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Waxing lyrical about exoplanets May 28, 2009

Posted by Sarah in new astronomy, science, space.
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This year we celebrate the 400th anniversary of the first published astronomical observations with a telescope, by Galileo Galilei. Galilei used his telescope to observe the changing phases of Venus and reveal the true configuration of the Solar System. Now, exactly four centuries later, CoRoT observations have shown the changing phases of an extrasolar planet for the first time in optical light.

Blimey, is that a Nature-worthy cheesy quote or what?! And …. that’s exactly what it is*. (more…)

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Funding people, not projects April 23, 2009

Posted by Sarah in politics, science.
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Today I attended a talk by Prof. Cornelis van Bochove, who was appointed as Professor of Science Policy Studies at Leiden University in February last year. Van Bochove has had an interesting career: after a number of years in econometrics research, he became Director of the Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics for 5 years until 1999, after that Director of Research and Science Policy at the Ministry of Education, Culture and Science until 2007. In those years he apparently always showed a keen interest in astronomy and was a strong supporter of the Dutch astronomy community, which has a long history of international excellence. Rather than hang up his hat, van Bochove joined Leiden to go back to the bench. The focus of his research is “evidence-based science policy”. So he’s looking at the science behind funding science. A bit of a brain twister, I know. But the talk turned out to be very interesting, and a little bit surreal. (more…)

IYA: Yours to Discover! January 2, 2009

Posted by Sarah in science.
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iya_logoThe International Year of Astronomy is here, yay! Check out the website to find out about the activities taking place in 2009, and follow the links to your country’s IYA webpages to see what’s happening near you. Here’s some of the projects I like:

  • The Cosmic Diary – astronomers round the world keep a diary so people can see what our lives and jobs are like. Extra points for a snazzy website!
  • 365 Days of Astronomy – an astronomy podcast, every day of the year. Follow 365 days on Twitter.
  • She is an Astronomer – “will promote gender equality in astronomy (and science in general), tackling bias issues by providing a web platform where information and links about gender balance and related resources are collected”. I’m not really sure what that means yet but I look forward to hearing more.

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Netherlands ♥ the European Extremely Large Telescope November 28, 2008

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ESO)

Artsy impression of the E-ELT

Good news! The Dutch government announced today that it will invest 18.8M euros in research and development for instrumentation for the European Extremely Large Telescope in the next decade. Around 8 million will be spent in the next 3 years, with the remaining 10M covering the period beyond 2012. The money was awarded to NOVA, the Dutch Research School for Astronomy, an umbrella partnership of the five Dutch astronomy institutes – Amsterdam, Groningen, Leiden, Nijmegen and Utrecht.

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Hurricane Gustav September 4, 2008

Posted by Sarah in science.
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This great photo appeared on the Wired blog yesterday, showing Hurricane Gustav as it hits the South Coast of the US. Natural disasters and extreme weather phenomena are fascinating can really put humanity in perspective, in much the same way that astronomy can. We can argue about wars and disease for centuries, but in the context of the Earth alone, which itself is an utterly insignificant blip on the scale of the Universe, we’re really pretty insignificant.

[NB – By this I don’t mean to say that we should just accept the Earth’s caprices and the human life it can claim. There’s no excuse for being unprepared. Here in the Netherlands for example, the way water levels are so meticulously managed is really inspiring. One storm, over 50 years ago, is all it took to make this happen.]