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BBC Stargazing Live 2013

University helps local community reach for the stars

Staff and students are helping to ensure the city’s BBC Stargazing Live 2013 events are a stellar success.

Image of the moon taken at last year's event‌With partners across the country, the BBC is encouraging everyone – from the complete beginner to the enthusiastic amateur – to make the most of the night sky as the popular series returns to BBC Two for three nights this week.

Members of the University’s Astronomy Society will take part in an event at the Yorkshire Museum on 10 January, while staff and students will be on hand at a Stargazing Live party at St Peter’s School on 11 January, carrying out demonstrations and answering questions about space.  

Visitors to the York events can also enjoy a ten minute trip around the solar system thanks to the University’s cosmodome, a giant five-metre inflatable planetarium.

The Yorkshire Museum event, organised by BBC Learning and York Museums Trust, includes activities in the York Observatory, the oldest working observatory in the country, as well as a Star Trail around the museum. Visitors to the free event, which attracted 3,000 people last year, can build their own telescope, dress up as astronauts and create pastel drawings of galaxies.

We always get some fantastic questions from inquisitive youngsters and you really have to think on your feet

 Laura Sinclair

York Astronomical Society will set up a bank of telescopes for people to use in front of the museum, while astronomer Martin Lunn will give an outdoor talk, incorporating projections of space onto the Multangular Tower in the gardens.

Postgraduate student Laura Sinclair, from the University’s Department of Physics, said: “This will be my second year at Stargazing Live at the Yorkshire Museum and I’m really excited about being part of the event. We always get some fantastic questions from inquisitive youngsters and you really have to think on your feet. There will be lots of fun activities both inside and outside the museum for people of all ages to enjoy.”

Over 500 people are expected to take part in a fully-booked Stargazing Live party at St Peter’s School on 11 January. Hosted by the school in partnership with the University of York’s Department of Physics and the York Astronomical Society, the highlight will be a lecture by Sky at Night’s Dr Chris Lintott. Weather-permitting, party-goers will be studying the night sky through telescopes both before and after the lecture, as well as enjoying hands on experiments, exhibitions and some Astro-Magic.

Dave Coulthard, from York’s Department of Physics, will entertain visitors with lively demonstrations such as a comet made from dry ice, while Dr Kate Lancaster from the York Plasma Institute will present an interactive display of plasmas, the state of matter of the stars. Dr Annie Hodgson, from the Department of Chemistry, will use a Spectroscopy in a Suitcase kit to show how light in its rainbow of colours can tell us about the chemistry of distant stars.

David Morris, Head of Physics at St Peter’s, has organised the St Peter’s School Stargazing Live event. He said: “The Stargazing events are a fantastic way of introducing people to astronomy and physics. Dr Chris Lintott is an inspirational speaker, and I am sure his lecture will be a real highlight of the Stargazing events taking place across York this month.”

The TV series Stargazing Live returns to BBC Two on 8, 9 and 10 January, hosted by Professor Brian Cox and Dara O’Briain, featuring epic images from observatories around the globe.

A child looking through a telescope at a Stargazing Live event last January‌Around 113,000 people took part in Stargazing Live events across the UK last year, which brought together local communities, astronomical societies, science centres and schools. 

Professor Cox said: “During the last series amateur stargazers were hunting for planets and this year we will be hunting for asteroids and strange ‘spider’ like features on Mars. Everyone can get involved and you never know what we will find – there are so many possibilities out there.”

The Yorkshire Museum Stargazing Live event takes place on Thursday, 10 January from 5.30pm to 9pm. The event is open to all, but timed tickets for the York Observatory are now all fully booked. 

The St Peter’s School Stargazing Live party takes place on Friday, 11 January and is already fully booked.

To accompany the TV series and events, BBC Learning is producing a number of free resources including a Star Guide and a special Star Party pack so people can get involved by planning their own star party at home. Visit www.bbc.co.uk/stargazing.

Further information