Apr 13

Vatican Astronomer Br Guy Consolmagno inspires young Irish Astronomers

St.Cronans Stargazers Astronomy Club Bray Co Wicklow with Vatican Astronomer Br Guy Consolmagno and Deirdre Kelleghan
Image Bernard Kelleghan

St Cronans National School Bray had a very special visitor on Wednesday March 20. None other than the Vatican Astronomer Br Guy Consolmagno SJ. Originally I had invited him to drop in and shake hands with St Cronans Stargazers our astronomy club, but he very generously offered to give a talk on astronomy for the whole school. 500 boys and their teachers were treated to a wonderfully pitched talk about the Vatican Observatory, the pope’s interest in the subject, the wonders of astronomy and all things that give joy in the vast universe in which we live.

The boys asked very intelligent questions, Br Guy gave them a listening ear, and his answers inspired and intrigued the entire audience. Br Guy Consolmagno SJ is an American research astronomer and planetary scientist at the Vatican Observatory. He presented Principal Maeve Tierney with  a signed copy of his famous book Turn Left at Orion for the school library.

Br Guy was delighted to visit Bray, after lunch in the Martello and a walk on the prom he dipped his hands in the Irish Sea, a rare moment for him in his busy global speaking schedule.

I first met Br Guy back in 2005 at the Whirlpool Star Party, at the time I had no clue who he was but we had a warm conversation about binoculars and observing. I was invited to this premier event  to give a talk about  Enceladus ( one of Saturn’s ice moons) and found out  next day that Guy was there to deliver a talk about Turn Left at Orion.

We met up again during International Year of Astronomy 2009. Br Guy was on a speaking tour in Ireland. The first of his talks was at the Dublin Institute of Advanced Studies and Dunsink Observatory, followed by Gonzaga College.  We then continued on to COSMOS (Now - Irelands leading Star Party) in Tullamore and then to Blackrock Castle Observatory in Cork. If my memory serves me right, Br Guy delivered six different talks in five days to varying audiences. Everyone of them was a polished gem in communicating the science and wonder  of astronomy.  

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Feb 12

Summer School Alpbach 2012

Summer School Alpbach has been working for 35 years providing in-depth teaching on different topics of space science & technology, featuring lectures and concentrated working sessions on mission studies in self-organised working groups. 60 young highly qualified European science and engineering students converge annually for stimulating 10 days of work in the Austrian Alps.

A very interesting Summer School for Post-grad and PhD students.

Learn more about the Summer School Alpbach 2012 at http://www.summerschoolalpbach.at/.

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Oct 11

Deadly Moons for Our Lady of the Wayside National School, Bluebell, Dublin 12 Sept 27th 2011

Moon artists at Our Lady of the Wayside National School

Deirdre Kelleghan

Bluebell,  what a lovely fresh word evoking joy, wonder and energy. These were the qualities I found in the children who took part in Deadly Moons at their school in west Dublin on Tuesday September 27th.   This group had multicultural backgrounds, Irish Travellers, Irish, Polish, African the Philippines and other communities were represented in their little faces.

The woman in the Moon ( adapted )  from a Traveller legend was one of the stories I told about the full Moon. I used Peter Riesett’s   black and white harvest Moon image to put over this story as his photograph  clearly illustrated the Woman in the Moon hidden in the lunar maria very well indeed.  Several children were captivated by this story which I found on The Barefoot Pavee website.   I like to tell tiny stories about various moons in the presentation as children listen and retain stories better than just plain facts.

Once again Saturn’s moon Tethys was a must do for some children, while the image of our Moon in false colour prompted many positive vocal gasps. Lennox was very keen to try to draw the harvest moon in black and white including the Woman in the Moon. Eddie age 9 was such a busy helpful  boy, he produced an energetic drawing of our moon in false colour including Tycho and its rays. Ben age 8 created a gorgeous subtly shaded moon in false colour and added an explosive Tycho crater ray system afterwards.  There was great variety in the drawings produced   by this group , Atlas by Aaron age 8 , Callisto by Saviour , First Quarter Moon by Alannah age 9 and a half, all wonderful drawings !!

The entire group were very engaged, there was a lot of energy in the room all going into the drawings and the learning.  As each moon was finished they were put on display until all the work was on the wall, looking great.

Our Lady of the Wayside National School is under the DEIS scheme and benefits in many ways because of it.  Creativity in the Classroom facilitator Liz McMahon  invited me to run my workshop for the children of Ms.Dalton's 3rd and 4th and Ms. McDermott's 3rd and 4th classes. The school also had an excellent audio visual set up, this is one of the many extra‘s this school has at its disposal because it is in a designated disadvantaged area.

Liz McMahon  is intending over the next few weeks to build on what the children have learnt and continue to create drawings and creative works inspired directly from their experiences at my workshop. Our Lady of the Wayside National School Bluebell Dublin

Moon cards provided by Jane Houston Jones JPL/NASA were given to each child. Educational outreach material which was also provided by JPL/NASA was given to each teacher for the classroom.

A few children who lived near the school were invited to talk to me after the workshop to see how it all went for them.  The interview is here, unedited just the way it unfolded, some quiet children, some very vocal children, all little gems.



Deadly Moons Drawing Workshop in Bluebell Dublin an informal chat with some of the children


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Jun 11

ESA's "Fly Your Thesis!" 2011 campaign

Source: ESA

The second series of flights in ESA's 'Fly Your Thesis!' programme concluded recently. After many months of preparation, the 10-day campaign culminated with four student experiments making three parabolic flights aboard the Airbus A300 Zero-G aircraft. (read more)

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May 11

Portuguese school contacts the International Space Station

Source: ESA Portugal

The School EBI / JI of Montenegro, Faro established radio contact with the International Space Station on the afternoon of Monday, 23rd . The connection was organized under the program ARISS (Amateur Radio on the International Space Station) that enables radio amateurs around the world come into contact with the station.

At 13h36, the appointed time for bonding, NASA astronaut Catherine Coleman, greeted the students, who waited, anxious and somewhat nervous, by contact, made ​​from the school auditorium. The twenty questions drawn up by many other students from the 7th to 9th grade, were put one by one, a call lasting 15 minutes.

NASA's Astronaut Cattherine Coleman.
Image credit: NASA.

"What is the biggest fright caught in space?","Do astronauts in orbit feel more homesick?"  or "What is the future of the station?", were some of the questions made by students from Algarve. Besides the students and teachers in the auditorium, the remaining school population could also assist communication, since this was broadcast on LiveStream.

"Students have a great fascination about Space matters  and are highly motivated for these activities, " says Professor of Physics and Chemistry, Patricia Raposo, a major local leader of the initiative.

Patricia Raposo had participated last June in a summer school for secondary school teachers, sponsored by the European Space Agency at its facilities in ESTEC, the Netherlands. This provided the idea to participate in ARISS. Almost a year after application, the call happened.

Amateurs prepare radio transmission.
Image credit: EBI-JI Montenegro.

This is the first time a school of Algarve participates in the program . This remarkable event was only possible thanks to the "extraordinary collaboration of the Network of Amateur Radio Transmitters and Portuguese Club of Loulé, ' says Patricia Raposo.

School Students EBI / JI of Montenegro ask questions of the astronaut Catherine Coleman.
Image credit: EBI-JI Montenegro.

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