We all had a great time on Wednesday 9th April when Terry and David (the outreach team) from Techniquest visited the school with their Starlab. It is really just an inflatable tent that filled the Junior Hall inside they used a projector and a special planetarium projector that got a 'wow!' from even the most cynical of students.
Flash photographs tend to get in the way of the event without really capturing the atmosphere of a planetarium, so we only took a few shots.
The talk varied depending on what class it was but everyone really enjoyed it (well apart from one of the infants who burst into tears!) We all learnt lots of exciting facts about our solar system, space exploration and how some of the constellations were named. Lots of the greek Myths and Legends are responsible for the names we can see Perseus, aided by the famous flying horse Pegasusfights for the hand of the princess Andromeda with her mum Cassiopeia looks on with her husband Cephus. Of course you also have the twelve constellations to represent the zodiac too.
One of the constellations the children recognised was Orion (the hunter) you can see the Giant Red star of Betelgeuse (whose exciting name actually means 'Arm pit of the Great One') if we scaled the stars down so our sun was just 30cm them Betelgeuse would still be a huge 112m.
If you look at the three stars that make Orion's Belt and follow them down you can see a little smudge which is theOrion Nebula, with a telescope of binoculars you will see a bit more detail the huge cloud of dust that will eventually form lots of stars
Terry also told use a bit about astro navigation how to find our way using the stars. Its a bit tricky as the stars appear to revolve around us (remember actually its the Earth that is turning) but nearly above the North Pole is the Pole Star and it is easy to find amongst the many others if you use the Plough (or Big Dipper as the Americans call it)
Your mum and Dad might still think that there are 9 planets in the solar system that's what they were taught in school! When Pluto was discovered in 1930 it was called a planet, but since then a lot of other bigger bodies orbiting the sun were discovered. Lots of different people started calling them different things so the International Astronomical Union got all the top astronomers together and decided in 2006that Pluto should no longer be called a planet. So now there are only 8 planets
Pluto is now known as a dwarf planet along with Ceres (called a planet in 1801 before being downgraded to an Asteroid 50 years later) and Eris (discovered in 2003 and called the 10th planet). Charon is pluto's moon but some people think it is actually a binary planetary system (nothing is ever simple!)
This picture shows relative sizes of the planets but has squashed them in to make it easier to see. Great to compare the sizes but the planets would frazzle to nothing and be blown away in a nano-second by the sheer power of the sun. Based on these sizes how far away do you think Neptune would be?
Well the answer is almost 1km away, that is about the same distances from the school hall to the Ely Link Rd in Trelai Park. The closest planet Mercury would be 12.5 m away and the Earth 32m ( Mars 49 then you have to go 167m as far as Colin Way to find a 3cm big Jupiter, whilst Pluto a half a millimeter spot is near Ely Police Station)
On the same scale the nearest star is 8,700km which is over the other side of America in Los Angeles now that is a scary fact but just try and think in 3-Dimensions with nothing below your feet and no sky to hide under, there is nothing else near in all other directions - probably why they call it space! If you start to feel very scared then you are beginning to grasp the sheer scale of our solar system.
Next year is the international year of astronomy so there should be even more to do. You can have great fun looking out for meteor showers or if you can get a telescope looking at the planets. Why not ask your parents if they can take you along to one of the special observer sessions held by the Cardiff Astronomical Society (check with the group first of course) for only £15.00 a year you can join the CAS and borrow the Society's telescopes and make use of theirLibrary .
Techniquest does have a planetarium of its own (the silver geodesic dome you can see at the front) It is an extra £1.20 each on the admission charge but well worth it.