28 Oct 2010

(Please click images to enlarge)

Newsletter 1

It has been a busy term, and I've had to rely on the new reporting team to supply articles, and how well have they done!

But, I get ahead of myself. There is so much to bring to your attention, it would take forever to cover each item under different posts, so this is going to be our first newsletter!

The topics I will cover will be:

  1. The new reporting team and their intentions
  2. Meteorites (see also previous post)
  3. Ideas for a human sundial (which we need your help with!)
  4. Using Faulkes Telescope to study an area of sky you are interested in (how to go about it)
  5. Competitions
Perhaps there's more, but that's enough for this newsletter :-D

1. The Reporting Team

First, and most importantly, I must (belatedly) introduce you to the new reporting team. A group of students came together at the end of last term to write articles, carry out surveys and do anything else they chose to do. They have their own spot on the blog, publishing their, and other students', works under the name of Mr Meteor. If you look to the top of the column on the right hand side of the page, there is an Astronomical Uplands logo...if you click on that, or the words

STUDENT VOICE News and Articles brought to you by the student reporting team

then you can fast-track to the Student Voice column, written by students for students!

At the moment, the following are members of the reporting team (photos to follow):

Jack Morgan (Editor)
Jon perret
Nick Maxfield
Adam Farmer

It's early days yet for the group, and they are still working out the direction they want to take this. However, if you have any ideas, or would like to be part of the team, you can talk to Jack, Mr Pert or myself...

Good luck in your new venture, guys!

2. Meteorites

Next on the information list is about our newly formed, small collection of meteorites. For any of you who love the idea of being able to look at/ hold pieces of rock that have spent millions (maybe many millions) of years flying through space; or whether you like the idea of bits of comet that have broken off and fallen into our atmosphere, or whether you think it's amazing that pieces of the moon or Mars have found their way down to Earth...you will love our new rocks!

So far, we have three very small fragments (small, but they've still survived a journey through space, and even more amazing, burning up in our atmosphere!) and a larger meteorite donated by a very kind fossil and meteorite collector, British Jurassic Fossils. You can read all about the meteorites here. These will be used in class, but if you're desperate to see them sooner, please come and see me in the prep room opposite L8...

3. Ideas for a human sundial

Now, here's an idea we have been playing around with for the last year. Mr Pert and I originally thought it would be a great idea to have a sundial on the side of the science block. It was a great idea, and it could look really great. However, on further thought, we prefer the idea of creating our own, unique, Uplands human sundial.

'What's one of those?' I hear you ask.

It is exactly what it sounds like! A sundial, where the gnomon (the sticky-up bit) is actually a person - you, or your friend - and the sun's shadow is cast by you onto (well placed) stones, which each mark a different time....simple! There's plenty of examples if you do a google image search, but here are a few...

So, these are a few sundials done by others...you get the idea!

How would ours look?
Should it be painted? Individually designed stones?
Should it be somewhere on the grassy area? Or somewhere that can be used all year round?
Should it be used to commemorate somebody/ an event?
Should we have many designers (students)/ one professional artist?

These are a few of the questions we have asked ourselves, and now we would like to put the questions to you (please feel free to write suggestions and ideas in the comment section below... or, you can write your ideas on a piece of paper and drop it in the suggestion box outside L8 (keep it clean!))

4. Using Faulkes Telescope

For those of you who have already had a chance to use the telescope, you have an idea what it can do, and how amazing it is (just see the pictures in earlier posts!). There are others of you who will use the Faulkes Telescope for the first time this year (Year 7, it will be in your science lessons!) There are others who it might come more slowly to.

If there's anyone who would particularly like to carry out investigations of their own, or who would love to take a picture of, perhaps, a nebula, asteroid, comet, then I am considering trying to book up sessions at either lunchtime or after school (the sessions last half hour). I'll only book them if there's enough interest. Send an email to the address near the top of the sidebar, or in the 'clubs and activities' section of the Uplands students' links, or tell me (prep room, opposite Lab 8)

5. Competitions

We have a couple of competitions we are thinking of entering:

  • The UK Regional Space Design Competition There has already been some interest in this. The idea is to design a space station...it requires teamwork and a lot of co-operation, but looks to be great fun. If anyone else would like to take part, I'm in the process of finding out about registration at present. Up to 12 students can go to the Johnson Space Center in Texas, USA, if they are in the winning team! (This is entirely possible. The 2010 winners were a UK team :-) )
  • Lego robot building competition (registration won't start before April 2011, and would be for starting robot building September 2011) This will be available for 'up to ten children, ages 9 to 16'. Challenges will be Nov/Dec 2011, and the final would be Jan 2012...I know it seems ages away, but if we're not ready, chances are we won't get ourselves together in time.
If anyone's interested in these two competitions, please let myself or Mr Pert know (Mr Pert is in Lab 8, and I am in the prep room opposite!) You can also write you interest in the comment section below!

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Space Rocks on Earth (Meteorites)

What is a meteorite?

Well, little bits of rock and dust are always floating around space, and sometimes our planet passes through debris left behind from comets travelling through the system. A meteor is one of these little bits of dust/rock that falls into the atmosphere, usually leaving a hot trail as burns up (most 'shooting stars' are actually dust only a few millimeters across!)

The meteroid (as it is know as before it enters the atmosphere) is heated by passing through the atmosphere, 'so that it glows and creates a shining trail of gases and melted meteoroid particles'. Sometimes the fragments are large enough to make larger fireballs. Most burn up before they reach the ground, and some have been known to have exploded in the air causing great devastation, eg Tunguska :

However, occassionally a meteor will impact with the ground, at which point it is called a meteorite, rather than a meteor. Sometimes the fragements are enormous, and sometimes they're tiny. What they are made of can often tell us where they come from (asteroid, comet, another planet or the moon, perhaps), but the most fascinating thing (especially when you have a piece of one in your hand!) is that they all come from space!!

Recently, Mr Pert and I attended a kind of space conference for schools, where one of the talks was on meteorites. The talk was fascinating, and we thought it would be really cool to have some meteorite samples of our own. Over this last holiday, I had a look on e-bay, and found a UK reputable seller of meteorites, British Jurassic Fossils, and purchased three little ones to start off our collection:

Here is a little about each of them (more information available with the samples and on the internet):

This first sample is from Gran Chaco Gualamba, Chaco, Argentina. It is of Iron: Octahedrite, coarse (3.0mm),and was from a meteorite first found 1572. According to Wikipedia, the crater field was 20km by 3km and consisted of 'at least 26 different craters' The way the crater field covers the ground indicates the meteorite must have broken up as it fell through the atmosphere and each of the shattered pieces created their own impact.
This is the Las Viboras fragment:

The biggest of the craters was about 115×91 meters (if you think of the 100m running track, it's a little longer than that, and nearly as wide!) Smaller fragments of the meteorite were found up to 60km further away...
It has been estimated that the main fragment was about 4m in diameter..
our little piece is much smaller, but will have the same history:


Stone chondrite meteorite, unclassified

Many ordinary chondrites are being found in North West African , . So many researchers don't have the time to classify all of them coming out. This specimen is un classified.

This meteorite could be just packed with inclusions and , chondrules, armored chondrules, shock veins and more showing in the specimens. In addition, an important point to note is that this meteorite is very stable and can be easily displayed.

Mundrabilla Iron Meteorite

This is one is best described by the seller, British Jurassic Fossils:

The first pieces of the Mundrabilla [Western Australia] meteorite were found in 1911. In March of 1966, two large masses of about 8 and 11 tons were found by geologists R. Wison and A. Cooney and described under the name Mundrabilla. In 1979, two more large masses weighing totaling about 1640 kilograms were found about 20 km east of the 1966 location.

Mundrabilla has a very low iridium content and very high troilite content and is designated an anomalous iron. The troilite is present in small nodules accounting for up to 35 % of the volume of the meteorite. The "knuckle-shape" of many individuals is a result of the selective ablation of troilite during atmospheric entry leaving knobby taenite crystals.

Nantan Meteorite

And finally, due to the kindness of British Jurassic Fossils, who donated this wonderful specimen to the school, we have a great, feel-in-your-hand Nantan meteorite. This, I believe is an Nickel-Iron meteorite (hopefully more details to follow...)

Meteorite Fans: If you can't wait until these meteorite samples are shown in one of your classes, please feel free to come and see me in the prep room opposite Lab 8, and (if I have time) you might be allowed a sneak preview!

Teachers in other departments: please feel free to order them for a lesson! Hopefully, we might have a few more over time.. (I believe Mrs O'Grady, geography department, also has a sample of tektite (a piece of Earth rock that has been projectiled into space when a meteorite impacted the ground, and which shows many of the characteristics of meteorites (ultra-heated, has been in space), but consists of material from Earth)...Please remember to see if any of your A level class has a write-ups of the impact lesson we can use :-)

**If anyone has any samples of their own they'd like to donate to the school, we would welcome them to our new collection! And if anyone has any boxes we can display the samples in, they would also be great! [Thanks in advance :-) ]

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Oort Cloud, Be Proud!

If you have ever wondered what's outside our inner solar system, I found a blog post with a poem, which sums it up very nicely over at The Amateur Scientist...I like this :-)

"Oort Cloud, Be Proud!" by Richard Peacock

Oort cloud, be proud
Of your cosmic contributions!
Hurling comets at our sun,
There to meet forlorn conclusions.

Comprised of chunks of rock and ice,
A swarm of messy debris
At least 2,000 AU's away,
Too far for us to see.

As our solar system moves through space,
You are perturbed by other stars'
Gravitational pulls and tugs,
Though they are very far.

And these little gravitational bumps
Dislodge the chunks from their positions,
And start them creeping towards the sun
On ten-thousand year long missions.

Though your total mass is somewhat small,
(Only five times the mass of Earth)
Your age is probably the same as ours:
5 billion years since your cosmic birth.

It's likely you're the one to blame
For our past global extinctions,
Brought on by comets from the sky
From your outer-solar secretions.

But without extinctions we would not have
Such diversity of life,
Caused by dying species leaving
Open niches full and rife.

New species then evolve
To fill the open niche,
Finding new requirements
That they then must adapt to meet.

So be proud, Oort cloud,
Of your determination and resolve,
For without your planet-killing-comets,
We might never have evolved.

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20 Oct 2010

(Please click images to enlarge)

Introducing The Astronomical Uplands Reporting Team

Four students have kindly accepted the post of reporter for Astronomical Uplands this year: Jack Morgan, Nick Maxfield, Jon Perret and Adam Farmer. Jack has now officially taken the post of editor, so any contributions you would like to make to the blog can be made to him, as well as to myself. Also, if you have a yen to become a reporter, feel free to approach Jack or myself and express your interest!

You can find student posts in the sidebar under Student Voice (There are badges for any contributions accepted.)

Welcome to the Team!

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11 Oct 2010

(Please click images to enlarge)
For the past few months a small team of astronomers from uplands community college have been on a mission to locate a new ellusive asteroid using are schools classes to the Faulks telescope project located in Hawaii and Australia. The study was tedious and extremely hard, we were hoping to get a deep space picture of it but after a lack of information about where in the image to find the asteroid, and bad weather anomalies over Hawaii and Australia we finally conceded defeat and a four and a half month project came to an end. We used a blinking method which means that we take several pictures of an area of space and we flash the pictures and see of we can see a correlation between the pictures but any disturbances like planes and asteroids which ruin the pictures.

Although this mission was a failure we hope to start a new one were we hope to discover something new in our galaxy or the next.
The next three are todays solar filter images of the same asteroid imaged yesterday:

Sky Object Name: 2010 LX15
Taken By: Uplands Community College
When taken: Jun 16, 2010 13:07:00 UTC
RA: 16h47'51"
DEC: -22°44'53"
Filter: Solar
Exposure time: 120 secs.
Instrument: EM03

Sky Object Name: 2010 LX15
Taken By: Uplands Community College
When taken: Jun 16, 2010 13:12:05 UTC
RA: 16h47'51"
DEC: -22°44'53"
Filter: Solar
Exposure time: 120 secs.
Instrument: EM03

by Jordan Harris (Yr10) Badge Winner

[*Ed. Jordan also had the idea to take different colour pictures of the same area of sky, and see if the asteroid movement could be seen by layering the images, but, unfortunately, this did not reveal any more than the above pictures]

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