A Tour of the Solar System’; ‘Exploration Mars: Choose your own Adventure’; ‘Telescopes: A Window to the Cosmos’ and ‘The Sun: Our Closest Star’. We have received very positive feedback so far, and hope we may have inspired a few future scientists!

As always, we thank the College of Engineering and Physical Sciences, and the School of Physics and Astronomy for their support this year and hope to make 2018/19 even better!  If you’ve been part of AstroSoc, worked with us or attended one of our events please nominate us  for an EPS Societies’ Award. We hope to see you at one of our events soon.

Emma Willett
Chair 2018/19

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