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Monday, 16 May 2011

Night at the Museum

Last weekend museums all over the country were open late as part of the Museums at Night campaign. Lyme Regis Museum hosted experts from the Norman Lockyer Observatory in Sidmouth at an evening event on Saturday 14th May. Entry was free for about 60 stargazers who listened to interesting lectures and looked at the night sky through a number of telescopes. One scope was even connected to a laptop and giant real-time images of the moon were projected onto the outside wall of the Museum.

David Strange, took his audience on an illustrated journey from the Sun to Arcturus; a journey of a mere 36.7 light years. Starting with sun spots the journey followed the solar wind past the planets of the Solar system and out in deep space where Arcturus is found in the constellation Bo√∂tes. On the way we saw: the Aurora Borealis (caused by the solar wind) in the Earth’s atmosphere, the asteroids which may eventually cause Earth’s destruction, the evidence for the existence of water on Mars, the moons of Jupiter and the rings of Saturn with its moon Titan (which is considered the most likely place in the Solar System for us to find life). On past Pluto (did you know it is no longer considered to be a planet) and on to the fourth brightest star in the sky, Arcturus.

The audience learned numerous fascinating details but the one that caught my imagination was the heat given off by Arcturus (which is about 30 times larger than the Sun) that can be felt here on Earth. This is about the same heat that you would feel from a candle placed five miles away.

After the talk and refreshments in the Museum, darkness fell and it was time to go outside and gaze at the sky

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For more information about the Norman Lockyer Observatory look here.

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