SN2014J in M82 observed at the William Herschel Telescope

A week ago, on January 21st, the English astrophysicist Steve Fossey gave a telescope workshop for a group of undergraduate students (Ben Cooke, Tom Wright, Matthew Wilde and Guy Pollack) belonging to the University College of London (UCL). As usually happens in the British capital, the sky was practically covered by clouds. However, Fossey and his students used the automatic 35 cm telescope of the University of London Observatory to spot the famous starburst galaxy M 82. Located at 12 million light-years away in the constellation of Ursa Major (The Big Dipper), the galaxy M 82 hosts an intense star-formation burst, being its light dominated by young, hot, massive, blue stars. As consequence of this frenetic activity, M 82 possesses long jets of hot gas that has been expelled from the center of the galaxy. Therefore, it is not casual that the students chose this galaxy as a target for their assignment. While Fossey was centering the galaxy in the field of the telescope he realized that there was a bright star which should not be there. They checked that this new star was real using another telescope of the Observatory. As clouds were approaching, they quickly took some few images in different filters. The first analysis was doubtless: they had just discovered a supernova in the galaxy M 82.

Discovery image of type Ia SN2014J in the starburst galaxy M82 (below) compared with an older image of the galaxy before the supernova exploded (top). The discovery image was obtained at 19:20 UT, 21st January 2014 using the automatic 35 cm telescope of the University of London Observatory.
Credit: UCL/University of London Observatory/Steve Fossey/Ben Cooke/Guy Pollack/Matthew Wilde/Thomas Wright

In just one day, amateur astronomers and professional astrophysicists used their telescopes to study M 82. These observations soon confirmed the discovery made by Fossey and his students. Actually, some astronomers even found that they had taken data of the galaxy and the supernova a week before the official discovery, but the new exploding stars was unnoticed by them. A couple of days after the discovery, a group of astrophysicists led by Yi Cao (Caltech) got the first optical spectrum of the supernova using the 3.5m ARC Telescope at Apache Point Observatory (New Mexico, USA). The analysis of this spectrum showed that the progenitor of the supernova was a white dwarf, and hence the explosion was classified as a type Ia supernova. The official name of this exploding star is SN 2014J. It has not reached its maximum brightness yet: when Fossey and his students discovered the supernova, it was 2 weeks before when we expect this happens. Right now it is so bright (around 10th magnitude) it is very easy to spot using a small amateur telescope. Perhaps even it can be seen using binoculars when the supernova reaches its maximum brightness in a week or so!

Hence, it is not difficult to understand that SN 2014J and M 82 have been the main astronomical news in the last week. Using the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope (WHT), which is part of the Isaac Newton Group, located at the Roque de los Muchachos Observatory in the beautiful island of La Palma (Canary Islands, Spain), the astrophysicists Manuel Moreno-Raya (CIEMAT, Spain) and Lluís Galbany (DAS/UC, Chile) have observed with great detail both the supernova and the galaxy. Between Thursday 23rd and Sunday 26th January they used the ISIS spectrograph, as well as the ACAM instrument (Auxiliary-Port Camera), of the WHT to get images and spectra of the supernova. I was continuously in touch with them as I’m part of their research team (actually, I’m co-supervising the PhD thesis which is conducted by Manu). I originally planned to travel to La Palma to be helping on these observations, however this was colliding with my support activities at the Anglo-Australian Telescope (Siding Spring Observatory, NSW, Australia). Manu and Lluís sent me the data as they were coming from the WHT, and I was reducing, combining, and getting the preliminary images and spectra of this object!

The image below shows the supernova SN 2014J and the galaxy M 82 using the data obtained with ACAM. I tried to get all the important details of this puzzling object: the dust lanes crossing the disc (dark-yellow), the strong star-formating bursts (blue) and even the filamentary structure of the super-galactic wind that M 82 possesses (in red). This feature is hot, ionized gas which has been expelled from the center of the galaxy and here it is seems perpendicular to the galactic disc. SN 2014J very brightly shines at the west (right) of M 82 galactic center.

Colour image of starburst galaxy M 82 with the type Ia supernova SN 2014J. M 82 lies at 12 million light years from us, in the Ursa Major constellation. The supernova is marked with two white lines. The data needed to get this image were taken using the ACAM instrument located at the Cassegrain focus of the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope (WHT) (Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain). We got data in u, g, i, r, and Hα filters. Data coming from the u filter (2 x 200 seconds exposures) are colour-coded in blue; data in the g filter (3 x 100 seconds exposures) are colour-coded in cyan; data in the i filter (3 x 100 seconds exposures) are colour-coded in green; data in r filter (3 x 300 seconds exposures) are colour-coded in red. The majority of the data were obtained last 24th January, at 04:40 UT. Data in r and u filter were taken on 25th January, at around 06:00 UT. The Hα data (4 x 300 seconds exposures), which are colour-coded in red, were taken on 26th January at 06:30 UT. Data coming from the Hα filter clearly reveals the super-galactic wind of M 82. All data were reduced and combined using standard IRAF routines. The colour composition was obtained using Photoshop. The field of view is 8 arcminutes and the resolution 0.25 arcsec/pixels. However, the seeing was not too good, between 2 and 5 arcsec.
Credit: Observers: Manuel E. Moreno-Raya (CIEMAT, Spain) & Lluís Galbany (DAS / UC, Chile). Data processing and color image composition: Ángel R. López-Sánchez (AAO / MQ, Australia). Support astronomer: Chris Benn (ING, UK), Telescope Operator: José Norberto González (ING, UK). Research Team: Manuel E. Moreno-Raya (CIEMAT, Spain), Mercedes Mollá (CIEMAT, Spain), Ángel R. López-Sánchez (AAO / MQ, Australia), Lluís Galbany (DAS / UC, Chile),Aurelio Carnero (ON, Brazil), Inma Domínguez (UGR, Spain), & Pepe Vílchez (CSIC / IAA, Spain).

In addition, we have already analyzed the low-resolution spectrum of the SN 2014J obtained using ACAM. This spectrum gets all the optical range, between 3500 and 9500 Angstroms, and clearly identifies the object as a type Ia supernova. The main features are absorption bands of iron (Fe II and Fe III), magnesium (Mg II) and silicon (Si II) between 4000 and 5000 A. These bands actually are blends of absorptions due to these metallic elements. Indeed, astrophysicists expect the intensity of these bands will be changing as the supernova evolves, as the chemical abundances and ionization of each species vary as some elements are converted into others and more material coming from the center of the dead star is observed. Even so, it is a surprise to find these absorption bands almost 10 days before the supernova reaches its maximum brightness. The spectrum also shows absorptions of sulfur (S II) at 5240 and 5450 A, a strong absorption by silicon (Si II) at 6150 A, and absorptions of calcium (Ca II), sodium (Na I) and oxygen (O I). Some features are actually created in the Earth atmosphere and hence they do not belong to the supernova, these are labelled as “Tel” (from “Teluric lines”). However, the feature which interested us most was the carbon absorption (C II) at 6580. This line indicates that the progenitor of the supernova was a white dwarf composed by carbon and oxygen (as it happens in the majority of the white dwarf). However, it is uncommon to observe this line in type Ia spectra. This suggests that the surface of the white dwarf has not been completely burnt during the explosion. All absorption lines are found “blue-shifted”, that is, at shorter wavelengths that those expected. That is a consequence of the high speed at which the material is moving, expanding fast away from the dead star. The measurement of the C II and S II lines observed in our ACAM optical spectrum indicates that this material is moving at around 15 000 km/s!

Low-resolution optical spectrum of the type Ia supernova SN 2014J discovered in the galaxy M 82 obtained using the ACAM instrument at the Cassegrain focus of the 4.2m William Herschel Telescope (WHT) (Roque de los Muchachos Observatory, La Palma, Canary Islands, Spain). The intensity or relative flux (“Arbitrary Flux”, vertical axis) is plotted versus wavelength (“colour”, horizontal axis). The main features, which includes absorption lines of iron, magnesium, silicon, sodium, calcium, oxygen and carbon, are labelled. The spectrum combines two expositions of 200 seconds each using the ACAM V400 grism. The data were obtained last 25th January at 7:10 UT, which approximately corresponds to Epoch -11 days. It is expected the supernova reaches its maximum brightness in that time. The reduction of the data and the wavelength calibration was performed using standard IRAF routines.
Credit: Observers: Manuel E. Moreno-Raya (CIEMAT, Spain) & Lluís Galbany (DAS / UC, Chile). Data processing and color image composition: Ángel R. López-Sánchez (AAO / MQ, Australia). Support astronomer: Chris Benn (ING, UK), Telescope Operator: José Norberto González (ING, UK). Research Team: Manuel E. Moreno-Raya (CIEMAT, Spain), Mercedes Mollá (CIEMAT, Spain), Ángel R. López-Sánchez (AAO / MQ, Australia), Lluís Galbany (DAS / UC, Chile),Aurelio Carnero (ON, Brazil), Inma Domínguez (UGR, Spain), & Pepe Vílchez (CSIC / IAA, Spain).

Interestingly, the project that Manuel Moreno-Raya (CIEMAT, Spain) and his research team, composed by Mercedes Mollá (CIEMAT, Spain), Lluís Galbany (DAS / UC, Chile), Aurelio Carnero (ON, Brazil), Inma Domínguez (UGR, Spain), Pepe Vílchez (CSIC / IAA, Spain) and myself, was observing at the WHT was focused in obtaining deep, high-quality data of galaxies hosting type-Ia supernova. The idea is to quantify the physical and chemical properties of these host galaxies with the final aim of getting a better understanding of the parameters which control the brightness of these supernovae and apply these new measurements to improve the accuracy to very distant galaxies. This research is the main part of the PhD thesis project that Manu is conducting. Besides the observations of M 82 and the SN 2014J, we also got deep intermediate-resolution optical spectroscopy data of around 20 galaxies. These data still have to be analyzed in detail, something that will take months.

SN 2014J is the type-Ia supernova closest to the Earth since that Johannes Kepler observed in 1604. The Kepler’s Supernova actually exploded in our Galaxy, at just 20 thousands light-years from us, and it was so bright it was seen with the naked eye, being the brightest object in the sky after the Sun and the Moon. The type Ia supernova SN 1972e was also very close to us, as it exploded in the dwarf galaxy NGC 5253 (*). NGC 5253, which lies at a distance of 13 million light years, is in some way a similar object to M 82, as it also hosts a very powerful star-formation event. SN 1972e became the prototype object for the development of theoretical understanding of Type Ia supernovae, but this position may change with all the data that are coming from SN 2014J. What surprises will provide this new supernova? Can the new data be used to get a better understanding of the type Ia supernovae as a cosmological distance estimators and help to discover the nature of the mysterious dark energy which induces the expansion of the Universe? This research has just started.

UPDATE: Part of the information included in this post was used to prepare a telegram for ATel, The Astronomer’s Telegram, number 5827, Broad and narrow band imaging and spectroscopic follow up of SN2014J in M82, published on 28 Jan 2014; 18:30 UT.

(*) I should tell you many more things about the dwarf galaxy NGC 5253… It was my nightmare for some few years and after performing a very complete and detailed multi-wavelength analysis of this weird object I’m still not sure what is happening in there!

Feeding, Feedback and Fireworks in galaxies

During this week (23 – 28 June 2013), I’m participating in the international astrophysics conference “Feeding, Feedback, and Fireworks: Celebrating Our Cosmic Landscape”, which is hosted in the tropical paradise of Hamilton Island, one of the most important islands of the Whitsundays (Queensland, Australia). The conference is jointly supported by the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) and the CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS) and it is the 6th of the Southern Cross Conference Series.

Poster of the “Feeding, Feedback, and Fireworks: Celebrating Our Cosmic Landscape”, jointly supported by the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO) and the CSIRO Astronomy and Space Science (CASS), being the 6th of the Southern Cross Conference Series. The Heart Reef near Hamilton Island appears in the foreground, while the Hubble Ultra-Deep Field image is the background image.
Credit: Heart Reef Photo and Fireworks: Ángel R. López-Sánchez (Australian Astronomical Observatory / Macquarie University); Hubble Ultra-Deep Field: NASA, ESA and R. Thompson (Univ. Arizona).

It has been a very intense and fruitful conference, with almost 100 participants (the majority coming from Australia, but many others from America, Europe, Asia and Africa), and we are discussing hot topics about how the diffuse gas is moved inside the galaxies (Feeding), how stars form in galaxies (Fireworks) and how these newborn stars alter the properties of their host galaxies and their surroundings (Feedback). We are also investigating the role of the Active Galactic Nuclei (AGN) in galaxy evolution: how are they triggered (Feeding) and how they affect their host galaxies and even the galaxy cluster their host galaxies reside (Feedback). All in the context of the cosmological evolution of the Universe, constraining theoretical models using observations, and trying to put all the pieces together to understand the evolution of the galaxies.

In my case I presented part of my multi-wavelength work in Blue Compact Dwarf Galaxies, which are small galaxies (smaller than 1/100 times the size and mass of the Milky Way) which are experiencing a very intense star-formation event. Hence, it seems all the dwarf galaxy is a giant nebula! I’ll describe these interesting objects in a future post.

I’m part of the “LOC”, the Local Organizing Committee, which is chaired by Amanda Bauer (AAO), aka @astropixie, and hence in the last months I have actively participate to get the conference smoothly running (conference booklet, schedule of the talks, helping in registration and photos). One of my tasks during this week was to get the “Conference Photo” which, as Amanda suggested, includes not only the beach and palm trees of the beautiful beach at Hamilton Island but also a nice night-sky photo showing the Southern Cross. The result is this:

Conference Photo of the “Feeding, Feedback, and Fireworks: Celebrating Our Cosmic Landscape” conference.
Photo Credit and composition: Ángel R. López-Sánchez (Australian Astronomical Observatory / Macquarie University).

The talks and more information about this exciting conference will be posted in the conference webpage soon.

Partial solar eclipse from Sydney

Today, 10th May 2013, the combined movements of the Sun, Earth and Moon gave us a very nice Annular Solar Eclipse. Following a similar path to the Total Solar Eclipse we enjoyed last November, the shadow of the Moon over the Earth moved from North Australia to the Pacific. However, today the Moon was close to its maximum distance to the Earth (planets and satellites move following elliptical orbits) and hence its apparent size on the sky was not big enough to completely cover the disc of the Sun. This is indeed the reason the eclipse was an annular solar eclipse.

In this occasion I couldn’t travel to North Australia to enjoy the annular eclipse (actually, I have seen 2 of these in the past, the most recent one was on 3rd October 2005 from Madrid), and even last night I didn’t expect to do anything special about this today. But this morning, while watching it from my backyard using my solar glasses, I decided just to take some few shots using not the telescope but only the tele lens. This is the result:

Partial Solar Eclipse from Sydney. Data obtained using a CANON EOS 600D, a 250mm Tele Lens and a Solar filter (which I hold by hand). I stacked 12 individual frames obtained at ISO 100, f10, 1/80 s using the Lynkeos software. The final processing was achieved using Photoshop. 10 May 2013 @ 09: 10 AEST ( 00:10 UT ), Sydney, Australia.
Credit: Ángel R. López-Sánchez (Australian Astronomical Observatory / Macquarie University, Agrupación Astronómica de Córdoba / Red Andaluza de Astronomía)

I hope you like it.

Timelapse video: The Sky over the Anglo-Australian Telescope

A dark winter night, with the Milky Way crossing the firmament while its center in located near the zenith, is one of the most astonishing views we can enjoy. This vision is only obtained from the Southern Hemisphere and it is really inspiring. In particular, the Milky Way shines over the Siding Spring Observatory, near Coonabarabran (NSW), where the famous Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) is located. With the idea of sharing the beauty of the night sky to everybody, in May 2011 I decided to start taking timelapse photography while I was working as support astronomer at the AAT. This technique consists on taking many images and then adding all to get a movie with a very high resolution. The best shots I obtained by September 2011 were included in the video The Sky over the Anglo-Australian Telescope, which is available both in YouTube and in several MOV/MP4 files (HD, iPad, iPhone) in my personal AAO webpage.

“The Sky over the Anglo-Australian Telescope” was my first public timelapse video, released in November 2011.
Credit: Ángel R. López-Sánchez (AAO/MQ), the credit of the music is Echoes from the past, by Dj Fab.

The video, which lasts for 2.7 minutes, is the results of combining around 3800 different frames obtained using a CANON EOS 600D between June and September 2011. Except for those frames used for the sunset in the first scene, all frames have a 30 seconds exposure time, with a ISO speed of 1600. As the videos were created at 24 fps (frames per second), each second in the movie corresponds to 12 minutes in real time. I used several lens to take the images (standard 50 mm, 50mm x 0.65 focal reducer and a 10 mm wide-angle lens). The focal chosen was 5.6 (for the 50 mm lens) or 4.5 (10 mm wide-angle lens). Processing each sequence of the movie took five to six hours of computer time, and usually I had to repeat this at least once for each sequence, to improve the quality. The soundtrack I chose is an extract of the music Echoes from the past, by the french composer Dj Fab, which gives energy to the timelapse.

The Milky Way is setting at Siding Spring Observatory on 21 Sep 2011.
Click here to get the full resolution frame.
Credit: Á.R. L-S.

As my main job while I’m at the AAT is providing instrumental and scientific support to the astronomers who are observing in this telescope, I always set the camera up at the beginning of the night, let it run, and check on its progress occasionally. Sometimes this was not easy: wind knocked the camera over on a couple of times, often the battery ran out, and even once I had an encounter with some intransigent kangaroos. However, finally I got this material, which does not only show the magnificent Milky Way rising and setting above the dome of the AAT, but also stars circling the South Celestial Pole, the Magellanic Clouds over the AAT, satellites and airplanes crossing the sky, the Moon rising and setting, and the most famous constellations as Orion, Carina and the Southern Cross.

Circumpolar star traces (2.7 hours) over the Anglo-Australian Telescope on 20 Sep 2011.
Click here to get the full resolution frame.
Credit: Á.R. L-S.

I hope you enjoy the result. More timelapse videos to come soon!

Stories from Siding Spring Observatory

Tonight we’re opening the photo exhibition Stories from Siding Spring Observatory at Sydney Observatory.

Baner of the Photo Exhibition Stories from Siding Spring Observatory opening tonight at Sydney Observatory. The Exhibition will be opened to the public between 18 April 2013 and 13 August 2013. As the general visit to Sydney Observatory, it is free.
Credit: Á.R.L-S.

This photo exhibition compiles 25 photos plus four time-lapse videos taken at the Siding Spring Observatory by staff of the Australian Astronomical Observatory. I have actively participated in the organization of this photo exhibition, not only providing some photos (see below) but also the 4 time-lapse videos, one of them specifically prepared for this.

The idea of organizing the photo exhibition came after the terrible bushfires that destroyed the Warrumbungle National Park and seriously affected Siding Spring Observatory on 13th January 2013. Luckily any telescope experienced any damage and we were back at the telescopes just 1 month after the bushfires. However, some houses and facilities, including the ANU Lodge, were destroyed in the bushfires. The vegetation at the site was also seriously affected, and indeed the views from there are not now as beautiful as they were before.

As the brochure of the Exhibition quotes,

Siding Spring Observatory sits on a mountaintop in the Warrumbungle Range, 400 km northwest of Sydney and 25 km west of the town of Coonabarabran. Run by the Australian National University, it is Australia’s most important site for optical astronomy.

On 13 January 2013 a bushfire swept through the observatory. Despite damage to some buildings, the telescopes were unharmed and are now back at work.

The photos in this exhibition tell stories of life and work on the mountain. They were taken by staff of the Australian Astronomical Observatory (AAO), which operates two telescopes there: the 4-m Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) and the UK Schmidt telescope.

Yesterday evening some of us were there installing the Exhibition and hanging frames and labels from the walls of the Sydney Observatory:

Working hard to get all frames and labels done on time!
Credit: Á.R.L-S.

Jamie Gilbert (AAO) carefully hanging label to my photo “Day and Night”.
Credit: Á.R.L-S.

The photos I’m providing for the Exhibition are these:

The 3.9m Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT).
Credit: Á.R.L-S.

The 2dF instrument attached to the primary focus of the AAT.
Note that the mirror of the telescope is opened.
Credit: Á.R.L-S.

Day and Night at the AAT.
Credit: Á.R.L-S.

Circumpolar stars over the AAT on a dark winter night.
Credit: Á.R.L-S.

Double Rainbow at the sunrise over the Warrumbungle National Park. Photos taken from the catwalk of the AAT by Amanda Bauer (AAO) and processed and stitched by me.
Credit: Amanda Bauer & Ángel R. López-Sánchez.

but you can find many more photos I took at Siding Spring Observatory during the last years in this album of my Flickr.

However I have to confess that, as Amanda Bauer says in her blog, the best of the photos we have chosen is this spectacular panorama of the Milky Way over the AAT obtained by Jamie Gilbert (AAO):

Panorama of the Milky Way over the Anglo-Australian Telescope (AAT) using a CANON 5D Mark III. More information about this image: here.
Credit: Jamie Gilbert (AAO)

and that is why this photo is the largest one!

Jamie Gilbert and the frame with his panorama “The Milky Way over the AAT” during the installation of the photos of the “Stories from Siding Spring Observatory” Exhibition at Sydney Observatory on the evening of 16 April 2013
Credit: Á.R.L-S.

The Photo Exhibition Stories from Siding Spring Observatory is open to the public between 18 April 2013 and 13 August 2013. As the general visit to Sydney Observatory, it is free, so do not miss it if you have a chance!

Earth Hour 2013 in Sydney

Last 23rd March 2013 I was invited to give a Public Talk at Sydney Observatory because of the Earth Hour 2013. More than 200 people attended this event, I have to say I think it was not because of me but because of the possibility of getting a somewhat darker sky than usual in the city center. Earth Hour is a worldwide event organized by the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) that encourages households and businesses to turn off their non-essential lights for one hour. The aim of this is to raise awareness about the need to take action on climate change and, in particular, the problem of the light pollution. The Earth Hour first took place in 31st March 2007 in Sydney, which has a participation of 2.2 million Sydneysiders. In 2008 many other cities around the world adopted the event, creating a movement in which now participates around 1 billion people in more than 150 countries.

What is light pollution? It can be defined as the excessive or inappropriate outdoor lighting. Common forms of light pollution include glare, sky glow, light trespass, and light clutter. As the International Dark Sky Association (IDA) specifies in its main brouchure

Urban dwellers everywhere are losing the ability to see planets and stars in the night sky. The spectacular view of the Cosmos that has inspired science and art throughout history is disappearing. The glow of uncontrolled outdoor lighting has hidden the stars and changed our perception of the night. Light pollution wastes energy ( = MONEY! ), harms ecosystems, increases greenhouse gasses, threatens astronomical research and affect human health. Better lightning is the solution! The problems from light pollution can be solved by utilizing efficient, modestly bright outdoor lighting fixtures that are directed toward the ground and shielded to control glare.

Empire State Building in New York city at night. The light pollution is a terrible problem in large cities, giving the sky that orange colour. Sadly, today many children think that this is the real color of the night sky. Picture taken in October 2004.
Credit: Charliebrown7034 (Wikipedia).

Beside the negative effect that the light pollution has in the environment and its effects in animals and persons, I want to emphasize that its main consequence (at least, that which sadly is more important) is the huge amount of money which is wasted to illuminate the clouds and hide the stars. People around the world are realizing that this stupid kind of pollution has an easy solution. However it is responsibility of we, scientists, to talk about this to the general public and also to our Governments. Following the document Public Lighting—Energy Efficient Street Lighting published in July 2008 by the Australian Government,

In Australia, public lighting is the single largest source of local government’s greenhouse gas emissions, typically accounting for 30 to 50% of their CO2 emissions. There are 1.94 million public lights — one for every 10 Australians — that annually cost A$210 million, use 1,035 GWh of electricity and are responsible for 1.15 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

Photos comparing the vision of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Sydney Opera House during the Earth Hour on 28th March 2003 (top row) and after that event (bottom row). All 4 images were taken from the same place using a camera CANON EOS 400D, 400 ISO, f10 and 20 seconds exposure. The decreasing of the light pollution (seen specially well in the clouds) is quite evident.
Credit: Á.R.L-S. (AAO/MQ)

I emphasized, however, that the light pollution in Australia is (still) not bad at all. Australia has some of the darkest places on Earth (I was really impressed about how stars shine from the Australian Desert), are indeed Sydney, which has 4.5 million people, has by far better night skies that those seen from the city I’m from, Córdoba (Spain), with only 350 thousand people. As an example, just check this image I took in 2011 New Year Eve from the Opera Bar, just downstairs of the Sydney Opera House

Vision of the Sydney Opera House from the Opera Bar on the 2011 New Year Eve. It is just a 10 seconds exposure at f6.3 and 400 ISO using a CANON EOS 400D camera. The main stars of the Orion and Taurus (The Bull) constellations are clearly seen, as well as the Pleiades and even the Orion Nebula as a diffuse dot!
Credit: Á.R.L-S. (AAO/MQ)

After discussing the light pollution, its effects and some projects aimed to reduce it, I used the second half of my time to talk about my research at the Australian Astronomical Observatory / Macquarie University. I explained what an astronomer usually does, where the Siding Spring Observatory is, and presented some results of my own research about star-formation in galaxies.

A moment during my Public Talk at Sydney Observatory on 23rd March 2013 just before the Earth Hour. I was explaining here the problem of the light pollution, although later I talked about my research and work at the Australian Astronomical Observatory and Macquarie University.
Credit: Jeanette Landstedt (Sydney Observatory).

After the talk the participants enjoyed some stargazing using the amateur telescopes provided by the Sydney Observatory. I was among them and couldn’t stop talking to one and another group, as I was still being asked about what I said during my talk. It was great to be able to do this in the very relaxing atmosphere of an amateur observation. The only bad thing was that there was still a lot of light coming from the Moon, indeed, choosing the weekend before Easter for the Earth Hour was not good as it was not possible to really check the actual difference induced by the deficit of illumination in the sky.

Public Talk at UNSW: “Surprises of the Cosmos”

Next Friday 8th March 2013, at 6:30 pm, I’m giving a Public Lecture at the School of Physics of the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney. I’m presenting an updated version of my nice talk Surprises of the Cosmos which I prepared in 2009 because of the Photo Exhibition co-organized between the Instituto Cervantes (Spain) and the Canary Islands Astrophysical Institute (IAC, Instituto de Astrofísica de Canarias, Spain) in 2009 because of the International Year of Astronomy. I participated in this exhibition and later I have given same talks here in Australia (Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra) publicizing it.

Flyer of the Public Talk “Surprises of the Cosmos” which I will give next Friday 8th March 2013 at the School of Physics of the University of New South Wales (UNSW), Sydney Credit: UNSW / Angel R. López-Sánchez.

In this talk I imagine we are far, far away from the Earth and take a journey from the deep Universe to our home planet. Our travel will start far away from the Earth, in galaxy clusters containing tens of thousands of galaxies and located more than 10 billion light years from us. We will see how galaxies formed and how we think our Milky Way and it’s neighbours have evolved in time. Once in our Galaxy we will have a look to some remarkable objects: star-forming regions, star clusters and nebulae that are the remnants of dead stars. Finally, we will reach the Solar System and have a look to the planets and the dwarf planets that orbit the Sun. We will also visit comets and asteroids, explain their origin and emphasis how the study of such bodies allow scientist to get a better understanding in the formation of the Sun and the planets around 4.7 billion years ago. We will finish the journey in our planet visiting some of the most important astronomical observatories of the Earth.

The details of the talk and how to reach the Lecture Theater are included in these dedicated UNSW webpage and in the UNSW Events in Facebook

Where: Physics Lecture Theatre, Old Main Building, UNSW Kensington Campus (near Gate 14, Barker St), Sydney

Date: Friday March 8th 2013

Time: 6:30pm (Refreshments served from 6pm)

You can see all the images of this exhibition with the text in Spanish in this link.

Finally, I want to thank PhD student Vicki Lowe for inviting me to give this talk.

I’ll see you there!