Shine in the Byre

Of course our popular cosmic keyboard will be there too! (Credit: T. Fitzpatrick).

Of course our popular cosmic keyboard will be there too! (Credit: T. Fitzpatrick).

Just one more week to go, and then we will have our grand Shine finale in the Byre Theatre! We have a full programme, with something to do for everyone! The doors will open at 10:00 in the morning, and won’t close till 16:00 in the afternoon. That gives you more than enough time to:

  • Explore the properties of light with all the interactive science demos that the physicists and astronomers of the University of St Andrews have prepared for you. Each demo will have a physicist of astronomer who you can ask all your questions about light!

 

  • See the night sky during day time in our planetarium! Our team of planetarium presenters will tell you all about the constellations, and how to find your way navigating the stars, in case you ever get lost! Planetarium shows are scheduled for 10:30, 11:30, 12:30, 13:30, 14:30 and 15:30, and will last about 20 minutes.
The New Music Ensemble rehearsing Eddie McGuire's 'Galaxies Symphony' (Credit: T. Fitzpatrick).

The New Music Ensemble rehearsing Eddie McGuire’s ‘Galaxies Symphony’ (Credit: T. Fitzpatrick).

 

  • The New Music Ensemble of the University of St Andrews Music Centre will give two light-filled concerts, at 12:00 and 14:00. They will play ‘Light is both a wave and a particle’ by Australian composer Matthew Hindson, and will also play a world-premiere with the ‘MaNGA Galaxies Symphony’ by Scottish composer Eddie McGuire. Eddie will introduce this new music piece himself.

 

  • Dr Tom Brown of the School of Physics and Astronomy will give a public lecture at 11:30 and 13:30, on the wave and particle nature of light, to accompany the music piece by Matthew Hindson.
A preview of Tim's artwork featuring MaNGA and spectra. Come to the Byre to see the whole piece! (Credit: T. Fitzpatrick).

A preview of Tim’s artwork featuring MaNGA and spectra. Come to the Byre to see the whole piece! (Credit: T. Fitzpatrick).

  • And of course, our very own Tim Fitzpatrick will finally reveal his art installation! Tim took the inspiration for this art from the MaNGA galaxy survey, just like Eddie did for this musical composition. His artwork will feature an original MaNGA observing test-plate, and will showcase the use of emission line spectra in astronomy and in art. Tim will be present to talk about his work with Shine, and the processes involved with designing this installation.

 

For more details, download our program booklet here: ShineBooklet. We hope to see you at this special event, drop by at any time, stay as long as you want, and have fun!

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But wait, there is more! In the evening, we move to the Observatory at Buchanan Gardens for our Open Night. We’ll see Uranus, Neptune and Pluto, if the weather is cooperative. And there will be more music from the Music Centre’s Saxophone Quartet, as well as more public lectures and more science experiments. Telescopes will be open 6 – 9 PM.

The University Observatory, with the largest optical telescope in the UK!

The University Observatory, with the largest optical telescope in the UK!

 

 

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Shine Finale

ShinePoster

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MaNGA plate at Fife Doors Open

Shine is back after a break over the summer! We are now in full preparation for our big science, music and art festival in the Byre Theatre on 7 November, and in the upcoming weeks we will use this blog to show you some of the activities that we have in mind.

The 2.5-meter Sloan Telescope at Apache Point Observatory. Credit: A. Weijmans

The 2.5-meter Sloan Telescope at Apache Point Observatory. Credit: A. Weijmans

Today, let’s talk about observing galaxies. Our very own Dr. Anne-Marie Weijmans is the lead observer for MaNGA, which has nothing to do with Japanese cartoons, but everything with obtaining as much information as we can about nearby galaxies. MaNGA stands for Mapping Nearby Galaxies at Apache Point Observatory, which is a telescope site in New Mexico, US. APO is home of the 2.5-meter Sloan Telescope, and although this is a modest size for a telescope (the big ones in Hawaii and Chili have mirrors up to 8 meter in diameter!), the Sloan Digital Sky Survey is one of the most successful surveys in astronomy.

The Sloan Telescope first took images of a very large part of the northern sky, and then was equipped with a spectrograph, to unravel the light of galaxies in different wavelengths. This allowed astronomers to determine the composition and velocities of stars and gas in galaxies, learning more about the way that these galaxies formed. Now, the Sloan Digital Sky Survey measures properties of stars in the Milky Way (APOGEE survey), determines the cosmic expansion rate by measuring very accurate positions of far away galaxies (eBOSS survey), and maps nearby galaxies with MaNGA. How do they do that?

MaNGA lead observer Anne-Marie Weijmans in action, plugging a plate at Apache Point Observatory. Credit: N. Drory

MaNGA lead observer Anne-Marie Weijmans in action, plugging a plate at Apache Point Observatory during the commission run. Credit: N. Drory

The answer is by using a very sophisticated and effective observing strategy, using plates. These plates are drilled in Seattle, using a very precise process. We start with an aluminum plate, and at each galaxy or star position, a hole is drilled. The plates are then shipped to APO, where a team of plate pluggers plugs one fiber into each hole. Each fiber goes to the spectrograph, so that when the observers during the night attach the plate to the telescope, the astronomers get a spectrum for each galaxy or star.

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MaNGA test-run plate 6612 for observing at Apache Point Observatory, and now in Anne-Marie’s office. The colourful markings are indications for the pluggers, on how fibers should be grouped together during plugging. This plate will be on display in the Murray Studios in Anstruther, on Sunday 6 September during Fife Doors Open, 14:00 – 17:00. Credit: A. Weijmans

The Sloan Digital Sky Survey has some great movies on YouTube, that show you the drilling process, plugging, and night observing (click on the links to see the movies). And at Shine we are very lucky to have one of these plates in our possession: we have a very rare MaNGA plate, that was drilled for a test-run in January 2013, when MaNGA was still in its development phase. Anne-Marie spent 3 weeks at the APO mountain top that winter, to get all the test data in place.

Want to see this plate, and talk to Anne-Marie about her experience with observing galaxies with MaNGA? Then come this Sunday 6 September to Anstruther, where artist Tim Fitzpatrick has opened the doors of his studio for Fife Doors Open. Our MaNGA plate will be on display, and astronomer Kirstin Hay will also be there with a cosmic floor keyboard, where you can step along the expanding Universe. We’re at Murray Studios, 21 Cunzie Street, between 14:00 and 17:00.

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Open Night at the Observatory

Alastair Hodson and Rémy Köth demonstrating our pulsar keyboard during Science Discovery Day (credit: Carolin Villforth).

Alastair Hodson and Rémy Köth demonstrating our pulsar keyboard during Science Discovery Day (credit: Carolin Villforth).

It is now a bit more than a week ago that we celebrated an Open Night at the University Observatory in St Andrews. During the day, we had our pulsar keyboard out as part of Science Discovery Day, and many visitors enjoyed a pulsar demonstration by astronomy graduate student Alistair Hodson, and tried their luck with composing music out of pulsars. In the evening, the pulsar keyboard was joined by a radio receiver, and Dr Claudia Cyganowski was present to explain to visitors that a very small part of the static noise that they were hearing was part of the echo of the Big Bang. They had to be their own radio antenna though to be able to hear this.

Anne-Marie Weijmans introducing Shine and the St Andrews Brass Quintet during the Open Night (credit: Carolin Villforth).

Anne-Marie Weijmans introducing Shine and the St Andrews Brass Quintet during the Open Night (credit: Carolin Villforth).

 

 

Apart from trying out our two science demonstrations, visitors were also treated to a concert by the St Andrews Scholarship Brass Quintet under direction of Bede Williams, who performed astronomy inspired music by Scottish composer Eddie McGuire. The concert started with the piece ‘Orbit’, a duet for two trumpets that not only involved music but also orbital choreography. The full quintet then played ‘Auriga’, with each instrument representing one bright star in this constellation. The performance was concluded by the trumpet solo ‘The Big Bang’.

The St Andrews Brass Quintet performing 'Auriga' by composer Eddie McGuire (credit: Carolin Villforth).

The St Andrews Brass Quintet performing ‘Auriga’ by composer Eddie McGuire (credit: Carolin Villforth).

After the concert, it was time for some astronomers to talk about their take on the astronomical themes introduced by the musicians. Dr Duncan Forgan talked about orbits of exo-planets, which are planets discovered outside our own solar system, orbiting stars other than the Sun. He even had some music incorporated in his talk, using orbital frequencies. Prof Ian Bonnell then talked about stars and other interesting features of the constellation Auriga, and Dr Rita Tojeiro explained the things we know and don’t know about the Big Bang.

Ian Bonnell talking about the stars in Auriga (credit: Carolin Villforth).

Ian Bonnell talking about the stars in Auriga (credit: Carolin Villforth).

Unfortunately, the weather was not very cooperating and the star gazing did not work out as planned. Still, many people came to the observatory to see the telescopes themselves, to take part in the children and parent activities, and to enjoy our Shine displays, concert and talks. If you want to see the Observatory in action though: during the International Year of Light it will be open for visitors every Wednesday between 7 and 9 PM (apart from summer closure May to August, when it does not get astronomically dark in Scotland). So do drop by, and see what our astronomers are up to!

PS: were you there at the Open Night? Did you fill in our questionnaire already? If you didn’t, click HERE and take 5 minutes to fill out our form. You will help us to improve our Open Night with your feedback, and you can register for our prize draw for a beautiful Hubble Telescope picture book!

 

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Visit our Open Day and win an Astronomy Book!

Did you visit our Open Night? Would you like to help us improve our Open Nights? Then please take 5 minutes of your time to fill out our questionnaire: click HERE.

You can win this book by taking just 5 minutes to fill out our questionnaire!

You can win this book by taking just 5 minutes to fill out our questionnaire!

Your feedback is very valuable to us, as we are always striving to improve the activities on our Open Nights, and making sure that they are accessible for all. If you fill out our questionnaire before 21 March, and leave your e-mail address in the comment section, then you will participate automatically in a prize draw, with a chance to win an astronomy book full of pictures of the Hubble Space Telescope.

Thank you for your help!

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Science Discovery Day & Open Night, 7 March

This Saturday 7 March will be a busy day for Science in St Andrews. Between 10 AM and 4 PM, the Physics and Astronomy Building at the North Haugh will be filled with science demonstrations for Science Discovery Day. We’ll also be there with Shine, with our pulsar piano keyboard: find us in the lounge if you want to know more about rapidly rotating neutron stars, and compose your own pulsar symphony! More info, and a map to the building can be found here.

In the evening, we’ll move to the University Observatory, for an evening of star gazing (weather permitting) and music. The telescopes will be open between 6 and 9 PM, and we will be there with a large radio receiver to see if we can pick up background radiation from the Big Bang, and our pulsar piano keyboard will also make an appearance. The St Andrews Scholarship Brass Quintet of the Music Centre will perform astronomy inspired music, and St Andrews astronomers will give public talks about the science behind the themes explored in the music. There will also be activities for children (and parents!).

Download our program booklet for the Open Night here: open_night_7march2015_programbooklet

The University Observatory, with the largest optical telescope in the UK!

The University Observatory, with the largest optical telescope in the UK!

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Launching the International Year of Light in Scotland

Last week Shine was present at the launch of the International Year of Light in Scotland, at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. The building was filled with different exhibitions and demonstrations on all aspects of light, spanning many different science fields. We had a room to ourselves for our ‘Music of the Universe’ exhibit, as we had warned them that we would be making noise.

Our Music of the Universe room at the RSE (credit: Tim Fitzpatrick).

Our Music of the Universe room at the RSE (credit: Tim Fitzpatrick).

We had two demos: one keyboard programmed to produce pulsar sounds, and one radio receiver to pick up (a very small part) of the cosmic microwave background. Many visitors had fun composing their own pulsar symphony and finding out how good a radio receiver they are, while hearing about the astrophysics of pulsars and the Big Bang. We also handed out Shine bookmarks, designed by artist Tim Fitzpatrick, and in the evening we enjoyed a performance by trumpeter Bede Williams of the Big Bang, by Scottish composer Eddie McGuire.

Bede Williams performing 'The Big Bang' on trumpet (Credit: Tim Fitzpatrick).

Bede Williams performing ‘The Big Bang’ on trumpet. (Credit: Tim Fitzpatrick)

There were many other displays combining light, music and art, such as the laser harp from the School of Physics and Astronomy in Glasgow, and a display on aerogels by artist Nedyalka Panova, who works together with the Synthetic Optics group based in the School of Physics and Astronomy in St Andrews.

If you missed our Music of the Universe exhibit, or want to hear more astronomy inspired music by Eddie McGuire, then please join us for our next activity, which is the Open Night at the University Observatory in St Andrews, between 6 and 9 PM. There will be star gazing with the telescopes (weather permitting), but we will also be there with our pulsar keyboard and radio receiver. And the St Andrews Scholarship Brass Quintet will perform ‘Orbit’, ‘Auriga’ and ‘The Big Bang’, followed by public talks on these topics by St Andrews astronomers. See you there!

PS: many thanks to Rita Tojeiro, Alistair Hodson, Duncan Forgan and Tim Hewlett, who were there in Edinburgh to help us with the demos, and to Claudia Cyganowski for making the radio receiver available!

 

group_byTim

The Shine Team. From left to right: Tim Fitzpatrick, Bede Williams and Anne-Marie Weijmans (Credit: Rita Tojeiro).

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Introducing Shine

Hello everyone! Here is our first blog post, to introduce the Shine Project. This project was born during a rehearsal weekend of the St Andrews Chamber Orchestra, when astronomer and oboist Anne-Marie Weijmans started talking with conductor and trumpeter Bede Williams about the upcoming International Year of Light 2015. Would it not be a great idea to celebrate this with a concert inspired by light? And would it not also be great to have different science experiments around, so that the audience can not only listen to light-inspired music, but also see for themselves how much light and sound have in common? After all, they are both wave phenomena. This idea grew, and grew, we got local artist Tim Fitzpatrick on board, and we are now proud to present Shine: a celebration of the International Year of Light in St Andrews with Science, Art and Music.

We have several activities planned throughout the year for you to get inspired by light in all its forms, and we keep these listed on our Calendar page. You will see more and more events added there, as the International Year of Light is taking shape. For instance, next week, on Monday 23 February, you will find us at the International Year of Light Launch Event at the Royal Society of Edinburgh. We will be in the Scott Room with experiments that will allow you to hear the faint echoing hum of the Big Bang, and to see if you can compose your own music with pulsars. Do drop by, or visit us at any of our other events!

Shine logo development

 

 

 

 

 

 

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